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October 27, 2017   |   Jim Langley

The Alumni Relations Equation

by Jim Langley
Alumni relations are paramount to the success of any philanthropic campaign because we’ve seen a 24-year decline in the rate of annual giving to institutions across the board!
We need to understand what caused this. Nothing was of greater impact than the rising cost of higher education and the debt incurred by many of our alumni.
The average debt a person incurs has stayed stagnant. However, there’s been a sharp increase in the number of graduates IN debt!
More college graduates are paying off the debt over the course of 10 years or more.
People also have less free time than ever before. Meaning, when your school throws homecoming events, do you donate while you’re enjoying the social function? Or, do you even attend at all? Or, is it too much of a pain to make the trip with a job, family, and other commitments?
We need to put ourselves in the alumni’s shoes, trying to better understand their lives and desires. When we listen to alumni across the country, we hear one common complaint over and over again. “My alma mater does little to reach out to me besides asking for money. So, here I am, an alumnus, saddled with debt, trying to start a career, build a family, and make ends meet. Then, there’s my school, who has classified me as a prospective donor. When they call, does anyone ask me about indebtedness or do I simply now become the recipient of a pitch?”
The only way we will reverse this trend is if each of us commits ourselves to creating a different and stronger kind of alumni relations, with each institution rethinking its compact with graduates.
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