Why Your Young Alumni Are More Generous Than You Think

How do you perceive the young alumni from your institution?

Do you find them seemingly impossible to “figure out?”

Would you say they are uncooperative, entitled, or aloof to the world around them?

Do you become frustrated when even your best efforts to engage young alumni aren’t matched with a gift to your institution’s annual fund?

Our society often commends these thoughts, and not many would correct you if you made similar comments in passing (and that includes young alumni themselves). On the surface, the concerns seem worth commiserating with each other about. After all, it takes a unique kind of effort to engage young alumni and solicit donations from them for the institution. Why won’t they just give to their alma mater like everybody else?

And isn’t this an indication that they are less generous than the alumni who preceded them?


Millennials give at a surprising rate

The 2015 Millennial Impact Report showcases that millennials – those born between 1980 and 1997 – as a whole are much more generous than anybody realizes. After all, 84% of millennial employees made a charitable donation in 2014, and 70% volunteered for at least one hour.

Your young alumni are not a unique breed within their generation. They are incredibly generous and desire to make an impact both with their financial support and their time.

Unfortunately, even many professionals have written off this generation of young alumni as selfish and entitled (65% in fact!), but this mindset is a stark contrast from what the data actually tells us – that millennials are generous with their time and their finances.


Young alumni prioritize cause-based giving

With previous generations, instilling a sense of duty and accountability was the key to unlocking philanthropy in higher education. At the time, their college experience was so valuable – so critical to their success – that giving back after graduation was fair to be expected.

Unfortunately, students today aren’t leaving their university with the same bond. Now, instead of alumni feeling a sense of accountability to their alma mater, they require accountability from it.

While the lack of commitment from young alumni to give back to their institution certainly could be linked to ongoing student debt or lack of job prospects after college, the desire for a transparent view of their impact in order to take action is actually tied directly to their generation as a whole.

We know now that millennials want to give, and they do give, but it is important to note that they prefer cause-based giving to donating to organizations directly, and that they need to know that their financial support matters.

The top 100 findings from the Millennial Impact Project states that millennials are very likely or somewhat likely to stop donating if they didn’t know how the donation was making an impact (78 percent), the organization asked for support too frequently (73 percent), or they didn’t feel a personal connection with the organization (72 percent).

However, just because you are operating within an organization, doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to engage young alumni and share with them the amazing things – the small moments that matter – that the annual fund does for your campus. Crowdfunding is only the first step!


The importance of peer influence

Young alumni become more motivated to take action when influenced by their peers – a trend that reflects their trust in unbiased sources who have nothing to gain but to share information.

The 2015 Millennial Impact Report also states that while 25% of employed millennials would donate if their supervisor did so, almost 50% would if a peer or coworker asked them to. That is a big leap, and one that can only be attributed to the generation’s desire to trust before they give.

This is why students are so powerful in engaging young alumni to give back. They are the ones who are able to build trust and accountability between the institution and new graduates. They are the key to showcasing the meaningful causes happening all over their campus.

By understanding and embracing the quirks that make up the millennial generation – and your young alumni – it is much easier to see why this generation is being called “the giving generation.”

They care deeply, give sacrificially, and desire to know that their impact matters. It’s easy to see why they are being called “the giving generation.”

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