It’s widely understood that a positive undergraduate experience encourages students to give back to their institution monetarily and non-monetarily after they graduate. But, up until recently, the relationship between the two has yet to be quantified.

Before becoming the Director of Alumni Engagement at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Joseph Volin conducted the necessary research and uncovered findings that lead to a quantitative model explaining the relationship between undergraduate student involvement and subsequent alumni engagement.


As previously stated, the main finding from Volin’s dissertation research unearthed that there is a significant relationship between student involvement and alumni engagement. Volin came to this conclusion after examining student experiences, demographics and post-graduation interactions of 8,557 alumni under the age of 33 who attended the same East Coast private university.

To determine the engagement tendencies of different alumni populations, Volin considered race/ethnicity, graduation recency, academic program, residency distance from campus, and frequency summary for involvement and engagement.


Chicago-Kent College of Law Director of Alumni Engagement Joe Volin

Chicago-Kent College of Law Director of Alumni Engagement Joe Volin

Volin’s findings support long-held understandings, but he dove deeper to determine the degree in which alumni are engaged based on their level of involvement as an undergraduate.

“I looked at the relationship between undergraduate involvement and subsequent alumni engagement to see how we can predict if someone will give, open an email or come to an event based on how many student organizations they were involved in, how many intercollegiate athletic teams they were a part of, and whether or not they received an award when they crossed the graduation stage,” he explained.

With this model in hand, Volin found that each unit increase in student involvement during undergraduate years was associated with a 36 percent increase in the odds of being in a higher level of non-monetary engagement as well as a 31 percent increase in a higher level of monetary engagement.

Additionally, he found a correlation proving alumni who displayed higher levels of non-monetary engagement were more likely to provide higher levels of monetary engagement.

The following are additional findings Volin was able to quantify:

  • Proximity to campus increases giving but not non-monetary engagement
  • More recently-graduated alumni are more likely to give
  • Women are more engaged than men overall
  • Alumni of color give at lower rates and are less engaged overall
  • There is a correlation between undergraduate academic program and alumni engagement

Application & Recommendations

Volin recognizes and suggests that the same results found in this study won’t necessarily be replicated at another college or university. He notes that the significant, positive relationship between student involvement and alumni engagement could be attributed to a strong culture of student involvement that is fostered and developed at the participating institution.

That doesn’t mean larger, public institutions can’t see the same results. It simply provides a blueprint others can follow to gain similar engagement and donor metrics.

Volin advocates for stronger collaboration between student services/affairs and alumni relations in order to increase alumni engagement.

As student services promotes student involvement in extracurriculars, athletics and academics, its strategies can translate to similar success for alumni relations. Applying the student services approach to alumni relations can help cultivate alumni, and possibly lead to the development of a culture of philanthropy and engagement.

A broader goal of this collaboration is to collectively improve the student experience which leads to subsequent non-monetary and monetary engagement.

If student services and alumni relations develop programming in conjunction, student services benefits from increased internships, mentoring opportunities and organizational volunteers that are a result of alumni involvement. Conversely — as Volin’s research proves alumni non-monetary engagement increases monetary engagement — alumni relations can benefit from larger gifts to the institution for scholarships and endowments.

Through collaboration, alumni have more opportunities to engage with the university and provide a positive experience to students by serving as mentors, and offering relevant career advice during career programming.

With more interaction with students, alumni recognize the value of their contributions and continue being engaged with their institution. For students, they see first-hand the impact philanthropy and giving back has on their own success. This exposure motivates them to do the same when they ultimately become alumni.

Interested in more pioneering alumni engagement strategies? Feel free to download CampusTap’s E-book, “Increasing Alumni Engagement Through Industry Networks.”



Feature image courtesy Rutgers University via Lauren Redfern