HomePress ReleasesRNL Releases Groundbreaking Survey of Over 20,000 American College Alumni

RNL Releases Groundbreaking Survey of Over 20,000 American College Alumni

Groundbreaking survey examines factors that influence alumni giving to higher education and how it varies by generation, ethnicity, and gender.

April 4, 2024—RNL has released the results of the National Alumni Survey, one of the largest inquiries into the giving, volunteering, and connection preferences of American college graduates.

In fall 2023, RNL worked with college and university partners to survey their alumni. More than 20,000 participated and shared their giving and volunteering choices, communication and engagement preferences, and what impacts their charitable donations. The results paint a picture of the changing support base for higher education and offer insights as fundraisers consider the future of alumni engagement.

The survey also captured how factors such as generation, gender, race, and student load debt impact giving.

Highlights from the research project include:

  • Alumni or philanthropic, with over three-quarters giving or volunteering in some way. Yet among donors, only 20 percent rank their alma mater as a top giving priority.
  • Alumni who are satisfied with their college experience are 4x more likely to give to their alma mater, and alumni who feel “connected” are 23x more likely to give.
  • Student loan debt influences giving significantly, particularly for recent undergraduates, alumni of color, and women.
  • Passion for the cause is a key driver, and most alumni say that clearly understanding how their gift makes an impact is crucial.

“The results of the survey are inspiring. Alumni want to give and make a difference,” says Howard Heevner, a 25-year fundraising leader at multiple national institutions and an industry expert who advised on the survey. “However, less than a quarter of them rank their alma mater as a top-giving choice. We need to change how we engage alumni donors, and soon.”

Sarah Kleeberger, senior consultant with RNL, comments, “It was a privilege to collaborate with Howard and the participating institutions on this project. While survey responses reflect many of the sobering trends we’ve seen, they also highlight the activism and generosity of alumni, and the potential for a different path forward.

RNL will present survey results at industry events in the coming months. The survey will also be featured at the RNL National Conference, July 23-25 in Dallas.

Read the report at RNL.com/Alumni2024.