More on the survey

Among the interesting insights gleaned from the survey is whether alumni really do think a gift is important—no matter what the size—as well as how well (or not) alumni feel that they are informed about the ways in which gifts support the University. And there's the big open-ended question: What do alumni think SCU could do to increase alumni giving participation?

Do you agree that alumni participation in annual giving, regardless of the size of the gift, is very important to the University?
Strongly agree 34.5%
Agree 6.8%
Neutral 14.7%
Disagree 2.8%
Strongly disagree 1.2%
Do you feel well informed about how gifts to the University are used?
Strongly agree 6.2%
Agree 24.9%
Neutral 34.0%
Disagree 25.7%
Strongly disagree 9.2%
Open-ended responses: What can SCU do to increase alumni giving participation?

Of the 4,800 alumni who took the survey, about 1,600 responded to the open-ended question: “What should SCU do to increase alumni giving participation?” Responses included “better demonstrating need” and “better showing how money is spent”—with comments also acknowledging that an improved economy would help. The majority of responses fell into a number of larger categories; here they are, including some of the suggestions, beginning with the categories that include the most responses.

1. METHOD OF SOLICITATION
(252 responses in this category)

Make it easy. We live on the Internet these days. Send emails with links to donate easily and an on-the-spot charge-card option or even PayPal—but do it with class and appreciation. Keep the communication up. Emails and letters about what is happening at the University, the magazine—these are very important in keeping alumni connected, especially those who no longer live anywhere near the school or don't have the time to be involved in local alumni activities.

Continue to target reunion classes—before and after their reunion, not during. Perhaps adding a small donation to their reunion cost (i.e., $5-10), specifically stating on the invitation that this will go toward their class scholarship or another University designation? Some folks may not go for it, but you could always have an "opt out" check box. I know you have kept fundraising separate at reunions, but it should get more folks to donate, even if it's a small amount. On the contrary, hopefully it will not turn people away from making larger donations, which is why you would still need the Development Office to follow up.

I find personal phone calls effective.

I find the telemarketing to be irritating, especially living in a later time zone. They seem to call around 9 p.m. Not a good time to be calling someone's home asking for money. I would prefer to get something in the mail.

I'm not sure. Personally, donating is not a high priority within my financial planning. Maybe if SCU sent out a topical e-mail giving alumni suggestions about how to fit donations into their overall financial planning.

2. GOOD COMMUNICATION
(227 responses in this category)

Overall, I'm satisfied with the experience, but if SCU could focus on the end result and work backward to explain how my gift makes an impact—that would sure increase alumni donations to SCU.

This survey alone made me realize I need to give back—I was a scholarship student and I need to give others the same opportunity.

Be patient; keep emailing and reaching out; sometimes it's just about timing and attitude of the donors; when they do donate, make sure they know that their donation is appreciated, as well as how their money was put to use.

Continue to provide a forum for alums to hear about the achievements of other alums.

Continue to remind us about our wonderful experience there. Santa Clara Magazine and postcards always evoke my special college memories and bring a smile to my face.

Evangelize the value of alumni donations. SCU's tuition is expensive, so why does it need more money? Describe immediate goals and how they support a vision in concert. And do it in a sentence. In that sentence, provide an opportunity for an emotive connection. Don't be afraid to broadcast an oversimplified message.

Get the word out that it is an important thing to do to keep Santa Clara as one of the top universities. I think the article in the Santa Clara Magazine last year was maybe a wake-up call to a lot of people.

Keep sending out the message that participation is the most important thing.

Keep sending your magazine. It helps me feel in touch with the University and with my fellow alumni.

3. SHOW THAT EVERY GIFT COUNTS
(185 responses in this category)

Demonstrate a real need. Things are tough, especially this year, so the request should indicate the importance beyond personal concerns.

Better communicate how each donation, no matter the size, impacts the University. We've all seen the ad: "For just 17 cents a day, you can feed a family in Africa." What will my donation go to? Will it fund research? Will it buy equipment? Will it pay an architect or construction manager?

Continue to stress that no amount is too small. Continue to stress that the alum's degree was financed by others including the tuition paid by the student and that future degrees must be guaranteed this way. Time to give back: time, talent, treasure

Emphasize that any size contribution helps. I believe that some alumni might not donate because they are embarrassed that their contribution is too small. I think that alumni need to realize that "many hands make light work."

I think the University does a really good job reaching out to alumni. I am not sure why more alumni don't donate; it could be that they feel that there are enough large donations. Emphasizing how money is used and where it is really needed may be helpful. I think knowing that we are low compared to other colleges and universities in the area would be helpful and wake up the alumni a bit.

