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A Study of Young Alumni Engagement and Donor Participation among Top Research Universities

Cullen (Webb), Sarah A (2021) A Study of Young Alumni Engagement and Donor Participation among Top Research Universities. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study examined characteristics, structure, communication, and donor behavior related to young alumni at top research institutions with a specific focus on young alumni donor behavior at institutions with or without dedicated young alumni programs. The purpose of this study was for institutions to learn from peers and determine if a dedicated young alumni program would impact young alumni donation amounts and/or donor participation rates. The study provided understanding of what institutions are doing regarding young alumni engagement and fundraising.

A total of 36 institutions from the 2017 Top American Research Universities, as reported by the Center for Measuring University Performance (MUP), participated in this study. Through descriptive statistics, and using the McMillan and Chavis (1986) “sense of community” theory, this inquiry was guided by improvement science and a full plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle. The findings of this study show the strategic effort and planning is similar at institutions with or without dedicated young alumni programs. The descriptive differences that do exist in the results are explored and are not statistically different. In addition, the findings show how the entire sample of top research institutions defines young alumni and communicates with the audience, irrespective of having a dedicated young alumni program or not. Last, a finding that emerged was the impact on young alumni donor behavior based on institutional identity as public or private.

Based on the results of this study, important implications are offered. One implication is the importance of having strategic energy dedicated to young alumni while understanding that simply having or not having a dedicated young alumni program does not statistically impact young alumni donation amounts or participation rate. Another implication is the goal for institutions to include both student engagement and philanthropy programs as well as strategic initiatives intending to increase alumni donor participation rather than one or the other. This strategy would complement and add to the “alumni-in-training” idea—meaning that institutions dedicate engagement and philanthropic strategy during the student years as well as the young alumni years to enhance positive experiences and work to impact alumni giving in the future.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cullen (Webb), Sarah Asac242@pitt.edusac2420000-0003-1074-8656
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDeAngelo,
Committee MemberFertman,
Committee MemberHennessy,
Date: 21 May 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 22 March 2021
Approval Date: 21 May 2021
Submission Date: 20 April 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 114
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: "young alumni" "engagement" "fundraising"
Date Deposited: 21 May 2021 15:19
Last Modified: 21 May 2021 15:19


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