Alumni philanthropy gap between UK and US ‘narrowing’

Study shows that a quarter of UK alumni under 30 have donated to their university

December 24, 2016
Donation money jar
Source: iStock

The gap between the proportion of UK and US alumni who have made a financial donation to their university is “narrowing”, according to a recent study.

A survey of more than 1,000 university alumni in the UK and the US found that while there was a 21 percentage point difference in the proportion of 51- to 60-year-olds in the two countries who had donated to their alma mater, there was only a six percentage point difference in the proportion of 22- to 30-year-olds who had made a contribution.

A quarter of UK alumni aged between 22 and 30 had made a donation at least once, compared with 31 per cent of those in the same age bracket in the US. Meanwhile, just 3 per cent of 51- to 60-year-olds in the UK reported having given money, compared with 24 per cent in the US, according to the study.

The report, Atlantic Alumni: Boosting Engagement through Segmentation, from the UK-based market research agency Red Brick Research, said that the “narrowing of the gap” among those under the age of 30 suggests that the UK is having “some recent success in adopting a more US-style approach” to philanthropy.

“This may be indicative of a change of attitude in recent years with real efforts made by many universities to invest in alumni departments, to improve contact databases and to try to engage alumni at the point of graduation,” it said.

It added that an increasing proportion of UK students now leave university “with a good understanding of their alumni network and its value”.

Alumni philanthropy graph
Red Brick Research

However, overall, US alumni are still far more likely to donate to their alma mater.

Less than a third (30 per cent) of UK respondents said that they have donated or would consider donating to their university, compared with more than half (54 per cent) of US respondents. The remaining respondents in both countries said that they are very unlikely to consider making a financial contribution.

Despite this difference, the study suggests that there is little evidence that US alumni are generally more philanthropic than their UK counterparts; 54 and 58 per cent of UK and US alumni respectively said that they donate money to other charities.

The difference in university philanthropy across the Atlantic may be attributable in part to the fact that US alumni are far more likely to receive, or remember receiving, messages from their alma mater. Almost two-thirds of US alumni (62 per cent) said that they receive a general email from their university at least once a year, compared with 38 per cent of UK respondents.

In addition, more than two-fifths (42 per cent) of UK alumni said that they strongly agree with the statement “I don’t think of universities as charities”, while less than a third (31 per cent) of their US counterparts said the same.

UK respondents were also more likely to strongly disagree with the statement “I feel valued as an alumni” (30 per cent) compared with US respondents (19 per cent).

The survey, which was conducted in October 2016, was completed by 500 UK alumni and 531 US alumni, broadly representative of gender, age, region and income level. All respondents had completed an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in one of the countries between 1956 and 2016 and are currently residents within the same nation.

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