Engage emerging entrepreneurs sooner rather than later

Expert Insight

Engage emerging entrepreneurs sooner rather than later

Entrepreneurs can be near-impossible to engage. They are often too busy to attend networking or sporting events. Their early-stage ventures may not have the capacity to hire recent graduates. They may not be located close enough to campus for in-person mentorship opportunities.

Yet early stage alumni entrepreneurs have immense giving potential. Overnight, they can become major gift prospects when they sell an app, go public, or receive venture capital funding. However, these millennial entrepreneurs, the “millennipreneurs,” may likely only support organizations with whom they had close bonds before attaining this wealth.

Meet the millennipreneur

Millennials have taken the entrepreneurial field by storm. 44% of today’s elite entrepreneurs are age 35 and under—and these individuals have already launched an average of 6.8 enterprises.

However, millennipreneurs are not interested in business as usual. Three-quarters of these individuals describe themselves as disruptors of the status quo—they look to take risks in their professional ventures and personal lives. They also earmark investments for philanthropy at greater rates than previous generations.


This increased dedication to giving brings more competition for their philanthropy. Nonprofits of all sizes seek investments from entrepreneurs, but millennipreneurs are most likely to support organizations that have recognized their ambitions from the start.

Providing public recognition

One of the hardest parts of starting a business is getting its name in public—and every little bit of free advertising helps. To recognize emerging talent, Texas A&M University uses the Aggie 100 List to identify and celebrate the 100 fastest growing Aggie-owned or Aggie-led businesses in the world. In addition to the company information, the list includes the related alums name, graduation year, current title, and location.

Aggies 100

Every year, businesses are nominated for inclusion on the list based on annual growth over a two-year period. To be included, companies must have been in business for at least five years and must operate in a manner consistent with the Aggie Code of Honor.

In 2017, over 250 businesses applied, representing every school on campus. The winners are announced at an annual gala, and honorees are invited to an exclusive tailgate, where they can network with past winners.

Pledges are the new planned giving

In addition to providing public recognition, colleges and universities are uniquely-positioned to support the work of entrepreneurial alumni and faculty.Emerging entrepreneurs take risks every day—and they look for organizations that will take a risk on them. In order to support emerging talent, the University of California, Berkeley created a Founders’ Pledge to support entrepreneurs today and benefit from their success tomorrow.

To participate in the program, over 260 alumni and faculty entrepreneurs have signed a non-binding pledge to donate a portion of their equity in a firm when a liquidity event takes place. After pledging their future support, participants gain access to exclusive opportunities, from recruitment and networking to start-up support.

Founders pledge

Advancement staff gain a unique perspective on what interests these future major gift prospects and build connections that will prove crucial when prospects gain liquid wealth—and show up on the radar of other nonprofits. Getting in the door early ensures that advancement staff is prepared for the future when founders can make major and principal gifts.

Making it work on your campus

Emerging entrepreneurs are everywhere—regardless of your current alumni programming and interests, identifying entrepreneurs and supporting their growth can turn prospects into lifetime donors.

Interested in more resources on building a pipeline of donors? Watch the on-demand webconference.


  • 2017 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report, BNP Paribas Wealth Management, 2016.
  • Mendoza D, “Universities Need to Engage Alumni Entrepreneurs NOW,” Aug. 13, 2017, https://www.deedeemendoza.com/blog/2017/8/13/universities-need-engage-now

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