Alumni giving is a powerful force that propels educational institutions forward, allowing them to provide exceptional experiences to current and future students. It also serves as a testament to the enduring bond between graduates and their alma mater, one that extends far beyond the years spent on campus.
Whether you want to enhance your fundraising strategies, forge savvy partnerships, or stay informed about the latest developments in the field, these insights will help you better understand alumni giving.
Why Are Alumni Donation Statistics Important?
Alumni donation statistics help institutions make informed decisions about:
- Financial sustainability: Donations from alumni often constitute a significant portion of a university’s annual budget. These funds can be used for various purposes, including scholarships, faculty support, research initiatives, and campus improvements. Staying updated on giving statistics ensures that institutions can effectively plan their fundraising efforts and meet their financial needs.
- Student support: Alumni giving statistics help institutions understand where they need to allocate resources to support current and prospective students. This helps attract and retain a diverse and talented student body by making education more accessible.
- Benchmarking: Tracking alumni donation statistics allows institutions to benchmark their performance against peer institutions and industry standards.
- Fundraising: By monitoring alumni giving trends, institutions can adapt their fundraising strategies to maximize donor engagement and contributions. This might involve using different communication channels or creating targeted campaigns based on giving patterns.
Alumni giving statistics are constantly changing due to shifting donor behaviors and institutional factors. Remain informed to maintain effective alumni engagement in response to evolving trends.
Top Alumni Giving Trends to Keep an Eye on
To stay ahead of the higher ed fundraising curve, attend conferences, join professional associations, and review alumni donation statistics.
1. Matching gifts are on the rise.
Over 26 million individuals work for companies with matching gift programs. For these programs, employers commit to matching their employees’ charitable contributions to nonprofits and educational institutions, typically at a 1:1 ratio. That means if an alum donates $100 to their college and their employer participates in gift matching, the college would receive $200 total.
Matching gifts are beneficial to higher education institutions for several reasons, as they lead to:
- Increased fundraising revenue: Matching gift appeals increase the average donation amounts an organization receives, as supporters typically give more when they know their gifts will be doubled. In fact, 1 in 3 donors indicate they’d give a larger gift if matching is applied.
- Stronger alumni engagement: Alumni who take advantage of matching gift programs recognize that their contributions are effectively doubled, enhancing the impact that they have on their alma mater. As a result, they may feel inclined to further their engagement and participate in other activities, events, and volunteer opportunities.
- Corporate partnerships: By promoting matching gifts, higher education institutions can foster partnerships with corporations willing to match their employees’ donations. These partnerships are mutually beneficial—corporations demonstrate their commitment to philanthropy, and the institution gains access to a new funding source and support for its initiatives.
To streamline the matching gift process, implement matching gift software like 360MatchPro by Double the Donation. The solution will automatically identify eligible donors, send reminders, and provide real-time tracking of matching gift submissions, making it easy for alumni to participate in the program and for fundraisers to monitor and optimize matching gift participation.
For more information on 360MatchPro and how it can support your alumni giving efforts, watch the video below:
2. Giving is closely tied to stock market fluctuations.
Studies have shown a strong correlation between stock market performance and alumni donations. When the stock market performs well, individuals with investments experience increased wealth and make larger charitable donations, including to their alma mater. During this time, higher ed fundraisers should consider launching more ambitious campaigns or approaching donors with larger gift requests.
Monitor market forecasts closely. If there is a prediction of an economic downturn, donors may be more cautious with their giving. Be sensitive to donors’ financial situations and tailor your appeals accordingly. This could involve focusing on smaller, more frequent gifts or emphasizing the importance of sustaining ongoing support, even if at reduced levels, to weather financial uncertainties.
Additionally, diversifying fundraising efforts to include planned giving, endowments, and major gifts can provide stability and resilience to an institution’s fundraising efforts, as these sources of revenue are often less susceptible to short-term market volatility.
3. Alumni giving will no longer be factored into college rankings.
Each year, the U.S. News & World Report compiles a list of the “best” colleges and universities based on a variety of factors, including graduation rates, full-time faculty, and student debt. High levels of alumni participation in giving were once considered a sign of alumni satisfaction and therefore factored into the list for many years. However, the publication recently announced that it will no longer take alumni giving into account, citing inconsistencies in how the metric was reported across institutions.
Some higher ed fundraisers are concerned that the change will impact how donors perceive the importance of giving to their alma mater. As a result, it might be necessary to shift focus from using rankings as a motivation for alumni giving.
