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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Value of Why: Understanding Alumni Giving Motivation and Identity in the Graduate and Professional Theological School Context
by Shea, Thomas McKennon, Jr., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2018, 155; 10828069
Abstract (Summary)

As graduate school enrollment continues to grow and more graduate institutions become responsible for their own fundraising efforts, attention to the specific context of graduate and professional school fundraising will be increasingly important. This study sought to identify the primary motivations of graduate alumni to make financial gifts to their graduate alma maters. Secondarily, it explored how prior experiences with undergraduate institutions, particularly through the lens of research related to organizational identification, affected their giving behavior.

Data gathered from alumni and development staff interviews at four graduate theological institutions indicated 11 distinct themes that could describe the variety of giving motivations mentioned by alumni. At the individual level, alumni were found to have a cluster of motivational themes, typically three to six themes, that they described as influencing their giving behavior.

The themes of mission, involvement, and vocational alignment appeared in alumni motivation clusters more frequently than others. Additionally, each institution had a particular motivation that was mentioned more prominently than others, leading to the conclusion that institutions are a major influencer on the motivations of their alumni.

Nearly all of the alumni not only gave equally or more frequently to their graduate alma mater than their undergraduate alma mater, they also reported equal or greater identification with their graduate alma mater. This affirms the prior research of Mael and Ashforth (1992) that organizational identity is a significant contributor to alumni giving and that having attended other institutions is not detrimental to the formation of a graduate school identity.

Overall, this study demonstrated that identifying the giving motivations of graduate alumni can be an important step in crafting strategies for effective alumni fundraising. Given the discrete set and limited range of possible motivations, graduate institutions similar to those in this study would be able to identify both the primary motivations of their alumni donors as well as the motivations unique to their own institutional identity. With that knowledge, they would then be able to cultivate alumni as donors in ways that are more engaging, relational, and authentic.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gasman, Marybeth
Commitee: Drezner, Noah, Kaplan, Eric
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 80/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher Education Administration
Keywords: Alumni, Giving, Graduate, Higher education, Motivation, Philanthropy
Publication Number: 10828069
ISBN: 978-0-438-33895-1
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