These Data Explain What Makes Young Alumni's Priorities Different

We all know intuitively that young alumni are different than their older counterparts, but we often lack the data to explain how—or to explain what we can do about it.

Now we have some data to help.

The Alumni Attitude Study surveyed over 500,000 alumni at 200 universities and colleges between 2001–2012. The survey asked alumni of all ages questions about their giving habits and relationships with their alma maters. The data explain why young alumni giving patterns are different than those of their older peers.

Alumni giving

There are several points in the graph above where age does not make a significant impact on alumni giving. But those where it does reveal what we can do to encourage greater giving from young alumni:

  1. Personal finances and student loan debt have a significant impact on young alumni giving, much larger an impact than they have on giving by older alumni. (No surprise there.)
  2. Young alumni are more likely to cite unemployment or career flux as a reason for not giving more.
  3. Young alumni are less sure how their gift will be used by their alma mater, and this affects their giving.

We have little control over some of these factors, but we can change others for the better. We can better communicate how gifts make an impact or offer directed giving options.

We can also help young alumni with their career development by investing in career services and alumni networking. The next survey question really hits that point home.

Alumni Networking

Young alumni overwhelmingly identify "Identifying job opportunities" and facilitating "Networking with other alumni" as areas where their alma maters are failing. The importance of those activities vastly outweighs their schools' performance in doing them. Fortunately, these are things we have control over and can improve on.

A school's performance in helping its alumni advance their careers also affects their opinion of it:

Alumni Career Services

Offering career assistance in some form to your alumni will improve their opinion of your institution, whether they're from the class of '86 or '16. But it has a disproportionately positive affect on younger alumni.

On the whole, data from the Alumni Attitude Study doesn't surprise. But the next time a colleague wonders aloud, "What can we do to boost young alumni giving?" you can show them these graphs and explain what you intuitively know to be true with the help of empirical evidence.


Find out how Switchboard's alumni engagement platform can help you boost young alumni giving.