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Optimizing engagement: brand identification and alumni donation behaviors

Amber L. Stephenson (Nonprofit Evaluation Services & Training (NEST), Temple University Harrisburg, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA)
David B. Yerger (Department of Economics, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA)

International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Article publication date: 5 August 2014




As colleges and universities face the shifts of decreasing government funds, increased operating costs, and waning alumni financial support, institutions are now plunging themselves into practices traditionally associated with the business sector. Practices like branding are now being used as a mechanism to increase engagement of alumni and potential donors. The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of brand identification, or the defining of the self through association with an organization, on alumni supportive behaviors.


The researchers surveyed alumni of a mid-sized state-run university in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA to see if identification affected donation behaviors such as choice to donate, total dollar amount donated, and the number of times donated.


The survey findings showed that brand identification correlated with choice to donate, increased donation dollar amount, and the number of donations. Findings also suggested that interpretation of brand, prestige, satisfaction with student affairs, and participation were positively associated with identification.

Research limitations/implications

The results of this study are specific to one institution. This research offers support for the importance and value of brand management in higher education. The study also highlights those determinants of brand identification which suggests the use of integrative fundraising techniques.


The study highlighted that university brand identification increases the explanatory power for alumni donor behaviors over those variables typically explored in traditional donor models.



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and insight on an earlier version of this paper.


L. Stephenson, A. and B. Yerger, D. (2014), "Optimizing engagement: brand identification and alumni donation behaviors", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 28 No. 6, pp. 765-778.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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