Research in Higher Education

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 346–365 | Cite as

Beyond Giving: Political Advocacy and Volunteer Behaviors of Public University Alumni

  • David J. Weerts
  • Alberto F. Cabrera
  • Thomas Sanford


College and university leaders have paid an enormous level of attention to one domain of alumni involvement: charitable giving. In light of the decline of state support for higher education and the shrinking ability of families to pay for college, such emphasis is understandable. However, this emphasis has blinded scholars and practitioners to understanding the important non-monetary support roles played by college alumni. Drawing on data from a research extensive university, this study employs a sequential mixed method design (focus groups and confirmatory factor analysis) to demonstrate that non-monetary support behaviors are best understood through the distinct, but interrelated domains of political advocacy and volunteerism. Political advocacy behaviors include contacting legislators, the governor’s office, local politicians and serving on a political action team, while volunteer behaviors include mentoring new alumni, recruiting students, and participating in special events. The study breaks ground for future research on alumni support for higher education, including strategies to recruit alumni volunteers and advocates.


Alumni Volunteerism Advocacy Philanthropy Lobbying Confirmatory factor analysis 



The authors would like to thank the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for their support of this project.


  1. Allen, D., & Nora, A. (1995). An empirical examination of the construct validity of goal commitment in the persistence process. Research in Higher Education, 36(5), 509–533.Google Scholar
  2. Alumni Relations Task Force. (2004). University of Virginia. Available online:
  3. Astin, A. W., Sax, L. J., & Avalos, J. (1999). Long-term effects of volunteerism during the undergraduate years. The Review of Higher Education, 22(2), 187–202.Google Scholar
  4. Bell-Ellison, B. A., & Dedrick, R. F. (2008). What do doctoral students value in their ideal mentor? Research in Higher Education, 49(6), 555–567.Google Scholar
  5. Bentler, P. M. (2005). EQS 6 structural equations program manual. Encini, CA.: Multivariate Software.
  6. Brady, H. E., Verba, S., & Schlozman, K. L. (1995). Beyond SES: A resource model of political participation. The American Political Science Review., 89(2), 271–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brittingham, B. E., & Pezzullo, T. R. (1990). The campus green: Fund raising in higher education (Vol. 19, No. 1). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, E., & Ferris, J. M. (2007). Social capital and philanthropy: An analysis of the impact of social capital on individual giving and volunteering. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 36(1), 85–99.Google Scholar
  9. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2004). Volunteering in the United States, 2004. Press release December 16, 2004. Retrieved from
  10. Burke, K. E. (1988). Institutional image and alumni giving. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park, MD.Google Scholar
  11. Byrne, B. M. (2006). Structural equation modeling with EQS: Basic concepts, applications, and programming. Mahwah, NJ: Laurence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  12. Caboni, T. C., & Proper, E. (2008). Dissertations related to fundraising and their implications for higher education research. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, November 10, 2007.Google Scholar
  13. Cabrera, A. F., Weerts, D. J., & Zulick, B. J. (2005). Making an impact with alumni surveys. In D. J. Weerts & J. Vidal (Eds.), Enhancing alumni research: European and American perspectives (pp. 5–17). New Directions for Institutional Research. No. 126. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  14. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (2002). The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, 2000 edition. Menlo Park: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.Google Scholar
  15. Chadwick-Jones, J. K. (1976). Social exchange theory: Its structure and influence in social psychology. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  16. Clary, E. G., & Snyder, J. (1999). The motivations to volunteer: Theoretical and practical considerations. Current Directions in Psychological Science., 8(5), 156–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Council for Aid to Education. (2008) Contributions to colleges and universities up by 6.3 percent to $29.75 billion. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from
  18. DeMartini, J. (1983). Social movements participation. Youth and Society, 15, 195–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Downs, A. (1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  20. Dunham, C., & Bengston, V. (1992). The long-term effects of political activism on intergenerational relations. Youth & Society, 24, 31–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eisner, E. (1981). On the differences between scientific and artistic approaches to qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 10(4), 5–9.Google Scholar
  22. Fendrich, J. (1993). Ideal Citizens. Albany, NY: SUNY.Google Scholar
  23. Firestone, W. (1987). Meaning in method: The rhetoric of quantitative and qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 16(7), 16–21.Google Scholar
  24. Fogg, P. (2008). How colleges use alumni to recruit students. Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(34), B13.Google Scholar
  25. Glanville, J. (1999). Political socialization of selection? Adolescent extra-curricular participation and political activity in early adulthood. Social Science Quarterly, 80(2), 279–290.Google Scholar
  26. Glesne, C., & Peshkin, A. (1992). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. White Plains, NY: Longman.Google Scholar
  27. Greene, J. C., Caracelli, V. J., & Graham, W. F. (1989). Toward a conceptual framework for mixed-method evaluation designs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 11, 255–274.Google Scholar
  28. Grube, J., & Piliavin, J. A. (2000). Role identity, organizational experience, and volunteer experiences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1108–1120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hancock, G. R., & Mulller, R. O. (2001). Rethinking construct reliability within the latent variable systems. In R. Cudeck, S. du Toit, & D. Sörbom (Eds.), Structural equation modeling: Present and future—A Festschrift in honor of Karl Jöreskog (pp. 195–216). Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  30. Hanks, M., & Eckland, B. K. (1978). Adult voluntary associations and adolescent socialization. Sociological Quarterly, 19, 481–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hom, P. W., & Griffeth, R. W. (1991). Structural equations modeling test of a turnover theory: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Journal of Applied Psychology, 26(3), 350–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Howe, K. (1988). Against the quantitative–qualitative incompatibility thesis, old dogmas die hard. Educational Researcher, 17(8), 10–16.Google Scholar
