How, university development departments wonder, can we promote alumni giving among “members of the millennial generation”? The secret to success apparently has something to do with social media. Um, or maybe don’t chain them to a life of debt.

The social media solution here was proposed by the Millennial Impact project, which recently put out a report about engaging Millennials (people born roughly between 1983 and 1996) in nonprofit involvement. At an event to promote the report the authors discussed how to turn the graduates into donors. According to a piece by Elise Young at Inside Higher Ed:

Colleges seeking to turn recent graduates — members of the millennial generation — into donors should connect with them online and show them tangible examples of how their donations will impact the institution, fund-raising consultants said at a conference Monday.

Derrick Feldmann, CEO of Achieve, and Angela White, senior consultant and CEO of Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (both are fund-raising agencies in Indiana) presented findings from a new report at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s annual summit for leaders in higher education advancement.

The findings seem to be mostly predictions, however, not lessons learned from actual involvement with millennials. One thing is clear, though: use more technology. Young:

Feldmann said this year’s survey found millennials using mobile devices to communicate with organizations more often than in the previous years. As technology — and with it, the ability to do more on a mobile device — advances, millennials are spending more time using their smartphones to learn about organizations and share their interest with others, he said.

But if we’re talking about alumni donations to colleges, is the smartphone really that important?

According to another study from 2011, only 4.1 percent of people who graduated from college between 2000 and 2009 gave money to their colleges in 2010. The alumni giving rate of people who graduated in the prior decade was 6.3 percent.

But there seems to be something off when fundraising consultants talk about the solution to this coming in the form of “connecting with them online and showing them tangible examples of how their donations will impact the institution.”

If the graduates they wanted to give you money, they’d figure out how. You know why alumni donations are down among millennials?


Some have started to refer to millennials as “generation screwed.” Neil Howe, who invented the whole generations thinking, said that the “greed, shortsightedness, and blind partisanship” of the Baby Boom generation “brought the global economy to its knees.” This means that it’s hard for millennials to get jobs. Thanks to the unwillingness of their parents’ generation to address higher education’s escalating spending, they also had to pay more for college.

So now they have a lot less money. The median net worth for households headed by people under 40 is $3,662. That’s 68 percent below where it was in the late 1980s.

The American total student loan debt is also now about $1 trillion. The average student now leaves college $27,000 in debt.

So maybe don’t harass them on their damn smartphones to try to get them to give more of their hard-earned cash back to their colleges. Sallie Mae is already calling.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer