And the Tweets Have It: What Matters in Student Philanthropy

Twitter was alive this week with discussion and shared best practices among alumni relations, annual giving, and student philanthropy officers who attended Academic Impressions' 2013 student philanthropy conference. Here are some of the highlights and key takeaways from that conversation.

Can't attend one of our events? Follow us on Twitter @academicimpress and watch the event's backchannel for ideas and key takeaways shared by the speakers and participants.

Taking the Long View

Why is student philanthropy the right investment to make? Because cultivating donors early is the key to a thriving donor pipeline in the long term:

Tweet: Harmonie Farrow


The Key: Educate Future Donors, While They Are Still Students

Yet often, institutions face challenges in engaging alumni because they didn't take steps to engage and educate them as future donors while they were still students. For example, many college students graduate largely unaware of the role of philanthropy in funding their education. This lack of awareness creates a disconnect when annual giving officers reach out to them later to ask for their support. The alum's perception may well be that they paid a high tuition bill and perhaps took on student loans -- in short, that they have already given to the institution.

Do your students know how their education is funded?


Tweet: Gwen Doyle

That "cooking show" video features the University of Michigan's provost dressed as a chef, and uses a cooking metaphor to explain the institution's sources of funding, or "where we get our dough".

What You Can Do

Tweet: Jason Bodman


What measures is your institution taking to raise your students' awareness of and gratitude for donor support?

  • Do you invite seniors to participate in a senior "gift" or a senior campaign?
  • Do you involve students in the capital campaign? (For an excellent example of doing this effectively, take a look at the University of Cincinnati's multi-year student campaign "A Billion Pennies," integrated with the institution's $1 billion campaign.)

Tweet: Gwen Doyle

  • Do you hold a "tuition freedom day" to mark the day on the calendar in each year when tuition no longer covers the cost of education and donor dollars take on that responsibility?
  • Do you train student ambassadors to speak to their club, group, cohort, or class about the role of philanthropy in the institution's budget, and to connect with prospects?

Tweet: Danielle Auriemma

Tweet: Elise Betz


  • What about opportunities for students to meet alumni?

Tweet: Gwen Doyle


The Importance of Volunteering

It's especially critical to identify meaningful volunteer opportunities for your seniors (and, of course, for your young alumni), because:

Tweet: Importance of Volunteering


In fact, according to a December 2009 study by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch:

  • The average amount given by volunteers is more than 10 times that given by non-volunteers
  • The rate of volunteering increases with education (36% of Americans with high school diplomas, 56% with four-year degrees, 61% with post-graduate degrees)
  • 63% of Americans cite a renewed sense of the value and importance of service to their community
  • 66% believe "true philanthropy" involves giving both time and money

This has important implications for how you engage students and young alumni. The more you can do to shift toward engagement-focused fundraising, the better positioned you will be to ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of your annual fund. To learn more about this approach, read our 2011 complimentary edition Engagement-Focused Advancement: Finding a Sustainable Financial Future for Your Institution and our 2012 complimentary edition Funding Campus Priorities: A Whole-Campus Effort.