Best Practices

Young Alumni Engagement - Need of the Hour

Young Alumni Engagement - Need of the Hour




July 25, 2022

Last modified: 

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first donation of $5 to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, at the age of 23. Since then, he has donated close to $1.8 billion to support research, teaching, and financial aid at the university.

What if one of your young alumni is the next Michael Bloomberg? You see them every day in the hallways, on campus, and at events. They’re your future donors and advocates! And yet, we all know that engaging young alumni can be challenging. It takes time, energy, and resources to build lasting relationships with these future donors.

Alumni engagement fundraising

But exactly HOW do you engage with your young alumni, you ask? To answer this question, we spoke to Dr. Glenn Kosse in a recent LinkedIn live session. Dr. Glenn recently published his dissertation on “The Relationship Between Young Alumni Participation and Giving”, and he shared some expert insights on what it takes to get your young alumni engaged.

But first, who is a young alum?

The average age of a young alum is between 22-32 years. However, this can vary depending on the type of institution. For example, a young alum from a business school would typically be older than a young alum from, let’s say, a university.

However, what remains constant is that most institutions classify those who’ve graduated in the last decade as their young alumni. In other words, they’re usually Graduates Of the Last Decade (or GOLD for short).

Why invest your time and resources into young alumni engagement?

Between 2001 to 2014, alumni participation went down from 14% to 8.3%. Here’s what’s more alarming – although there has been a rise in the total gifts received, there has been a steady decline in the number of new donors.

With institutions struggling to build a fresh pipeline of new donors, this trend will only continue if we do not put the time, effort, and resources to meaningfully engage the young alumni.

If you take a quick look at all your major donors, you might notice that their first gift was probably a few dollars when they were just out of college. Young alumni engagement is a long-term game where you sow the seeds while they’re young, nurture them constantly, and reap the benefits down the line.

💡A young alum donor is 5.6 times more likely to give in the future than a young alum non-donor.

Factors that impact young alumni giving

Student Experience

The student experience has a strong influence on future alumni giving. Positive experiences like developing deep relationships with faculty and staff, receiving financial aid/scholarships, and having a holistic learning experience can play a vital role. After all, those who strongly identify with their institution are more likely to give back in the future.

Alumni Experience

Being an alum means you're part of something bigger than yourself – you belong to a community that can help shape your future. Those with enriching alumni experiences are more likely to give back to their alma mater. That’s why it’s necessary for your institution to create alumni-centric programs that cater to your alumni’s needs at various stages in their lives.

Here are a few low-effort, high-impact ideas to elevate alumni experience:

  • Mentorship/networking opportunities for recent graduates
  • Child-care facilities for middle-aged alumni
  • Happy hours or virtual reunions for your older alumni

Alumni Motivation

Motivation to give can also stem from the personal affinity for a cause or mission. Whether this originates from past or present experiences, people develop connections with the institution and become inspired to lend support.

Demographic factors

Demographic characteristics such as age, proximity, income, and gifts to other organizations are predictors of giving as well.

💡Ideas to engage with your young alumni

A comprehensive mentorship program

Bellarmine University pioneered a young alumni mentorship program in collaboration with the career services department to connect students with alumni based on their career paths and shared interests.

🔥95% of the participants said they felt a deeper sense of connection to their alumni association and 99% of them said that they would recommend it to their friends

Career workshops

Focus on interactive and skill-enhancement workshops - Resume reviews; Workshops on Office etiquette, Soft Skills, and Professional Skills.

Here’s how Holton-Arms School made their students college-ready through their young alumnae panels.

Networking events

Every institution has an alumni base that they can boast of. So, why not leverage it to create opportunities for both the alumni and students?

Here’s how Samueli Academy is helping graduates get college-ready with virtual networking events.

Lifelong learning initiatives

Learning needn’t end after graduation. Help your alumni pursue personal interests, passions, or professional ambitions by creating a repository of courses that help with upskilling. You could also host webinars and create content repositories that provide value to your alumni.

Here’s how California State University, Chico engaged their alumni through informative webinar series.

Affinity groups

For institutions with different segments of alumni (based on interests, purposes, life experiences, and social identity), affinity groups help create a safe space for alumni where they can communicate freely and collaborate on ideas.

 Here’s how Wartburg College hosted a successful Affinity-based Crowdfunding Campaign.

Social events

If there’s one thing alumni around the world will always love, it’s to get together for a social event and reminisce the good old days. Why not leverage this and create fun events that will help your alumni connect with each other? From cocktail parties and sporting events, to live game screenings and happy hours – the possibilities are endless!

A young alum who attended an event gave 2x more compared to those who didn’t attend.

Glenn’s closing thoughts on Young Alumni Engagement

So that wraps up our take on why young alumni engagement is the need of the hour. We thought we'd leave you with Glenn's thoughts on young alumni engagement and its impact on giving and participation.

“We have found that young alumni look for engagement that goes beyond social events. While social activities are important, initiatives that provides career advice, mentorship, and potential career opportunities can help leverage the alumni association’s role with new graduates, and create a positive association with engagement and giving.

”Studies show that those who get engaged and give at a young age are more likely to give and remain engaged throughout their career. Engaging alums with current students keeps the mission and the outcomes of the university on top of their minds and reinforces engagement.”

About the speaker

Glenn F. Kosse, Ph.D.

Glenn F. Kosse, Ph.D. is Vice President of H2R Consulting LLC and focuses his expertise on fundraising development, non-profit management, and strategic planning. Prior to joining H2R, he enjoyed a 35-year career in development and non-profit leadership experience with Bellarmine University, University of Louisville, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in increasing levels of leadership.

Source: Glenn Kosse's dissertation

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

Related Blog Posts


12 Higher-Ed Alumni-Centric Engagement Ideas To Inspire You in 2023

Looking for out-of-the-box alumni engagement ideas from educational institutions like yours? Then your search has ended – here are 12 amazing higher-ed engagement ideas to inspire you in 2023.


5 Virtual & Hybrid Alumni Engagement Events For 2023

Looking for ways to level up your alumni engagement program for 2023? Consider the following virtual and hybrid event ideas to connect and delight your members.

Best Practices

6 strategies for increasing engagement from young alumni

If you’re someone handling alumni engagement for your school, you obviously know that engaging recent graduates is one of the most challenging aspects. Here’s a look at the 6 most effective strategies that your peers are employing to engage their young alumni.

Best Practices

5 Alumni Engagement Trends You Need To Watch Out For in 2023

Here's a quick look at the 5 biggest alumni engagement trends that you should watch out for to achieve your alumni engagement goals and drive higher participation this year.

Best Practices

What are on-demand alumni programs and why can’t they be ignored in 2023?

Read more about on-demand alumni programs & learn how they help in making your alumni programs accessible to all your alumni.