Recent graduates have the lowest donation rates amongst all alumni, and the Alumni Office is trying to change it.
On average, 20 percent of graduating classes participate in giving back, however that is much lower amongst young alumni. This year 6.4 percent of young alumni donated.
Part of the lower rate stems from less secure financial situations among recent graduates.
From student loans to tight budgets, many alumni feel like they can’t afford to donate so early.
“While I feel motivated to donate without a nudge, I can understand the reality of not giving back as the norm,” said AJ Alonzo (’13).
Gloria Clark (’11) said she understands the university’s need for donations in order to function. She said she feels a personal connection with the school, and the times she had were positive enough to warrant giving back. Sentiments such as this are what the Alumni Office is looking to foster.
“Particularly with our young alumni what’s important isn’t the amount that is given back, but it is building a culture of philanthropy,” said Pablo Villa, (’13), Young Alumni Program Coordinator.
Villa, who also serves as the university’s Phonathon Coordinator, touched on many of the other benefits that come from alumni giving. US News and World Report take alumni donation participation rates into consideration when creating their college rankings, meaning higher donation rates can help improve OWU’s rankings.
He added that donations received could go towards improving the student experience while also strengthening academics.
This in turn would make the degree already held by alumni have an even higher value, and so there are benefits to graduates as well.
In an effort to increase donation rates, the Alumni Office coordinated the 2014 Young Alumni Challenge. Officially held from March 1 through April 1 of this year, the challenge was a competition between past 10 graduating classes for highest amount of donor participation.
Participation was the focus, as each class was measured based on the percentage of their class that gave. While the completion lasted just one month, gifts made earlier that calendar year were also included.
For the winning class, they would have their gift matched by Ellen Simpson ’77. The class of ’12 won with 41 donors comprising 11 percent participation.
With the Alumni Office gaining 136 new donors during the challenge, they will look to repeat the challenge next year and Villa hopes the sense of camaraderie built will spur giving in the future.
“In my opinion the events thrown have been successful for getting young alumni to give back, with us young alums especially those with bars,” Alonzo said.
“Anything that has a more personal feel like letters in the mail and face to face interaction, make a big impact.”
Clark pointed out that those efforts are what need to increase, as phone calls are not working.
“While it may be effective with older alumni who may have fallen out of touch, we just graduated and those calls aren’t pushing us to donate,” she said.
“I think promotion of events has helped, and the emails coupled with social media work out well.
“Hopefully they will build on this even more and announce the winners of each challenge at graduation or put a banner up in HamWil to let the campus know.”