I'm actually perplexed as to the low rate of alumni participation in giving, especially considering the allegiance so many alums say they have toward Santa Clara. Perhaps just keeping the message "out there" and reiterating the importance of smaller donations. It can be intimidating to see a gift in the millions of dollars if you are only able to give in the low hundreds or even a more modest amount.

Make sure everyone knows that it doesn't matter how much. Last year I donated $20.09 because I graduated in 2009. It was a reasonable and meaningful amount. This year I think I only gave $10 because I am broke, but I knew that the school is looking for any amount. Also we should be able to choose where the money goes.

Provide a clear connection of what giving (particularly a lower amount) can do for the University! Sometimes we need a visual to understand that “$50 can provide X.” In this way, if you can increase your giving level over the years, you have an understanding of the impact that gift is making.

Show in detail where there is need, what has been accomplished with donations in the past year, and what my gift can do if I give again. In my opinion, it's all about transparency.

This survey is probably the most motivating idea I have seen! Probably emphasize that even small, sporadic gifts are needed and will be appreciated. Create a way for us to provide our email address (or other preferred contact info) without losing anonymity on the survey.

4. BUILD A STRONG CONNECTION
(147 responses in this category)

Communicate with alumni about how they can get involved with Santa Clara: coming to talk to students, posting jobs on a Santa Clara website. Tell us about auditing classes, encourage us to continue with our education … more offering of lectures. Tell us in e-mails about upcoming plays, concerts, comedy nights, athletic events—and tell us how the athletic teams are doing.

Survey snapshots

71 percent of alumni stated that the University’s goals and priorities are communicated to them regularly. (That compares with 67 percent of alumni from private universities nationally.)

62 percent of Santa Clara grads feel the University makes them feel that they are still an important part of the school. (That compares with 55 percent of alumni from private universities nationally.)

When it comes to alumni attitude toward SCU, 64 percent describe it as very positive, 25 percent positive, with 4 percent somewhat negative, and less than 1 percent very negative.

Why give? Alumni gave as their top reason that it’s to support SCU’s overall mission and priorities (28 percent), to show gratitude for their experiences as students (20 percent), to support scholarships for future students (15 percent), and to enhance SCU’s reputation (7 percent).

What might keep alumni from making a gift? Reasons noted were: they weren’t currently financially able to make a gift (58 percent), they preferred to make donations to other organizations with missions important to them (44 percent), or the only time they hear from Santa Clara is when they’re being asked for money (31 percent).

How would alumni like to be contacted about supporting the University? Most prefer e-mail (62 percent), followed by personal letter (16 percent), direct mail (6 percent), home phone (3 percent), and social media (2 percent).

5. REPORT ON HOW FUNDS ARE SPENT/USED
(143 responses in this category)

I really liked the thank-you note I received from a student recently. I donated to the Santa Clara Fund and she was able to use the funds I provided to go on an immersion trip. It was great to know that my hard-earned dollars went to making someone else's Santa Clara experience special.

Make it easy with "click to give" links and personal stories or testimonials of how giving has directly benefited the person.

Provide a list of where money is targeted and what specific amounts of money help to do for the University.

Tell stories of student initiatives and explain how alumni can help. Sometimes it's not money. For example, the immersion trips to Mexico that involve current students and alumni.

6. EVENTS
(126 responses in this category)

For young alumni at least, utilize already existing young alumni events (happy hours, Giants games, etc.) to get alumni in one place—then hit them up for a small annual donation. Get them used to donating a little bit every year, keep them involved with alumni events, and as they get older, hopefully those annual donations grow.

Have more diverse events for alumni. I live in Portland and feel like the few events revolve around sports.

I love Vintage Santa Clara. I love to participate in events where I can enjoy myself while donating through auctions or raffles.

I think speakers and topics of interest for alumni and students is a great way to get folks connected or reconnected with SCU, especially if they are local. Stanford has a great continuing-ed program on topics and classes to connect with folks, which is another avenue.

7. THE ECONOMY
(100 responses in this category)

A lot of people don't have jobs. The University can't do a lot about that until companies start hiring.

An improving economy will have the largest impact on alumni giving. There is a direct correlation between the value of our IRA & 401K and our generosity.

Help Obama fix the economy! I definitely like to see where my money is going. I like directed giving. It makes me feel more like part of the team.

