Segmenting university alumni using a person-centered methodology

David J. Weerts, Alberto F. Cabrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Higher education leaders in the United States increasingly rely on relationships with alumni to advance multiple institutional goals. Scholars have traditionally relied on variable-centered approaches to understand associations among alumni experiences, personal attributes, and support behaviors. Departing from this tradition, this study draws on a person-centered approach, latent class analysis, to segment groups of alumni by their non-monetary support behaviors. We define non-monetary support as engaging in actions outside of charitable giving that advance institutional objectives. Drawing on past literature, we conceptualize alumni non-monetary support behaviors as falling into 4 categories: (a) volunteerism: charitable preferences, (b) political advocacy: social change preferences, (c) multimode engagement: charity and social change, and (d) disengagement: nonsupport. Relying on an alumni survey from a research-intensive university in the United States, our analysis found support for a 4-class model of alumni supporters and nonsupporters. These groupings include the classes of Political Advocates, Apolitical Recruiters, Super Engaged Alumni, and Disengaged Alumni. Using cross-tabulation analysis, we explore attributes of each class by age, gender, and involvement in religious, political, and volunteer organizations in college. We find that groups of alumni exhibit the same patterns of engagement while they were students. For example, students who were engaged in political action in college are those who are likely to become Political Engagers as alumni. Students who volunteered in college and stayed clear of politics emerge as Apolitical Recruiters after college. Super Engaged Alumni are those who were engaged in multiple domains in college. Implications for advancement practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1577
JournalInternational Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2017

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