  33. Joreskog, K. G., & Sorbom, D. (2006). LISREL 8.8: Interactive LISREL: Technical support. Mooresville, IN: Scientific Software.Google Scholar
  34. Kelly, D. C. (2006). Parents’ Influence on youths’ civic behaviors: The civic context of the caregiving environment. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 87(3), 447–455.Google Scholar
  35. Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  36. Koral, M. J. (1998). Political performance: If you want campus support from legislators, alumni volunteers are instrumental to your success. CASE Currents, 24, 46–52.Google Scholar
  37. Ladewig, H., & Thomas, J. K. (1987). Assessing the impact on former 4-H members. College Station: Texas A&M University.Google Scholar
  38. Langhout, R. D., Rosselli, F., & Feinstein, J. (2007). Assessing classism in academic settings. Review of Higher Education, 30(2), 145–184.Google Scholar
  39. Leslie, L., & Ramey, G. (1988). Donor behavior and voluntary support for higher education institutions. Journal of Higher Education, 59(2), 115–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McAdam, D. (1988). Freedom Summer. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Milbrath, L. W., & Goel, M. L. (1977). Political participation: How and why do people get involved in politics? (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  43. Miller, J. M. (2008). Why do people participate in politics? A tale of four identities. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 3–6, 2008.Google Scholar
  44. Mowen, J. C., & Sujan, H. (2005). Volunteer behavior: A hierarchial model approach for investigating its trait and functional motive antecedents. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 15(2), 170–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nora, A., & Cabrera, A. F. (1993). The construct validity of institutional commitment: A confirmatory factor analysis. Research in Higher Education, 34(2), 243–262.Google Scholar
  46. Olsen, M. E. (1982). Political participation and influence in the United States and Sweden. Chicago: Nelson Hall.Google Scholar
  47. Otto, L. B. (1976). Social integration and the status attainment process. American Journal of Sociology, 81, 1360–1383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  49. Penner, L. A. (2002). Dispositional and organizational influences on sustained volunteerism: An interactionist perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 58(3), 447–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Potter, W. (2003). Citizen Lobbyists: In tight budget times, colleges recruit and train alumni, parents, and even students as advocates. Chronicle of Higher Education, 49(33), A24.Google Scholar
  51. Reinders, H., & Youniss, J. (2006). School-based required community service and civic development in adolescents. Applied Developmental Science, 10(1), 2–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rosenstone, S. J., & Hansen, J. M. (1993). Mobilization, participation, and democracy in America. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  53. Rotolo, T., & Wilson, J. (2006). Substitute or complement? Spousal influence on volunteering. Journal of Marriage & Family, 68(2), 305–319.Google Scholar
  54. Ruban, L. M., & McCoach, D. B. (2005). Gender differences in explaining grades using structural equation modeling. The Review of Higher Education, 28, 475–502.Google Scholar
  55. Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16, 172–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sallach, D. L., Babchuk, N., & Booth, A. (1972). Social involvement and political activity: Another view. Social Science Quarterly, 52, 879–892.Google Scholar
  57. Serow, R., & Dreyden, J. (1990). Community service among college and university students: Individual and institutional relationships. Adolescence, 25, 553–556.Google Scholar
  58. Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. (1998). Mixed methodology: Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  59. Taylor, A. L., & Martin, J. C. (1995). Characteristics of alumni donors and non-donors at a research I, public university. Research in Higher Education, 36(3), 283–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Verba, S., & Nie, N. H. (1972). Participation in America: Political democracy and social equality. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  61. Verba, S., Schlozman, S. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Vogelgesang, L. J. (2004, April). The impact of college on the development of civic values: How do race and gender matter? Paper presented at the Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, WA.Google Scholar
  63. Vogt, C. M., Hocevar, D., & Hagedorn, L. (2007). A social cognitive construct validation: Determining women’s and men’s success in engineering programs. The Journal of Higher Education, 78(3), 337–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  65. Weerts, D. J. (1998). Back on track: Seven strategies to get your alumni board moving again. CASE Currents, 24, 35–37Google Scholar
  66. Weerts, D. J., & Ronca, J. M. (2008). Characteristics of alumni donors who volunteer at their alma mater. Research in Higher Education, 49(3), 274–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wentzel, K., & McNamara, C. (1999). Interpersonal relationships, emotional disturbance and prosocial behavior in middle school. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 19, 114–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wilson, J., & Musick, J. (1997). Who cares? Toward an integrated theory of volunteer work. American Sociological Review, 62(5), 694–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Youniss, J., McLellan, J. A., Su, Y., & Yates, M. (1999). The role of community service in identity development: Normative, unconventional, and deviant orientations. Journal of Adolescent Research, 14(2), 248–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zaff, J. F., Moore, K. A., Papillo, A. R., & Williams, S. (2003). Implications of extracurricular activity participation during adolescence on positive outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Research, 18, 599–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Weerts
    • 1
  • Alberto F. Cabrera
    • 2
  • Thomas Sanford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and DevelopmentUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Education Leadership, Higher Education, and International EducationUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations