A study of predictors of alumni philanthropy in public colleges

Date of Completion

January 1989


Education, Finance|Education, Higher




Alumni giving is the single most important index of the esteem in which the institution is held by a group of individuals. A large percent of alumni donors in the annual campaign is highly regarded by accrediting agencies, foundations, prospective benefactors--and the alumni. Despite its importance, research on characteristics of alumni donors is surprisingly lacking.^ The purpose of this study was to test the ability of selected attitudinal and demographic variables to discriminate between alumni donors and non-donors, and high or low donors to the annual campaign of a public, comprehensive college in New England.^ A survey questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of 1000 alumni who graduated from the college during the 70's. The survey yielded an 80 percent response.^ Using analysis of variance procedures, each independent variable was considered separately for its ability to distinguish group differences between donors and non-donors. The variables were then considered for their ability to predict group membership, i.e., donor or non-donor; low donor or high donor, using two-group discriminant function analysis.^ The discriminant function analysis correctly predicted group membership as a donor or non-donor for 69.5 percent of the cases in the sample, 37.9 percent better than chance after application of Cohen's Kappa to the classification results. Reading alumni publications, maintaining contact with faculty/staff, emotional attachment to the college, number of extracurricular activities, and attending campus events were the best predictors of group membership. Donors and non-donors also differed significantly on three other variables: recommending the college to prospective students, type of extracurricular activities, and satisfaction with their undergraduate educational experience. Those variables did not predict group membership, however.^ Emotional attachment to the college, enrolling for graduate work, and undergraduate curriculum studied were the best predictors of group membership as a high donor or low donor. The discriminant function exercise correctly classified 68.8 percent of the cases in the sample here, 38.7 percent better than chance.^ Recommendations for further study included replication of the study at similar comprehensive public colleges and intensive study of the phenomenon of institutional bonding during the undergraduate years and later emotional attachment to the institution. ^