Just as students are starting their higher ed journeys, many students are also finishing and graduating (this is happening every semester/term/quarter, not just in the Fall and Spring respectively). And often, we focus far more on orientation, First Year Experiences, admissions, and the early stages than those students who are preparing to move on to their life post college.
As students graduate and settle into their new role as an alum (which will be a far longer relationship), we often struggle to find methods to engage them in meaningful ways. Their first impressions of what it means to have a bond with their alma mater can be hard to undo, since they'll eventually have many more priorities and focuses for their time.
There is a strategy that I synthesized in my head to solve both of these problems; put on mentoring programs between students approaching graduation and alum of the last five years. It allows young alums to have a positive way to give back that doesn't require money, and also helps soon-to-be graduates feel better prepared for the life that awaits them by learning from peers nearer to their own experience versus older professionals. This tends to be a lot more helpful and in general, it's nice to have someone looking out for us to guide us along our educational journey.
While this isn't a radically new idea, it can have a huge positive impact if done in the right way. Forcing mentoring pairs can be hit or miss in my experience. Relationships need to form organically. As such, we need to put on regular networking events for these groups to come together. Invite alumni speakers to come back to campus. Have alumni panels focused on different industries. Have alumni be ambassadors involved in prospective student recruitment and engaging other alum.
We obviously want our students to feel prepared for success after college, but for the higher ed professional, this can also serve a very important purpose; nurturing the desire for financial support from alumni. It is going to be a hard sell to cold call an alum and essentially beg for money. However, if you have built up some good will with meaningful involvements for these people, they'll be far more likely to give back. This applies to the current alumni, but also these soon to be alumni who are feeling supported with these positive alumni mentors in their life.
Use this as fodder to figure out the best ways to implement this sort of effort at your institution. It's objectively important, so you need to tap into this resource to prepare yourself for the future of higher ed where we will need to be increasingly self sufficient and capitalize on the human capital at our disposal.