Date of Graduation

7-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

K. Jill Rucker

Committee Member

Casandra K. Cox

Second Committee Member

Catherine W. Shoulders

Keywords

Agriculture Communications, Alumni Engagement, Brand Community, Fundraising, Higher Education Development, Strategic Communication

Abstract

Higher education institutions depend upon alumni support (Gaier, 2005). Understanding how those institutions communicate with alumni about methods of financial giving is necessary in securing their support. The concept of brand community, an idea formed through social relationships amongst consumers of a common brand, regardless of location, who acknowledge their overlapping interests and share traditions and a sense of duty related to the brand (McAlexander et al., 2006; Muniz & O’Guinn, 2001), can contribute to desired behaviors such as donations and engagement in alumni groups. Exploration of this concept was conducted in relation to young alumni (those graduating from 2008-2018).The purpose of this study was to describe the most preferred communications methods of young Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology Department alumni (graduates from 2008-2018) to encourage initial and consistent financial giving. The study also attempted to identify the impact of brand community on potential AECT philanthropic income. Research objective one aimed to describe desired communications methods of AECT young alumni. With an average daily screen time of 205 minutes (Simple Texting, 2019), it was not surprising to see that the methods of communication that respondents ranked as their top two choices were “E-Mail” and “Links to Online Giving” (n=27). Research objective two aimed to describe content that influenced AECT young alumni’s’ willingness to give. Most respondents (n=28) said they consumed AECT Department social media at least once per month and were at least somewhat willing to financially give to the department. Twenty-one participants said that the AECT Department was at least in their top three philanthropic priorities regardless of social media engagement. More specifically, when looking at respondents who engage with AECT social media at least once per month, 18 respondents said that AECT was in their top three priorities or their top priority. Research objective three aimed to describe the relationship between AECT young alumni’s on-campus & alumni experiences and their willingness to give. When asked about their satisfaction with their AECT extra-curricular activities, most participants said they were somewhat dissatisfied with their extra-curricular activities as an AECT student (n=28). However, of the respondents who said they were somewhat dissatisfied, 14 of them said they were still somewhat willing to give to the department. The study also reported that most respondents had low involvement or no involvement at all in extra-curricular activities (n=35). However, of those 35 participants, 20 said they were still somewhat willing (n=15) or extremely willing to give (n=5). Finally, the goal of research objective four was to describe the average dollar amount young alumni can contribute to AECT. Most participants reported that they could currently donate less than $100 (n=29). 29.63% of respondents said they could currently donate $100 - $499. The findings of this study indicate that development officers should place emphasis on young Millennial alumni and that more studies should be conducted to best generalize the AECT young alumni population. Emphasis should be placed on determining differences between the responses to this study and those who did not participate in the study.

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