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How Alumni Give

In the real world, giving habits vary greatly. All donors give in a way and at times best suited to them individually. It’s sobering to sit back and realize that most alumni, the vast majority actually, will never make a gift. Not even one. Fewer still will ever make a major or planned gift.

In the life of what we call a typical alumni donor, what exists of an alumni giving pattern might resemble the following:

  • Just before graduating, they make their 1st gift through the senior class gift campaign.

  • At some point between years 1 & 15 after graduation, they make donations to the annual fund on a more or less consistent basis.

  • Years 15-30 find that leadership gifts are made to the annual fund.

  • 30+ years after graduation is the time when major or planned gifts are made.

These stages suggest a roadmap for cultivating your alumni in a manner that is more likely to align with their circumstances. For example, is it realistic to expect a recent graduate to be inclined to make a major gift since they’re just beginning their careers and are only now starting to accumulate some assets? Likewise, is it reasonable to think that someone who has never made a donation before will make a major or planned gift if your organization, for example, has done very little to build a relationship with them over time?

The process of building a pipeline entails encouraging people to move through the above stages of giving. It’s vital to the success of the annual fund. It starts with the identification and acquisition of new donors, encourages consistent support, and raises the donors’ sights in a way that leads to increased giving - over time.

Strong pipelines lead to a pool of prospects that are accustomed to regular solicitation, appropriate stewardship, and ultimately, the understanding that a conversation regarding a major or planned gift is, at least, up for discussion.

Have I missed any typical alumni behaviors? Please let me and our readers know.

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