By Angeline Boyer, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Saint Peter's University
Faced with an aging subset of alumni donors, in 2014, Saint Peter’s University began looking into opportunities to engage recent graduates in more meaningful ways. The following year, the Office of Alumni Engagement (AE) and the annual giving (AG) team formalized the Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) program in an effort to strengthen the engagement of the alumni base, expand the network of support for alma mater, and raise the brand visibility of the University, located in Jersey City, NJ.
The Challenges of Cultivating Young Donors
Young donors can be one of the most challenging groups of prospects for a university to cultivate, but also one of the most significant. Engaging a recent graduate as early as possible is critical to building a pathway for future giving down the road, but student loan debt and a shaky job market can be major roadblocks to participation. However, according to a recent Saint Peter’s graduate, Shishir Khadka ’12, these “roadblocks” are exactly why young alumni need to stay connected to alma mater.
“Once you have been in the workforce for more than a decade, you can become more stable, but the most active stage of your career is likely to be right after graduation,” explained Khadka. “The development of the GOLD program is critical for recent graduates because it provides networking opportunities that are essential as individuals are getting started in their careers.”
Delivering What Recent Graduates Seek
Khadka’s insight is exactly what the AE and AG teams at Saint Peter’s utilized to develop their strategy behind the University’s GOLD initiatives. The teams implemented a number of collaborative tactics to develop a stronger culture of philanthropy and engagement among recent graduates. One of the most successful of these tactics was the development of the GOLD committee, of which Khadka is a member.
The committee, which is comprised of alumni who have graduated over the past decade, primarily serves to organize networking events and happy hours to bring young alumni together. The group spreads the word about the events to their friends and former classmates through direct contact and social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
The committee also provides information about what programming and resources they would find useful. Career planning tends to be a major area of interest for these young alumni. Khadka, who currently serves as a data management analyst, is planning to work with the committee to build out a mentorship program for current students and recent graduates in the near future.
The AE and AG teams have also collaborated with campus partners including the Center for Career Engagement and Experiential Learning (CEEL) as well as academic departments to strengthen and promote professional and post-graduate opportunities. CEEL recently hosted a career preparation seminar with special guest presenter, Animesh Singh ’14. Singh, another member of the GOLD committee, shared his professional journey since graduation (including his role as a member of the committee), and offered tips and advice for crafting a winning resume. The seminar was part of the Senior Success Program at Saint Peter's.
“Engaging with CEEL and the Senior Success Program is ideal for the lasting growth of our GOLD initiatives,” explained Scott Donovan, assistant director of annual giving. “When our current seniors have the opportunity to see the success of a recent graduate and hear firsthand about the value of remaining connected to the University, it makes our jobs so much easier to cultivate these students in the future.”
Coming Full Circle
If an institution could paint the ideal picture of a GOLD participant, it would look like Ali Hassan ’13. Hassan came to Saint Peter’s on a presidential scholarship and graduated in 2013 as a member of the Most Noble Order of the Peacock. This is the oldest scholarship society of the University with membership limited to ten seniors who have attained the highest scholastic average in all courses during their first three years of study. Hassan was hired by Goldman Sachs right out of college and honed his skills there before opening his own asset management company in 2017. He also met his wife, Natalia (Carvalho) Hassan ’14, at Saint Peter’s. Natalia currently works as a nurse, and the couple lives in Manhattan.
Hassan frequently expresses his gratitude for the opportunities he was provided at Saint Peter’s. “My presidential scholarship made so much possible for me and I always vowed to do whatever I could do to repay it,” he explained. But it isn’t just the scholarship that Hassan values: he credits his time at Saint Peter’s for providing him with the skills and networking opportunities to get where he is today.
Hassan is repaying the University in more ways than one. He has participated in six Saint Peter’s events this year, including speeches on blockchain and cryptocurrency. Most recently, Hassan participated in a session on "Trends in Blockchain & Cryptocurrency," which featured alumni from the Class of 1995 who Hassan has met through his Saint Peter’s connections. While he is bringing his knowledge about an increasingly relevant and generally unknown field to current students, he is also demonstrating the value of remaining connected to the University after graduation.
Hassan and others like him are paving the pathway to the future success of the GOLD program at Saint Peter’s. The dedication of their time, talent and treasure is already inspiring current students and recent graduates. To learn more about the GOLD program, please click here.