From September through November, many of us who attended and graduated from college know what time it is.
It's homecoming season.
Many are able to make the pilgrimage to their alma mater, the place where they honed their professional skills and craft. It is also a place full of memories ranging from the fond to the frustrating, depending on one's experience. Classes, clubs, clubbing, missing class (that really does happen on a college campus), road-trips, your first time away from home for an extended period of time, your first (we'll leave it to your imagination), and some of the best and life-long friends made are part of what shapes the experience of many.
However, during this season, some lose sight of the subtle or not so subtle calling (or calling out) by the place you know and love or the place you're so glad that you went to. Instead of focusing on having "The World's Greatest Homecoming" or the numerous chants, parties, and other trips down memory lane, perhaps you should consider taking a page out of School Daze and "wake up" to the reality that your alma mater needs you.
Money? Yes, we all understand money helps fuel the engine that in turn supports students, faculty, staff, and administration. It also provides the fuel for the infrastructure, technology, and other resources needed in order to provide the best possible access to resources and opportunities for those coming behind us. However, you cannot do so on a giving rate ranging from 1-5% from a sadly considerable number of colleges and institutions for higher learning (as is the case with a number of HBCU's, known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities). The recent issues exposed at Grambling State University is a combination of factors ranging from cuts in state funding to mismanagement of funds, but having a paltry number of alumni giving does not help either.
On the other end of the spectrum, please do not believe that every PWI is "rolling in the dough" (an archaic term meaning they are bringing in hoards of money either). In fact, the only "top-50" institution of higher learning where more than 50% of their alumni give back is a school located in my home state of New Jersey, Princeton University. And while there are gaps in some of the demographic percentages and giving rates (one top-25 institution has an overall giving percentage of about 30%, yet one of its larger minority demographics only gives at 11%), there's something that PWI's understand that others don't: the higher the percentage of your alumni who do give back, the easier it is to leverage the larger funding sources (i.e. corporations and higher-end donors) needed in order to make the system work.
Again, money is part of it, but there's other ways alumni can be a resource. Be willing to take a phone call or email from an aspiring student who may be majoring in the same field you are in, or may be the first in their family to go to college and needs an added tier of support and encouragement. If one isn't setup already, create a professional group to help serve as another sounding board. For those who are members of the Greek Letter system, take time to "see about" your brethren as they can always use some guidance and support. And try to visit your alma mater when you can at times other than just homecoming. Take a look at what is taking place on your campus, gauge where you are, and be as consistent a presence as you can be.
Financial contributions are important, but more important is your willingness and readiness to be a presence on and for your institution. Regardless of your experience, just as there are others who came before you who didn't know you from a can of paint, yet made the sacrifices possible so you'd have that opportunity to travel abroad, have some measure of financial assistance, or learn why the caged bird sings (everyone from my alma mater should know since she's a professor there and just did a poetry reading at our homecoming this past Friday, October 19th), understand there are others who are going to come behind you who are seeking out the same kinds of things. The only way you "got yours" is because someone thought enough of you, even if they didn't know you, to help set the table; it's your responsibility to do so as best as possible, ranging from the simple to sophisticated.
And who I am to say this? Not only am I an alumnus, but the (supporter of admissions, student-athletes, alumni council/on one of the giving campaigns) national black alumni president.