The Student-to-Alumni Transition: Are You Missing These Opportunities?

Students at a commencement ceremony
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To develop a stronger donor pipeline, the key is to start earlier. However, institutions attempting to raise giving rates for young alumni are often rebuffed. In a study of the attitudes of young alumni conducted in 2010, the Engagement Strategies Group confirmed that the majority of young alumni are reluctant to give due to high tuition costs and a lack of understanding of how institutions of higher education are funded and how institutions do (and don't) draw on endowment spending to finance their needs.

Colleges and universities need to solicit more support from their former students, but what such reports demonstrate is that the best opportunity to create an ambassador for your institution is to cultivate them while they are still students on campus. It is more expensive and much more difficult for the development office to build relationships after commencement.

Yet most institutions still treat student philanthropy and annual giving as separate programs, rendering the transition from student giver to alumni donor more problematic. To take a closer look at some of the missed opportunities, we turned this week to Elise Betz, executive director for alumni relations at the University of Pennsylvania, who heads up a key example of an integrated annual fund/student philanthropy approach.

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