New Report Finds Nearly 9 Out of 10 Young Alumni Engage in Philanthropic Activity

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Groundbreaking study from RNL and the Schuler Education Foundation reveals the behaviors and attitudes young alumni have toward donating and volunteering.

Young alumni make up more than 30 percent of the current alumni base in higher education, and increasing their engagement is critical to the future of higher education philanthropy.

Young alumni are eager and able to provide both volunteer and financial support, but mainly to causes and organizations that can clearly communicate the impact that their support will generate, according to research by RNL and the Schuler Education Foundation.

The 2020 National Young Alumni Survey report captures data from 40,000 young alumni representing 36 colleges, making this one of the largest studies of its kind. The report appears at a time when alumni participation in fundraising has been decreasing for more than 20 years. Young alumni make up more than 30 percent of the current alumni base in higher education, and increasing their engagement is critical to the future of higher education philanthropy.

One of the most important findings shows that the vast majority of young alumni are philanthropic, with 87 percent of survey respondents reporting they volunteer or make financial donations with a cause or organization. In addition, one out of four reported making donations totaling $1,000 or more in 2018, demonstrating that young alumni often make substantial gifts.

“This research shows that young alumni—often dismissed as uninterested or unable to be philanthropic—are engaged, active donors,” said Jason Patenaude, executive director of the Schuler Education Foundation. “However, they are more interested in giving to causes they are passionate about, and they also want to see the impact of their gifts.”

Feeling “connected” is also a major factor in whether young alumni give. Of those who reported donating, 82 percent said they felt “very connected” to their alma mater. Yet only 21 percent of all young alumni in the study said they felt very connected, with 52 percent reporting they were “somewhat connected” and 28 percent feeling neutral or not connected to their alma mater.

Another finding reveals that the prioritization of giving back to an institution is changing for young alumni. While higher education topped the list of causes that young alumni currently support, an institution’s annual fund was low on the list of areas they would like to give. Giving to scholarship funds or specific departments/majors ranked highest on the priority list, highlighting that this generation of donors wants to give to specific areas.

“These findings show more than ever that colleges and universities need to adapt their fundraising to the expectations and aspirations of young alumni,” said RNL President and CEO Sumit Nijhawan. “Campuses need to identify the passions of their recent graduates, make it easy for them to give to the areas they care most about, and show the impact of gifts so young donors grow into lifelong givers.”

The 2020 National Young Alumni Survey report is the initial report from this research. Additional reports analyzing specific donor populations and institution types will follow later this year.

To download the report, visit RuffaloNL.com/YoungAlumni2020.

About RNL
RNL (Ruffalo Noel Levitz) is the leading provider of higher education enrollment, student success, and fundraising solutions. The firm serves more than 1,900 colleges and universities through data-driven solutions focused on the entire lifecycle of enrollment and fundraising, assuring students find the right program, graduate on time, secure their first job in their chosen field, and give back to support the next generation. With a deep knowledge of the industry, RNL provides institutions the ability to scale their efforts by tapping into a community of support and resources. Learn more at RuffaloNL.com.

About the Schuler Education Foundation
The Schuler Education Foundation seeks to further the success of individuals and communities by investing in high-achieving underrepresented students and top-tier liberal arts colleges. The Schuler Education Foundation currently supports the Schuler Scholar Program and the Schuler Initiative. Learn more at SchulerEducationFoundation.org.

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Brandon Trissler
RNL
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