Focus on your alumnae's growing giving power

One of the greatest challenges for advancement shops in higher education is millennial alumnae engagement and philanthropy. Millennials have signaled that they want to do more than simply write a check: they want to give their time and skills, in addition to their dollars.

The Millennial Impact Report found that 77% of millennial alumnae have given to their favorite non-profit cause. However, only 44% of millennial alumnae have given to their alma mater. To build long-lasting relationships with alumnae and increase their giving, colleges and universities need to take a new look at their engagement strategies.

Alumnae programming often falls short

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, institutions of all sizes have seen a shift in enrollment trends over the past few decades: Women now represent the majority of first-time students on campus and make up 57% of the student population. Many institutions have invested in women’s philanthropy programs that gather high net-worth alumnae for social events paired with educational programming, like a finance workshop or faculty lecture.

Read our full study on higher ed's changing demographics

However, millennial alumnae are not interested in these programs because they are time consuming and often fail to focus on current institutional priorities. Many advancement leaders think that improving these programs will be complicated or challenging, but in reality this needs to be a focus for most advancement shops.

Giving circles re-energize alumnae engagement

Giving circles present a great way to connect women with each other and with the institution. They facilitate organic philanthropic education between established alumnae philanthropists and millennial alumnae, who may not have an established pattern of giving.

Inexperienced Gift Officer

In a giving circle, participants each contribute a set dollar amount each year like $1,000. These contributions are in addition to their existing giving habits and don't replace other annual gifts. The group then collectively selects campus units and initiatives to fund with their communal philanthropy. They conduct site visits, ask questions of faculty members, and find any other relevant information on projects before deciding where to invest.

Bring millennials into the circle

In order to succeed at launching (or relaunching) a giving circle that includes millennial alumnae, consider these two strategies to improve your traditional giving circle operations:

  1. Establish additional tier levels: Traditionally, giving circles have standard contribution tiers, including $1,000 annually. However, this may be out-of-reach for younger alumnae. Rather than limiting young alumnae participation, establish junior-level giving requirements, so that advancement staff can capture a more diverse group of millennial donors. Consider adding a faculty/staff giving level as well to build additional momentum on campus.

  2. Develop a digital platform: As alumnae relocate after college, it will be important to stay in touch using technology and communication tools. Digital platforms can help alumnae participate in grant selection and giving opportunities, regardless of geographic location.

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