Many members of the Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees have one particular characteristic in common (other than sharing the same alma mater): They are former members of the Second Decade Society (SDS).
SDS is a junior leadership board for alumni in their 30s and early 40s who have exhibited potential to become active leaders and consistent donors. It was founded 26 years ago after advancement leaders noticed a significant engagement deficit among mid-career alumni.
These junior boards—both at Hopkins and other institutions—have proven effective at maintaining engagement levels among younger alumni segments. When managed successfully, these boards can position alumni for years of involvement and pull in additional funds for institutional advancement.
Guide Individuals to Higher Levels of Leadership and Giving
A Ladder of Incremental Involvement for Second Decade Society Members
Download the full Junior Feeder Boards report to learn more
Time your recruitment efforts to source the most qualified alumni
Hopkins recruits alumni to join SDS between 10 to 15 years after graduation. Waiting at least a decade has a two-pronged effect: First, it gives alumni time to attain workplace success, and early career achievements are an effective indicator of future leadership and giving potential. In addition, this ensures that members are a group of successful, ambitious, diverse professionals, making admittance to this elite cohort an attractive proposition.
Second, by not offering admission to the board right after graduation, alumni have time to demonstrate affinity to their alma matter through volunteering or other engagement. It’s important to make sure that the board is comprised of successful professionals who truly care about their alma mater.
Membership expires on each member’s 20th anniversary of graduation, so most members spend between five and 10 years in the group.
Provide different ways for board members to engage
SDS alumni don't have membership requirements—they have engagement opportunities. Most members are extremely involved in some years, and more limited engagement in others (though members are asked to resign if they have not participated in any events for three consecutive years).
Opportunities for SDS Members to Engage
SDS members can attend social, networking, and institutional activities that deepen affinity and enhance their knowledge of the university. While Hopkins benefits from the volunteer service of SDS members, the primary long-term goal is to give board members a deeper appreciation of the University's inner workings.
Teach members what it means to become a donor
To inculcate a culture of philanthropy, all members contribute annual dues to the SDS giving circle, an annual pool of about $70,000 which is allocated to institutional priorities. Second, all members receive a customized unrestricted annual fund solicitation, customized to their capacity, bringing-in an additional $200,000 to $300,000 each year. Staff will coordinate SDS member giving to school initiatives, such as endowing professorships or scholarships. Many SDS members also structure their first multi-year major gift pledge during their tenure.
These financial contributions are intentionally left unconsolidated to teach younger alumni about philanthropic conventions like pledge structures, gift designation, and stewardship reporting. This creates savvy, loyal, engaged donors who serve as role models for others (and who regularly give major gifts).
Want to learn more about alumni engagement?
Our New Rules of Engagement infographic outlines five strategies to build the next generation of alumni leaders and volunteers. Download the infographic.
Next, Check Out
Alumni Leadership Volunteerism Resource Center