From that English lit class you still miss to the internship your career counselor helped you snag to your sorority sisters-turned-BFFs, you had some pretty amazing college experiences. And now that you’ve graduated, you’d love to give back to the place that made them all possible.
Problem is, on your post-college budget, you’re barely able to pay your student loan payment every month, let alone part with a $50 donation.
But you don’t have to let your lack of funds stop you from sporting some school spirit. In fact, you shouldn’t—supporting your alma mater can have some big benefits for your own life, too. Whether you got your diploma last week or last decade, check out these seven great ways you can give back—without writing a check.
Most universities have alumni clubs in cities all over the nation, and they always need new members and new ideas to keep them thriving. So exercise your leadership skills by joining a committee or becoming a chapter officer. This is a great way to stay connected and give back, while strengthening your resume and networking at the same time.
And even if you can’t take on a leadership role, don’t underestimate the power of participation: Attending regional alumni events or returning to campus for Homecoming is an easy way to show your support and affinity for your college—and it's a great networking opportunity, too.
2. Lend a Helping Hand
Universities always need volunteers to work at events, make phone calls, or serve the community with students or other alumni. If you live in the area, call your alumni association and let them know that you’re available to be on an event committee, lead a service project, or even seal and label envelopes. Giving your time can be just as valuable as donating money—and you never know when your future boss might be serving beside you!
3. Hire Other Alumni for Internships or Jobs
Let’s face it: Colleges are happy when their students and grads have jobs. So, talk with your company’s HR department or hiring managers and encourage them to recruit from your alma mater. After all, if they’re glad they hired you, they’ll likely be excited about seeking out candidates that share your educational experiences. (And attracting good talent to your team will also reflect well on you.)
You can also make yourself available for informational interviews to support students trying to break into your industry or company. Even if you’re just a few years out of college, to a current student, your professional insight is more powerful than you know.
4. Share Your Expertise
College career centers, faculty members, and student clubs often love to highlight the expertise of their alumni as an inspiration to current and prospective students. When you’re in town, or if you live close by, offer to sit on a panel during Career Week, give a presentation about industry trends to the student business club, or volunteer to speak to a class. No matter where you are in life, there are definitely students who can benefit from your experience and advice.
5. Refer Prospective Students
Do you know a high school student who is making decisions about college this year? Be an unofficial recruiter for your school by taking time out to talk to her about your college experience. If you live locally, offer to meet with her for coffee or give her a campus tour, and consider introducing her to some faculty and staff. Sharing your insight and answering her questions will help her make an informed choice for her future, while simultaneously opening doors for you to serve as a mentor.
People at your alma mater want to know what you’re up to in life, because they want to see how college has influenced who you are. So, keep your contact information and communication preferences updated with your alumni association so they can help spread the word about your success. Be sure to tell them if you’ve scored a huge promotion, are featured in a podcast, or are involved with a cause others might want to support.
7. Give What You Can
OK, this one will cost you something—but hear me out. You can do more good than you might realize by giving up one or two Venti Skinny Vanilla Lattes a year and sending a check to your school. Why? Because, the number of alumni who give—not the total dollar amount given—is a variable in awarding the national rankings for colleges and universities. So whether you donate $5 or $500, your gift can make a big difference in influencing your school’s reputation. Want to do more? Challenge 10 of your friends to do it with you—spur each other on in support of your school!
Next time you get a fundraising letter, don’t let it put you in a funk. Instead, find one small way to show you support for your school this year. Paying it forward will connect you back to a powerful network, increase the value of your degree, and enhance the future of the next generation—and that is no small thing!