7 Ways To Give Back To Your Alma Mater Without Donating Money

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Like any institution, universities require funding to function effectively. Most public universities have the majority of their expenses covered through the federal and state government, whereas private universities rely heavily on tuition and private contributions (like donations) to pay the bills. And keeping a university afloat is not a cheap affair. Institutions need to bring in enough money to pay the salary of quality professors, pay for top-notch campus facilities and afford scholarships and research grants.

This is likely why our alma maters are constantly bugging us to fork over donations even though we have yet to pay off our student loans. It’s never fun to tell yet another staff member at your university that you can’t donate because you’re currently broke, especially around the holidays. But luckily, there are ways you can give back to your institution without opening your wallet. Here are seven of our favorites.

1. Become a mentor.

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One of the most effective ways to give back to your university is by becoming a mentor for current students. Most universities have resources that allow you to connect with undergraduate students who are looking to pursue a career in your field. Sometimes, your time can be even more valuable to students than your money. It’s hard to know what to expect from post-grad life when you’re still in the college bubble, so meeting with undergrads to discuss their concerns about the real world can be instrumental in helping them succeed.

One 2014 study found that young adults who faced an opportunity gap but had a mentor were 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college compared to those who did not have a mentor. Becoming a mentor is as easy as asking your school’s career center if they know of any student who might benefit from your expertise. And don’t hesitate to answer those Linkedin messages from undergrads asking you to meet up for coffee. Just a couple minutes of your time could help them better prepare for post-grad life.

2. Join your alumni organization.

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If you live in the same city or town as your college, volunteering to organize and/or help out at events for your alumni organization is one of the best ways to give back to your university without donating large sums of money. Attending these events could also allow you to expand your professional network, and it could even lead you to a new exciting opportunity. Maybe you’ll learn that an old college peer of yours is actively recruiting for a cool position that you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

Although some of these alumni events cost money to attend, many times part of the proceeds from the events get reinvested back into your institution. So you’re basically donating money but getting something a lot more valuable in return than your name plastered on some brick on campus.

3. Volunteer to speak at your school’s events.

You don’t need to be an accomplished senior executive to be a valuable speaker for undergrads at a college event. Although some events like graduation often call for high-profile guest speakers, other smaller, major-specific events frequently welcome recent undergrads to share what they’ve learned since graduating. For some industries (like media, for example), young professionals like yourself might be more in the know with what’s new in the workforce compared to more senior alumni. So don’t doubt your value. Reach out to your university’s career center to see if they’re looking for professionals like yourself to come speak at upcoming career development events. Here’s an opportunity to work on those public speaking skills!

4. Fill out your alumni survey (and be honest).

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Every couple of months, you’ll see an alumni survey from your alma mater pop up in your inbox. Instead of hitting the “trash” button before scrolling through it, take a few minutes out of your day to complete it. Offering honest feedback about your undergrad experience and how it helped you in your post-grad career (if at all) could help your university better understand its strengths and weaknesses. Although the changes that your university might implement based on your survey results could be minimal, you might still help current undergrads by pointing out flaws in your school’s educational system.

5. Keep connected with your college organizations.

Just because you can’t spare the money to give back financially to your sorority or college volunteer group after you graduate doesn’t mean that you can’t make equally valuable contributions in other ways. Stay connected to the organizations that you were heavily involved in throughout college. Even if you can’t make it to reunion events in person, you can still offer support to undergrads in your organizations through social media. If you know someone who’s looking to fill a spare room, for example, don’t hesitate to post it in your Facebook groups. You might be helping out a recent grad or summer intern who just moved to your city and is in search of an apartment.

6. Encourage your company to recruit from your school.

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You already know that your school pops out kick-ass alumni — after all, you graduated from there. So why not promote undergrads and recent grads from your university when your current company is looking to hire? In 2016, employee referrals alone delivered more than 30 percent of all hires across every industry in the United States. So referring an undergrad or fellow alumni to an open position at your company could seriously increase their chances of getting hired. And when more people get hired right out of undergrad, it reflects well on your university, so it’s a win-win for everybody involved.

7. Speak to prospective students.

Remember how terrified you were on move-in day when you had no idea what to expect from your first year at college? You can easily help ease some of that freshman anxiety by reaching out to high schoolers in your network who are beginning the college search. Maybe you have a niece or nephew who’s looking at colleges or you have a younger sister with an extensive friend group. Whatever the case, sharing your college experience with incoming freshmen is an easy way to give back and it could even help score some new undergrads for your alma mater if your experience was positive.


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