Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education


American higher education has never been more expensive. Its continued excellence and accessibility depends even more today on charitable subsidy. As previous beneficiaries of that charitable subsidy, alumni are the most logical benefactor of its sustenance. The relatively few alumni who can give most generously make the difference in the success of any fund raising effort. Understanding the motivation of alumni major gift prospects to give such gifts is therefore critical to securing them.

This study seeks to understand 1) the strategies and processes institutions employ in engaging alumni major donors, 2) the motivations of these donors to give or not give, and 3) the perception of these donors regarding whether relational activities by the institution can motivate their major-gift support. It does so in the context of evangelical higher education, which has an alumni base that is arguably motivated to give back to God through one's church if not through one's alma mater. The case-study design of three Council of Christian College and University (CCCU) institutions generates descriptive data through interviews with both administrators and alumni and institutional communication materials and websites. Data analysis involves looking at these data by themselves and juxtaposed with Kelly's (1998) two-way symmetrical model of fund raising and Jeavons and Basinger's (2000) study entitled, Growing Givers' Hearts. Kelly's (1998) model suggests the most ethical form of fund raising is found where a donor's opportunity to shape institutional mission is symmetrical, or equal to, an institution's opportunity to persuade the donor to give. Jeavons and Basinger (2000) contend that organizations which purport an evangelical mission give evidence to their faith in the God who has enabled that mission by the ways they seek its funding. Not only must organizations do no harm in securing funds, Jeavons and Basinger (2000) argue that fund raising ought to grow givers' hearts closer to God in donors' process of giving.

The institutions in this study pursue strategies and processes noted in the existing literature on fund raising. They also exhibit some evidence of utilizing Kelly's (1998) two-way symmetrical model of fund raising and pursuing gifts with the tone Jeavons and Basinger (2000) believe to reflect a mature faith. The motivations of alumni major donors to give reflect those in the existing literature. These donors also perceive their alma mater has the capacity to influence their motivation to give larger gifts by the relationships they keep with them.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.