Seizing the Opportunity: Incorporating Fundraising into Graduation

graduates hugging

graduates hugging

Graduation activities and traditions provide meaningful engagement opportunities that instill pride, a sense of belonging and a culture of giving in your school’s newest alumni.

Although graduation may be the end of your graduates’ student experience, it’s also the beginning of their lifelong relationship with your school as alumni and prospective donors.

Soliciting gifts from students before they graduate provides college fundraisers with a larger donor pool to cultivate and helps to establish giving habits early, before students leave campus. Research shows that graduating seniors who make gifts at the time of their graduation are more likely to donate as alumni and give more over time.

Shifts In Student Giving

Student giving rates have grown over the years, according to a Washington Post article. “In part, these solicitations continue the long tradition of senior-class gifts. But the phenomenon appears to be growing, college officials say, and students are giving at what are described as record rates,” the author states.

What students give to has also shifted from donating to campus landmarks to primarily giving cash. “The concept of a class donating an item such as a park bench or a tree is nearly a thing of the past. Schools are asking for cash instead. But most schools set participation goals instead of dollar targets.”

Student giving programs usually ask graduating seniors to give a small amount, typically reflecting the year that they graduate, such as $23 or $20.23.

Make It Easy For Seniors to Give

Many schools, such as Western Governors University (WGU), make student giving part of their graduation and recognize student donors at their commencement ceremony. WGU seamlessly incorporates their philanthropy cords giving program into their commencement website, along with other graduation information and services such as ceremony details, graduate registration, announcements and cap and gown ordering—making it easy for seniors to make a gift while they take care of other graduation tasks.

The program website makes it clear how donations will be used and provides a thorough FAQ section to answer common questions students may have. Gifts made through the WGU Philanthropy Cord program go to fund the school’s Fellow Night Owl Scholarship that “helps current WGU students facing financial hardship” complete their degrees and graduate.

The University also makes it easy for graduating seniors to give by allowing them to make their gift via text or through their website form using their phone or laptop.

To further boost graduate giving, WGU’s Advancement team provides giving information at a booth at commencement and hosts an alumni-focused event on commencement weekend, allowing staff to interact with grads face-to-face.

MarchingOrder’s innovative solutions can also help further streamline your senior giving programs, by including links to your existing donation webpages on our fully customizable graduate registration pages and in your email communications.

Recognizing Student Donors At Commencement

WGU graduating seniors who donate at least $25 receive a blue and gold philanthropy cord that they wear with their cap and gown on graduation day, which symbolizes their commitment to the University.

In addition to recognizing senior donors at commencement with philanthropy cords, you can also recognize them as they cross the stage to receive their diploma.

Using the MarchingOrder Director software along with either the touchless, electronically distributed GradPasses, traditional graduate cards or a reader list, you can display customized information, including their designation as a donor, for each graduate as they cross the stage.

These on-screen graphics are 100% customizable for both style and content and allow you to include information such as:

  • Graduate’s name, hometown and major information
  • Honors and awards
  • University-approved personal quote
  • University-approved photograph
  • Donor designations

The example below shows how our display solutions can be used to recognize your senior donors.

Let us help you recognize your graduating senior donors at your next ceremony by using our ceremony display solutions. Click here to register to see a demo or contact us at or (888) 988-0346 to get started now.


Related article: Enhance your recognition ceremony with name display