Using Student Organizations to Engage Younger Donors

Using Student Organizations to Engage Younger Donors

November 21st, 2013

by Andy Canada


There has been a lot research and discussion about engaging younger donors. Organizations recognize the importance of getting donors involved as early as possible, hoping that in time they can develop these young prospects into major and planned gift donors. Higher education has for years used an effective tool in the effort with development-focused student organizations.


The October 2013 issue of Case Currents has an article titled “Forward-Thinking Philanthropy” by Julie Bourbon that highlights excellent examples of student organizations from around the country and the impacts they are having on their campus. The examples show how students and development staffs can work together to educate the student population on the importance of giving back and planting the seed to be lifelong donors to their alma mater.


Student organizations are an important tool for educating your current students on the importance of philanthropy and getting them to think about how they can participate as alumni. Members also help spread the message to their friends and others on campus and can begin to put a face on the development office.


Student organizations that focus on philanthropy are a great resource that can help fill many crucial roles at an organization, including:


  • actively fundraise for a specific project such as a senior class project or a student emergency fund,
  •  work closely with the development office to host alumni when they are back on campus,
  • Engage current students on the role the philanthropy has played in building the school or supporting current projects or scholarships.


Another benefit of these development-focused student organizations is the opportunity for students to learn more about development as a profession. We are seeing more students becoming interested in entering development as a profession and these organizations provide an avenue for them to work in partnership with the development office.


As a freshman at Purdue University, I had no knowledge about development and fundraising as a career, until a fraternity brother encouraged me to join the Purdue Foundation Student Board. At the time the organization primarily assisted in hosting alumni when they would come back on campus and also helped organize the senior class gift. This group was my first interaction in development and provided me with the opportunity to meet and interact with a number of development professionals that I still keep in touch with today.


Student organizations that focus on development are not the only way to engage young donors and they don’t work for all organizations, but in many cases they are a great vehicle for your development office to use to start educating and engaging your current students on the role of philanthropy. Check out the October 2013 issue of CASE Currents for some great examples on how students are making a difference on their campuses.




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