Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Leadership Studies


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Patricia A. Mitchell

Second Advisor

Walter H. Gmelch

Third Advisor

Robert Burns


Now more than ever, colleges and universities are relying on funds raised from alumni to support their operations. At the same time, the percentage of alumni donors is in decline and new research suggests that higher education fundraising strategies are overly reliant on alumni behaviors and demographics as predictors of giving. A 2011 study by McDearmon addressed this issue by establishing a psychometric measure of a graduate’s self-identification with his or her role as an alumnus/a, dubbed “alumni role identity.” Based in role identity theory (Stryker 1968, 1980; Callero, 1985), McDearmon’s research demonstrated that alumni role identity was associated positively with alumni participation in giving. The purpose of this study was to determine the factors and characteristics that influence alumni role identity, and thereby improve the ability of colleges and universities to solicit alumni donations.

Four research questions were investigated by fielding an alumni role identity questionnaire to graduates of a mid-size, Jesuit university on the West coast. Institutionally-held data on communications, social media use, behavioral, demographic, and giving attributes of the 4,094 respondents were appended to survey responses. Using correlation, principal component analysis, independent samples t-tests, and multiple regression techniques, 11 of the 18 attributes studied were found to be unique and statistically significant predictors of alumni role identity. Most notably, participants who had “liked” the university’s Facebook page or joined the university’s LinkedIn group reported levels of alumni role identity comparable to those reported by participants who had attended a university event. This suggests that higher education fundraising professionals could boost alumni giving by implementing social media strategies to increase the alumni role identity of graduates.

Low effect-size results in the regression models of this study indicated that alumni role identity, while influenced by behavioral and demographic factors and characteristics to a degree, is not behavioral, nor demographic in nature. Additionally, a methodological comparison with McDearmon’s 2011 study revealed that institutionally sourced data on participant donation history is more exact than donor information collected from participants via self-report. Further research into the antecedents of alumni role identity should take both of these findings into account.