Thesis

Analyzing factors that predict alumni giving at a public university in California

As California's financial commitment to higher education continues to waver amidst fiscal crises and competing policy priorities, it is important that public institutions explore other strategies to cope with budget shortfalls (Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), 2012). Such strategies have generally consisted of tuition and fee increases, expenditure reductions, and enrollment management (PPIC, 2012). There ar~ numerous consequences related to each. Tuition and fee increases heighten worries about affordability. Expenditure reductions raise concerns about quality. Enrollment maiJagement practices threaten to limit access. One less explored strategy in the California State University (CSU) system is the solicitation of philanthropic support. Unlike private colleges and universities who have relied on philanthropic support for generations, most CSU schools lack a culture and tradition of giving back. Indeed, it has only been since the state legislature began cutting back support in the 1990s and 201 Os that CSU schools started becoming interested in philanthropy and expressing the need for more money than the state provides. Given this, many higher education administrators view philanthropic support as a promising way for public institutions to continue funding university initiatives no longer supported by the state. Focusing specifically on the CSU system, this study used a mixed-methods approach of both quantitative and comparative research to further examine philanthropic support through the lens of alumni giving. For the quantitative research, I utilized data from a CSU Advancement Office to conduct a two-part regression analysis and examine alumni giving patterns over a five-year period. The quantitative research also included a forecast prediction model. For the comparative research, the study compared its predictions on donor likelihood and target gift amount to that of a third party analytics company which conducted similar research with the same dataset. Corroborating past literature, the study overwhelmingly found that the type of degree earned and the number of degrees earned impacted alumni giving. Master, doctoral, and second-degree earners were significantly more likely to be donors. Similarly, student athletes and students who participated in at least one university-sponsored activity were more likely to be donors. In terms of total amount given, the results again substantiated that higher educational attainment and student involvement corresponded with larger gifts. The variables of age, median household income, and proximity to campus also had an effect on total amount given. When comparing the study's predictions to a third party company's predictions, the analysis revealed that the study's model may lack a robust indicator for high-end donors. Yet for low-end donors, the study may provide a more nuanced prediction that could prove to be helpful for annual funds. Based on these findings, there is evidence to suggest that regression analysis can assist CSU University Advancement Offices to understand the factors that predict alumni giving. Learning more about the influences that cause an alumnus/na to make a financial contribution in support of the CSU can help inform policy decisions about state general fund allocation. The study can also help CSU Advancement Offices engage in more fruitful, meaningful, and strategic fundraising.

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