Higher education doesn’t exist in a vacuum of time by exclusively educating students for a period of two to eight years. Its survival as an institution relies on the successes of its students and the return that these students bring for the university, particularly in financial giving. James M. Langley, former vice president for advancement at Georgetown University, notes that appreciation, affiliation, and agency determine the likelihood of donor giving.77 These characteristics reign supreme among veteran alumni who express unsurpassed commitment to their respective institutions as a direct result of military training and a commitment to service.78 The military is highly adept in socializing service members to various roles that must be fulfilled in order to meet the demands of the organization. The military lays the groundwork for organizational commitment by encouraging responsibility, unity, cohesiveness, and greater capacity to transition between these different roles and expectations. This contributes to less burnout, greater job satisfaction, and higher work productivity.79 Research suggests that in environments where organizational commitment is high, the norms, customs, and ethical standards of the corporation are more likely to be adopted and internalized.80 Veterans in particular are primed for organizational commitment, institutional loyalty, and individual responsibility and are able to carry these traits into all post-service settings. More importantly, their posteducation commitment is exemplified through their gratitude, loyalty, and desire to foster goodwill through their philanthropic activities.
Simply put, veterans become the most loyal and dedicated alumni. Military culture engenders integrity, loyalty, and responsibility – characteristics that are sustained across a variety of contexts, which has important implications for higher education institutions. As beneficiaries of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the financial situation following graduation is substantially improved in comparison to nonveteran graduates and are therefore more able to contribute and generate larger financial returns for their colleges, universities, and communities. For this reason, veteran alumni are an asset to any institution of higher learning. Moreover, they make exceptional recruiters that can serve as indispensable resources to prospective student veterans. In fact, veterans indicate that personal contact with family members or friends (37%) and veteran networks (35%),81 are some of the most valuable sources of information when transitioning and returning to higher education.82 As more student veterans connect with veteran alumni, colleges and universities will profit from these enhanced networks that contribute to social support and ultimately, academic success.
Military experience promotes loyalty and commitment to one’s education and affiliated institution. Veterans consistently demonstrate this through their engagement with student veteran and ROTC programs across campus83 and view their vocational and philanthropic activities as agents for social good for the community at large. Veterans are more likely to have the highest levels of educational, religious, secular, and total giving relative to nonveterans84 and often become local, state, and national leaders among military, government, medical, private sector, and non-profit organizations.85 According to a 2014 survey by GotYour6, military civilian respondents were five times more likely to say that Post-9/11 veterans are valuable assets to their communities and five times more likely to say that Post-9/11 veterans are stronger leaders than non-military civilian respondents.86 Following graduation, veterans and military service members (54%) are also more likely to thrive in purpose, social, financial, and economic well-being than civilian members (43%) according to a Gallup-Purdue University study conducted in 2014.87 Their academic, personal, and professional successes substantially increase the likelihood for community participation and institutional contribution. In short, veterans value their education and strive to give back in meaningful ways. Research consistently highlights the fact that civic engagement is greatest among those who feel valued and have a strong sense of solidarity and belongingness to their communities, irrespective of personal characteristics,88 and their achievements are assets to any college or university.
Regardless of their profession, veteran alumni add value to higher education communities through their commitment, public service, and civic engagement and markedly improve the world through their exceptional gifts and talents. Veterans strive to give back through their civic duty, loyalty, and leadership which can generate significant returns for the institutions and organizations to which they belong. In the search for community impact, legacy, and philanthropic giving, higher education institutions should look no further than veterans as excellent additions to their alumni communities