Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Alumni and Named Structures: A Qualitative Analysis of Major Gift Donors
by Cherkosly, Allison, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2018, 230; 10788703
Abstract (Summary)

Reduced government support has caused higher education institutions to become more dependent on philanthropic contributions. Since the majority of funds come from a small number of donors (Longfield, 2014), it’s important to focus on the highest level of donors. However, there was a lack of research that specifically studied alumni major gift donors who name physical structures with their philanthropic gifts to their alma maters. My intent in developing this study was to fill this gap and help higher education institutions secure more funds.

By building on the research designs of King (2005) and Barascout (2012), I conducted an in-depth case study at one university. I collected data through semi-structured, in-depth interviews with the specified donors and staff members from the institution. I analyzed this data using an open coding scheme. Consistent with my grounded theory approach, I allowed conclusions to emerge from this data.

My first research question identified the giving motivations of alumni donors who named physical structures with their major gifts to their alma mater. I found twelve overarching factors that motivated these donors: a) Appreciation, b) Affinity, c) Financial Considerations, d) Making an Impact, e) Engagement, f) Recognition, g) Prestige/Signaling Wealth/Social Status, h) Opportunity Cost, i) Warm Glow, j) Legacy, k) Obligation, and l) Tax Implications.

My second research question sought to understand the impact of solicitation processes on the giving decisions of the donor population being studied. I found that four phases of the solicitation processes influenced these donors’ giving decisions: a) qualification, b) cultivation, c) solicitation, and d) stewardship. My study also identified four institutional partners who were involved in the solicitation processes: Development Officers, School Deans, Athletic Coaches, and Current Students.

I also identified two main solicitation process events that influenced these donors: a) fundraising campaigns, and b) campus visits. I found that the donors in my study acted as the “deciders” about their philanthropic gifts, and did not involve their spouses, nor professional advisors in their solicitation processes.

Lastly, my study also revealed that Development Officers seemed unaware of the factors that their respective donors considered when making their giving decisions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Valverde, Gilbert
Commitee: Drezner, Noah, Leventhal, Mitch
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Educational Policy and Leadership
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology, Higher education
Keywords: Alumni, Fundraising, Major gifts, Motivation, Philanthropy, Solicitation
Publication Number: 10788703
ISBN: 9780355876871
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