Event Recap: Accelerating Philanthropy Through Cause-Based Identity 
Event Recap: Accelerating Philanthropy Through Cause-Based Identity 
December 7, 2021



Marsha Druker, Field Marketing Manager at Bevy, was joined by Jay Le Roux Dillon, Executive Director of Alumni Relations UC Berkeley. He is also the Founder & Principal of Alumni Identity Fundraising Consultants. 


Jay spoke to an intimate group of about 30 people about the psychology behind role identity, and how it plays into alumni relations. 


What is role identity? 

Jay spoke about a person’s identity being made up of the roles they occupy. These roles include things like gender, race, and sexual orientation. When it comes to donor relations and how role identity plays into it, a donor’s identity is a measure of how much of who you are is related to any given cause. 


Even if someone identifies with a certain cause or group, it doesn’t mean that they are satisfied or feel very attached to or defined by said cause. If they did, then all alumni would be active donors, for example. 


How to measure alumni role identity 

There is one key factor that Jay and his colleagues use to assign an Alumni Identity Score. This score quantifies the alumni to alma mater relationship with a single metric. They measure alumni engagement and use it as a way to predict future giving. 


To get this data, he has engaged alumni fill out a short questionnaire based on three categories. Below is an example

  1. Identity salience: Agree or disagree: Being an alumna/us is something I often think about. 
  2. Social perceptions: People who know me think that my alma mater is important to me. 
  3. Role expectations: As an alumna/us, I am expected to help current students. 


In today’s landscape, the two main influences on alumni identity are the number of volunteer opportunities completed, and level of digital engagement with events and social media. 


How to measure success of alumni relations programs 

Measuring the success of alumni relations programs proves to be difficult, since most of the measurable aspects are simply things that are counted (like number of attendees). According to Jay, when you count something, all you’re doing is confirming that it exists. 


As someone involved in alumni relation programs, one of the most challenging tasks is translating all of these easily countable things into metrics that impact business intelligence. Sure, you can still look at these totals for the sake of directionality, but your KPIs need to be meaningful, measurable (e.g. donor retention), and responsive to institutional change. 


How community events shape donor identity 

Community is integral to building up a donor identity amongst alumni. Why? Well, it’s about you and your peers who share the same identity getting together and socializing around a common thread. 


Being an active member of an alumni or donor community reinforces expectations around the alumni experience, and alumni community managers can work with supporters to model their behaviour for others. 


Jay believes that “to make something personal, it doesn’t have to be in person.” Communities are being built in virtual and hybrid environments every single day, and there’s no reason why donor and alumni communities should be any different. 


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Khadijah Plummer
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Khadijah Plummer

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