Transforming Young Alumni Engagement: The Schuler Initiative

Sarah KleebergerSenior Vice President, Fundraising ConsultingJanuary 24, 2020

Young alumni are engaged with causes and also support charities at high rates with both giving and advocacy. But higher education isn’t seen as a philanthropic priority for many recent graduates. We’re not helping: In a recent RNL study, over a third of fundraisers said they lack a “coordinated young alumni giving campaign.” At most institutions, young alumni giving is one half or less the rate of overall alumni participation each year.

The Schuler Education Foundation, which seeks to further the success of individuals and communities by investing in high-achieving underrepresented students and top-tier liberal arts colleges, decided to lead a change in young alumni engagement and reverse the trend of declining participation.

The Schuler Education Foundation engaged RNL and advancement teams at five leading liberal arts colleges: Bates, Carleton, Middlebury, Wellesley and Williams. Year one of the three-year Schuler Initiative included the following:

  • Young alumni speak: A comprehensive survey of young alumni giving priorities at all five institutions, along with opinions about higher education, connectedness, and communications preferences.
  • Volunteers act: Feedback from class agents, reunion volunteers, and peer influencers to help drive strategy.
  • Targeted campaigns have impact: Using market research and personas derived from demographic and behavioral data to launch more focused campaigns.
  • Real results: Exciting initial results, with the colleges producing 37 percent growth in the young alumni donor base in the first year (FY19).

Growing the base and knowledge

The initial young alumni survey expanded to a national group of nearly 40 institutions in fall 2019, with results and findings from more than 35,000 survey participants to be published in February 2020. Hear directly from Jack Schuler, Tanya Schuler Sharman, and leaders of the Schuler Education Foundation in this video:


Early results are certainly encouraging and show that by listening to young alumni, executing data-driven strategies, supporting peer outreach, and using technology that allows for more personalization, it’s possible to better engage this cohort and inspire their giving to our institutions.

Let’s talk about how you can increase young alumni engagement

To learn more, I invite you to contact RNL’s fundraising consulting team today. We can share the latest approaches that are helping institutions like yours engage more young alumni and build a foundation for lifelong giving. Ask for a free consultation with our fundraising experts.

About the Author

Sarah Kleeberger

Sarah Kleeberger began her tenure with RNL in 2006 and during her time with the firm has worked with hundreds of institutions and organizations across the country to maximize constituent engagement and fundraising results. She...

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