Instead, they should emphasize the broader impact that alumni contributions have on:
- Academic reputation: With increased funding, schools can attract renowned professors, researchers, and scholars who can enhance the academic environment and bring prestige to the institution.
- Student outcomes: Donations often go towards creating scholarships and financial aid programs. This helps reduce the financial burden on students, making education more accessible and improving retention rates.
- Peer assessment: Each year, presidents, provosts, and deans of admissions rate the academic quality of institutions with which they are familiar on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Schools with higher rates of alumni giving can invest more in faculty, research, facilities, and student support services, which improves how they are perceived.
While rankings may no longer consider alumni giving, a robust alumni giving program can still significantly benefit an institution by strengthening its financial stability, reputation, and overall ability to provide a high-quality education.
4. Crowdfunding is a preferred form of giving among young alumni.
Nearly 8% of current students give to crowdfunding initiatives. This trend continues among young alumni and new donors, who are more likely to give smaller amounts.
To create compelling crowdfunding campaigns that appeal to young donors, higher ed fundraisers should use popular social media platforms, such as Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and Facebook, to promote the campaign. Create interactive and shareable content that encourages young alumni to participate and spread the word. This can include challenges, contests, or virtual events that foster a sense of community and excitement.
Keep donors informed about the campaign’s progress and share updates on milestones, achievements, and the impact of contributions. Regular communication helps build trust and encourages continued support.
5. Alumni want mobile-friendly benefits.
In a recent survey, 75% of alumni said they would engage more with their school if their benefits were mobile-friendly. Here are three types of mobile-friendly benefits that alumni organizations can provide to donors:
- Alumni apps: Many institutions have developed dedicated mobile apps for alumni, creating a convenient way for graduates to access alumni directories, event calendars, news, and donation forms.
- Exclusive content: Provide donors with exclusive mobile content, such as videos, podcasts, or alumni success stories, accessible through the mobile app or university website.
- Virtual recognition wall: Create a virtual donor recognition wall where donors can see their names and contributions alongside other supporters.
By offering these mobile-friendly benefits, alumni organizations can cater to the preferences and lifestyles of their alumni, making it easier for donors to support their alma mater.
This statistic also reinforces the importance of providing intuitive, streamlined online experiences to your entire community, not just students. Unclear navigation, clunky portals that require logins, and jumbled web design should all be avoided on your donor-facing web assets.
6. Experiential recognition should be a top priority.
It is 10 to 20 times more expensive to acquire a new donor versus retaining an existing donor. Showing appreciation and providing regular updates on how donations are being used is essential to retaining donors. However, 72% of donors discard physical forms of recognition like letters and gifts.
90% of donors prefer experiential recognition instead. As such, your organization should consider providing unique experiences as rewards for certain donation levels. These could include virtual alumni reunions, behind-the-scenes campus tours, access to exclusive events, or alumni networking opportunities.
7. Donor-advised funds are growing.
Last year, grants from donor-advised funds (DAFs) increased 9% to $52.16 billion. DAFs are charitable giving vehicles that allow individuals, families, or organizations to make contributions to a fund, receive an immediate tax deduction, and then recommend grants from the fund to eligible nonprofit organizations, including educational institutions. Experts project that DAFs will become more common as they provide donors with flexibility and control over their funds.
To take advantage of this type of sustainable funding, encourage alumni to think about the long-term legacy they can create by establishing a DAF. Explain how their contributions can support future generations of students and contribute to the institution’s growth and success.
Share success stories of alumni who have set up DAFs and made meaningful contributions to the university. These testimonials can inspire others to follow suit, knowing that their philanthropic efforts can have a lasting impact on their alma mater.
To learn more, we recommend FreeWill’s complete guide to DAF fundraising.
A Final Note About Alumni Donation Statistics
Remember, alumni giving is not just about keeping up with the trends; it’s about forging a lasting and impactful connection between your institution and its alumni, one that benefits both parties for years to come.
With a deep understanding of both external benchmarks and your unique path to success, you can build a stronger, more vibrant community that supports your institution today and paves the way for a brighter future.
For more information on higher ed fundraising, review these additional resources:
- Matching Gifts & Higher Education: Companies That Match [+Tips]. Find out which companies offer matching gifts to higher educational institutions.
- Top School & Higher Ed Fundraising Platforms That Grow Matching Gifts. Explore the top higher ed fundraising platforms that support matching gift programs.
- Key Matching Gift Metrics Every Nonprofit Should Analyze. Discover which matching gift metrics to collect alongside your alumni donation statistics.