This is Not Your Parents' Alumni Association
For alumni organizations, it’s a matter of adapting their programs to more fully connect with rising generations.
For decades, being an alumnus represented admission to an exclusive club. This club consisted primarily of fundraising drives, reunions, newsletters and social events. It also centered on a sense of nostalgia, providing a forum where alumni could gather to reminisce.
Research findings, however, reveal that recent graduates — primarily those under the age of 35 — have very different expectations of their alumni associations. Given what’s at stake, it’s critical that institutions better understand this shift in values and heed the call for change.
Consider first these two data points1:
- Word of mouth from current students/graduates consistently ranks among the top five most influential prospect information sources
- Alumni are a critical source of funding, comprising 26 percent of philanthropic support totaling $11 billion in 2017
To both maintain financial endowments and promote enrollment growth, institutions must rely upon and develop sustaining relationships with new alumni. Alumni play a vital role in sustaining the institution.
The most striking generational difference identified by the research is in the importance placed on career and professional development. Younger alums are twice as likely as their parents to engage in alumni activities that promote learning growth. They are entrenched in the digital age and express a clear interest in accessing curated content online, including faculty lectures or panels, learning courses/programs, and library resources relevant to their industry or area of expertise. For alumni organizations, this may involve more than simply adopting new technology, but also require an institution-wide paradigm shift as well.
Read Huron's recent graduate survey report for insight into what the evolving student preferences mean for the campus experience. Read more.
Millennials also place a higher value on social and networking connections and look to associations to facilitate introductions to fellow alumni. For young graduates, it’s not the institution, it’s the people. One way that organizations can foster these connections is by supplying digital engagement platforms that enable alumni to find their tribes.
Alumni association leaders themselves are cognizant of the disconnect between their current programs and the needs of rising generations2: Only 17 percent of alumni associations believe their organizations are doing well at attracting and engaging young alumni. And 73 percent of them believe their organization should update the technologies offered to alumni.
Whereas alumni were once exclusively cast as “supporters of the school,” they are now drivers of change, asking schools to reciprocate with added-value services. The good news is that young alumni truly want to stay connected to their colleges beyond graduation. For alumni organizations, it’s just a matter of adapting their programs to more fully connect with rising generations.
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1. 2017 Voluntary Support of Education Survey/Council for Aid to Education
2. 2017 VAESE: The Alumni Relations Benchmarking Study/Voluntary Alumni Engagement in Support of Education