Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Norman St. Clair


James Simpson


Lisa McNary


Traditionally, the mission and values of institutions of higher education tend to be positioned around nurturing students to realize their full potential. This includes growing students holistically as whole people, through their academic, social, and emotional interactions while enrolled. Through this focus, institutions hope to connect with students and build an emotional connection or affiliation that will last beyond the student years and into the alumni years. Alumni play a pivotal role in institutional advancement in that they serve as sources of support through their active participation, networking representation, serving as community liaisons, and their charitable contributions. The 2 most essential aspects representative of alumni commitment are their participation and donation. The 4 main characteristics that influence alumni participation and donorship include capacity, student experience, alumni experience, and the motivation to donate. Alumni relations departments are challenged with effectively identifying how to encourage alumni not only to participate in alumni-sponsored events, but additionally to donate as well. A qualitative research approach with constructivist grounded theory research design was utilized to gain insight into the processes associated with alumni organizations identifying effective strategies that encourage increased alumni affiliation. The aim of this study was to explore and obtain an understanding of the change that occurs when alumni transition from participants to donors. The significance of this study is that it allows institutions a more substantial view of the intrinsic aspects associated with alumni participation and donation. This study offers various factors for consideration that would assist alumni relations departments in better connecting with students and alumni in a more meaningful manner. The study’s results led to the generation of the Theory of Alumni Transitional Donation, which revealed the internal and external transitional processes that occur as alumni transition from participants to donors. The internal transitional process includes the institutional community setting with which alumni surround themselves, the shift in understanding they experience because of their interactions within their community settings, the lenses that alumni use to view these interactions, the transitional growth aspect through which they go, and lastly the perceived benefit they attach to these social interactions and experiences. The external transitional process includes institutional opportunities for volunteerism, participation, and donation. Recommendations for future research were also provided. Results from this study encourage that alumni continue, as a lifelong process, to foster the relationship and maintain the connections with their alma maters as something mutually beneficial.