(2nd in a series)

We recently updated our popular alumni engagement, and giving stats page.  This is the second of a two-part series. Here we summarize 12 important new statistics about alumni giving, membership and benefits. (See our first article here)

About a 3 minute read



We just updated our popular stats page: The Ultimate Collection of Statistics for Alumni Engagement, Giving and Membership.

As I look at some of the new data, I’d like to point out 12 new stats about alumni giving, membership, and benefits; some that could change how you approach your job in the coming months.



  • An estimated 90% of institutions report one number to CASE/CAE and another (higher) number to USN&WR, even though both numbers are supposed to be identical. (Giving Institute)

While this statistic is quoted from a secondary source I trust, I'm using it to illustrate the point that too many institutions are willing to do almost anything, including fudging their giving numbers, to achieve a high ranking with USN&WR. And it’s especially prevalent among institutions where rankings have so much impact on recruiting, corporate giving, grants, etc. Much has been written about institutions who misreport their statistics, so I won’t belabor the point.

I'm not saying anything new, but it bears repeating until things change: alumni giving and participation rankings have become an unhealthy obsession. The unfortunate consequence is that alumni have become the pawns in the race to win the ranking games. At many (if not most) institutions, alumni are over-solicited and under cultivated. The consequence is that alumni are choosing to disengage with their alma mater at historic levels. Which is a crying shame because it doesn't have to be that way.

What do the latest stats say about alumni giving and participation rates? 

  • Nationally, the median alumni participation rate for public institutions has hovered around 5% since 2014. For private institutions, the rate has dropped from 20% in 2014, to roughly 17% last year.  (Blackbaud)
  • Total donor counts have declined an average of one half of one percent (-.5%) since 2014. The trajectory for total donors continues its downward trend. (Blackbaud)
  • The average rate at which lapsed donors reactivate (give again) has declined three percent (-3%) since 2014 for private schools. Public institutions struggle more, with a 4.8% drop in growth in lapsed donors choosing to give again. (Blackbaud)

It’s time to retire many tired, overused and aggressive fundraising techniques, many that have run their course. It’s also time to take some of the money solicited from alumni, and invest in cultivating alumni with programs that offer compelling value that can attract and engage them. I’m talking about investing in programs that focus more on lifelong engagement and giving, rather than meeting short term fundraising goals for the sake of rankings.

Alumni Membership & Benefits

  • 34% of Millennials don’t join a membership programs because the enrollment process is too long. (Business Insider)

How long is your enrollment process to join or give online?  Are you asking for information you already know? Is your process causing friction because you think you only have one chance to gather vital data from your alumni?

If your enrollment process is causing Millennial alumni to abandon their giving or joining, it’s a sure bet all your other alumni are annoyed by it as well.  Keep the process super simple.  Name. Email. Billing info. Resist the temptation to gather ancillary information that’s not critical to the enrollment/giving process. Reach out at a later time to complete your member/donor profile.

  • 78% of alumni prefer to access their alumni benefits online, compared with 22% who want their benefits sent by mail. (Virtual Incentives)

It’s time to ditch your printed alumni benefit fulfillment kit.  Alumni are rejecting printed materials not only from an environmental perspective, but from a practical standpoint as well.  Our smartphones are the digital tools we use to manage our lives. Digital delivery of your benefits is the most convenient way for the vast majority of your alumni to access their benefits. That’s because… 91% of college graduates own a smartphone (Pew).  If you don’t have enough benefits that matter to your alumni, then start here.  

If you’re organization is unwilling to adopt a non-printed solution to deliver your alumni benefits, then maybe the issue is more about the personal preference of who’s in charge.  See our article here about The Digital Generation Gap in Alumni Relations.


  • 75% of your alumni/constituents would engage more with their organization if the benefits information were mobile-friendly. (Code Broker)

In our previous article (New Data Trends That Should Matter to Alumni Professionals) we highlighted the stats that alumni want a mobile app to better engage with their alma mater. This statistic underscores that reality. We know of at least one alumni mobile engagement app that can help you attract and engage your alumni.

  • 63% of consumers say they modify their spending habits to maximize the benefits from their membership program. (Bond)

This stat illustrates the willingness of alumni to engage with your alumni discount program. When alumni are given a benefit where they can save on their everyday purchases, alumni (like all consumers) will change their behavior to get the most value from their benefit.

As with any benefit, to motivate  your alumni to engage, the benefit must be relevant to them.  What makes for a relevant benefit? It must  1) be within proximity to them, 2) solve a problem for them, 3) be easy to use, and 4) have compelling value.  If a benefit doesn’t meet each of these criteria, then it’s what I call a lame benefit. (See this article about the 7 Lamest Alumni Benefits.)  


  • Just 19% of alumni/constituents report an organization’s representatives made them feel special and recognized. (MGI)
  • 16% of organizations have a volunteer or staff-member call new members to welcome them to the organization. (MGI)

I wonder how many more alumni we could engage if we could better connect with them on a personal level. I realize scaling up such an endeavor is a challenge, especially for large organizations. But I’ve seen organizations enlist volunteers to make personal “welcome aboard” calls to alumni who first join, engage or give. It’s a lot of work, and can seem like a thankless task. But alumni are especially eager to hear from you within the first 72 hours of when they first engage.  It may warrant doing an A/B test, and seeing if alumni retain or give at a higher rate if they receive a personal call.  My guess is the results will overwhelmingly be in favor of making a personal call.


  • 39% of Millennials report they don’t join or engage with an organization they like, simply because it requires the payment of a fee. (Business Insider)
  • Baby Boomers make up 14% of the population, but comprise 36% of most membership organization’s constituency. Although Millennials make up the largest cohort, consisting of 30% of the overall population, they comprise just 19% of most organization’s members.  (Brookings)

I’ve written previously about why most alumni organizations should avoid or ditch their dues-paying membership structure – (See Run Away From Your Dues-Paying Alumni Program) –so these stats support my argument. The number of Boomers is declining faster than all other cohorts. And Millennials are much less inclined to join any type of member organization. So if your goal is to engage younger alumni, entice them with real, relevant benefits that don’t require a membership fee. 



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Topics: Alumni Relations & Engagement, alumni, alumni benefits, mobile, millennials statistics, social media