HILBORN RECOMMENDS...The Lost Generation: millennials and why university fundraising programs are failing them

publication date: Jun 12, 2013
author/source: Lisa MacDonald

In recent years, an aging population has brought focus to the ways in which our actions are defined by our generational experience. In this special report, John Suart sheds light on the relationship between the Millennial generation (those born between 1982 and 1999) and their university experience, and what this means for post-secondary alumni fundraising programs.

Suart identifies nine factors that make millennials different than preceding generations. In this brief overview we’ll examine only two.

Demographics and the student experience

It starts with the numbers. The number of university graduates has increased exponentially. In 1950, Canadian universities granted degrees to 17,000 undergraduates. In 1960, there were 19,000. By 1970, the number had risen dramatically to 67,000 and in 2008, the number of undergraduate degrees awarded by Canadian universities was nearly 250,000.

Society has changed as well. The percentage of young people going to university has increased. In 1976, just 12 per cent of all youth (age 15 to 24) were attending full-time post-secondary education. By 2009, that had increased to 27 per cent. The alumni of most universities are becoming younger and younger every day. Many Canadian universities are reporting that the number of alumni who graduated in the last ten years is now roughly equal to all the living alumni that came before.

The student experience has changed as well. Campuses and classes were much more “intimate” 50 years ago. Across the board, class sizes have been rising but the number of faculty has grown at a slower pace. From 1994 to 2007 full-time enrolment in Canada increased by about 40 per cent while the number of full-time faculty increased by an estimated 12 per cent.

Class size is a barometer of the student experience. A 2010 study by Monks and Schmidt found that class size and the total number of students that a faculty member is responsible for teaching have a negative impact on how students rate courses and instructors. For Suart, it is not a stretch to extrapolate that it also effects how they view their university. This degree of graduate satisfaction has a direct impact on fundraising and alumni affairs. In short, how well they liked university dictates how much they will give and participate in their alumni organization.

John Suart is an author, blogger, speaker and consultant in the area of nonprofit marketing and communications. He worked for the University of New Brunswick on the $100 million Forging Our Futures fundraising campaign – the largest in Atlantic Canada. More information about John is available at www.johnsuart.com

Purchase your copy of The Lost Generation for only $17.99 (immediate .pdf download)


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