These are challenging economic times, so don't take it personally if alumni are currently unable to donate. Hopefully when things improve, so will the amount of the donations SCU receives.

8. REGIONAL EVENTS
(98 responses in this category)

Help me to find ways of engaging with other alumni in my area.

Increase local chapter networking and social and volunteer events available to alumni to continue to build the relationship and make alumni feel connected to SCU in present time.

Santa Clara can help and encourage alumni to create local alumni chapters in places that don't currently have them, for example in Utah/Salt Lake City.

9. PERCEIVED POLITICAL OR RELIGIOUS STANCE OF UNIVERSITY
(90 responses in this category)

Act like a truly Catholic university.

Adopt a position supporting gay marriage. Or at least explain to those of us who are gay why you are compelled to support the Church's position that we should continue to be treated like second-class citizens.

For me, Santa Clara was about a Jesuit education, building upon a Jesuit high school education, developing critical thinking and a lifelong interest in learning. It was about the benefits of a liberal education, the philosophy of "that which is useful is not always good, but that which is good is always useful."

I want to feel like SCU is creating an environment that promotes individual liberty, self-determination, achievement, production, and responsibility. It currently seems to be focused on social programs and responsibility.

I want to see how you help the poor, the downtrodden, the dregs of society. I want to see how Santa Clara is a powerful force in California (and the West), but uses its influence for the betterment of the least among us.

10. DONORS SHOULD DESIGNATE WHERE GIFT IS USED
(83 responses in this category)

As you already do, have a wide variety of options so that alumni can have a way of donating that has meaning to them. The easier it is to donate (is there a secure link on the website?), the better.

Focus donation efforts on projects/goals that resonate with a specific class, college, or degree rather than a broad-brush approach to all alumni for "big picture" SCU causes.

Make requests for specific projects, e.g.; buildings, newspaper, and magazine-specific events and projects.

11. SUCCESSFUL ATHLETICS PROGRAM
(76 responses in this category)

Engage alumni more actively. Only contact I receive is to donate money. Build athletic programs to stronger level to improve long-term connection of students to the University. Look at what basketball has done for Gonzaga or general sports for Notre Dame or Boston College. Alumni from those schools follow their sports programs for years after graduation. It provides an ongoing connection to the University.

Get to the NCAA tournament in basketball. Bring back football. I don't feel excited about the school because I never hear about it in the news.

12. DOING A GOOD JOB ALREADY
(61 responses in this category)

Forgive the cliché, but keep doing what you're doing. Santa Clara Magazine is a great asset, better than any other alumni magazine I've ever seen. It's clear the University is heading in the right direction.

I think Santa Clara does a great job of creatively seeking donations in various ways. I thought the e-mail with a student picture telling a bit about him and letting me know he would be calling soon to try to get a donation was creative and effective. I also like that donations are solicited for different aspects of the University each time (be a member of the President's Circle, help the Santa Clara Fund, help with financial aid, etc).

I think you're doing a good job. I live in New York City, so I'm obviously not going to drop into the school regularly. But I enjoy receiving the magazine and the regular e-mail announcements. And I'll send a donation in today. (Good work, guys.)

A number of other categories with fewer than 50 suggestions include comments on:

  • Career services ("Only by placing SCU graduates in companies and organizations of prestige and influence can SCU expect to increase its value to alumni and prospective students over the long term.")
  • Transparency in spending and investing by the University
  • Creating a culture of giving
  • Solicit, listen to, and respond to alumni input ("Continue to invite alumni to participate in surveys such as this. Show that SCU values alumni's opinions. Communicate summaries of survey results to alumni.")
  • Students and student life ("Fond memories are a better sell than any post-graduation contact.")
  • Needing to focus more on issues of diversity ("Continue to build upon the diversity of the current student body, faculty, staff, and alumni. Also, continue to highlight the diversity of all the above.")
  • Perception that tuition is enough of a "gift"
  • Returning the Greek system ("embrace the parts that are beneficial to the community")
  • Offering a thank-you gift to people who make a gift
  • The value of strong brand awareness of Santa Clara and of national rankings in bolstering the value of a degree
  • Donor stewardship
  • Greater awareness of alumni being stretched financially
  • Improving the legacy admissions process and communication
  • Creating avenues for alumni to donate time and/or talent
  • SCU's leadership
  • Benchmarking best practices for alumni involvement and communication ("For example, do you know who volunteers on behalf of the University each year? Do you recognize them?")
  • Increasing non-fundraising communication
  • Better use of social media, especially for reaching out to young alumni