Fundraising from Young Alumni

Ring Ring. My phone has been ringing once a week around 7 pm or later from an unknown 919-515-XXXX phone number. I do not answer. Why? Because I have a love/hate relationship with the call center at my undergraduate institution, NC State.

Memorial Belltower at NC StateI learned my lesson last year about answering late night calls from unknown 919-515 numbers. Unfortunately, it is not someone calling to offer me a job. It is a student working what I believe is an incredibly hard job calling alumni and asking for donations. Giving back to a university is very important, and I think it is the approach that matters, especially when you are talking about young alumni. It was actually the Turkey Challenge posts on Facebook that finally got me to go on and make my small annual gift for the year.

My interactions with the NC State call center have been very interesting. As a student I heard from Kelly Hook (my SBP predecessor) about disappointing calls after graduation. I have also seen other negative posts about these phone calls on social media sites from classmates and friends. So what gives?

You need good and accurate data on current students so that you can make connections with them as alumni. This includes as much information as possible about student organization involvement, interests, and other activities that they participate in. Collecting this data requires partnerships with advancement and other offices on campus, including student life, recreation, arts, etc. It can also be aided by the use of technology, card swipes, student organization management systems, etc.

Then what do you do with the recent graduates? I have had conversations with current and past leadership at NC State and here is what I think:

1: If you’re going to call, the first phone call should be informational. Ask questions: Do they have a job? Are they in graduate school? Gather information but don’t make an ask
Disclaimer: I know it is hard to imagine using resources for a phone call and not making an ask, but trust me – I think that would be more beneficial than the damage done by calling and asking for $150, $250 dollars, etc.

2: When it is time to make an ask, whether it be the first phone call or the second, connect to their student experience and ask them to give to something they might be interested in. (Based on the data you collected and can see in their profile).

3: Rethink current programs and how to target recent graduates (philanthropy and millenials). The old ways won’t work. Come up with ways that recent graduates can work together to fundraise toward a cause!

Are you a recent graduate of an institution? Have you donated since you graduated? Why or why not?


  1. Tim Martin

    Great suggestions Chandler. Perhaps that first phone call also includes ideas on other ways they might stay involved, like sitting on a panel, mentoring a current student, or returning to an event hosted by the development office or a student organization they were a part of. It’s great to see your passion for this topic.

    • Chandler Thompson

      Thanks for reading Tim! I think your ideas for other ways to engage alumni with the first phone call are good, especially mentoring a current student, attending an event, sitting on a panel, or even joining a committee/board for recent graduates. Those ideas do create a major need for collaboration between offices and development/the call center, but I think it could be done!

  2. T.

    I agree on all of this — and the weird thing is that I never got anything at all like the first call, either via email or otherwise. My law school sent out a blizzard of stuff trying to see whether or not I had a job. I figured NC State tried to collect the same data. ::shrug::

    • Chandler Thompson

      Thanks for reading TGD! And thanks for sharing your story too, it’s interesting but not surprising you had a different experience with your law school vs undergrad. I wonder if NCSU has accurate data about you!

  3. T.J.

    I don’t quite understand why we take it as such a GIVEN that we should donate to our colleges after we leave. Higher Education is unjustifiably expensive, and colleges work overtime to saddle their students with lifetime loan payments. Colleges raise tuition every year, and they spend ridiculous amounts on administrative and sports salaries. Yet, we give to them like it’s some moral obligation. We allow our fond memories and sense of affiliation to divert money back to the institution that doesn’t really need it. Are there any other wildly profitable businesses you send your money to? There are so many direct service charities directly helping your fellow man. My institution received lots of money from me, and I received an education. Transaction done. I give my money to things like Special Olympics, Wounded Warriors, etc. I don’t need to fund the latest university branding project or athletic facility upgrade.

    • Chandler Thompson

      I think you bring up some of the biggest issues of development and fundraising for higher education today. Do people see a value in donating to their alma mater? For many of my peers and other people I talk to the answer is no, with opinions similar to what you expressed here. At the same time, I don’t think the message is getting out about why private donations are important and sometimes almost necessary for certain things that important but not funded by tuition or state/federal money. This is where we could go into an even bigger conversation about the funding model of higher education. Personally, I see a value in giving back because I want to support and create enriching experiences for students. But I make sure I choose the specific project I am giving to – which so far has been things that the NCSU Student Government is working on. Thanks for reading and commenting T.J. :)

  4. Alan Sheridan

    Totally agree Chandler, I feel like I got called only like a month or two after graduating, fresh off of a move and wedding, and feeling somewhat disturbed that I was already being asked to kick back money to NCSU by an (incredibly polite) current student (I mean, I still feel like a student…). I donated a small amount, but I’d definitely be much more receptive to just collecting information, or allowing me to donate directly to the activities I was involved in, or (God forbid) being asked to donate more than a few months after I had just graduated.

    • Chandler Thompson

      Hey Alan! Good to hear from you. I hate that you had a similar experience but thanks for sharing your story. You do have the opportunity to give directly to activities that you want but from what I know they usually don’t ask about that on the phone. Next time you are ready to give if you go online you can designate to the activity you want to. That’s what I do instead. Would definitely like to see the process change for recent grads of NCSU. Hope you are well!

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