By Drew Fox Jordan • January 17, 2022

    How You Can Prove Alumni Engagement

    prove alumni engagement

    If I were to ask any college or university fundraiser whether they value the idea of “alumni engagement,” I’d bet the farm that they would respond with an unequivocal “yes” – without much regard for what the term actually means. Let alone, how they even go about measuring it.

    And yet, the concept of engagement remains of significant interest, especially in today’s climate where donor fatigue has brought to the forefront the need to expand pipelines and find new ways to nurture the next wave of potential donors.

    For higher education as an industry, one typically slow to change, this new mindset can appear daunting. After all, there’s a certain level of trust needed to weigh engagement more heavily within an organizational fundraising strategy given the metrics don’t always directly equate to financial donations. 

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    A focus on engagement more aligns with the idea of driving demand than simply driving leads. With the former, fundraisers need to have faith that a more holistic approach toward driving affinity will ultimately lend itself to yielding stronger overall results. And university leadership, in turn, needs to buy in on this more ubiquitous approach.

    To successfully begin to track and demonstrate the value of engagement as a key performance indicator for your fundraising efforts, start with these initial steps:

    Start by defining your rules of engagement

    Engagement may look different for everyone. Maybe it’s giving or attending events. Perhaps it includes volunteering and communication. Before you can determine the success of engagement as a metric, you have to lay the foundation to determine what it is exactly that you will be tracking. 

    CASE suggests a “more traditional metric of philanthropic engagement, which includes diverse opportunities for alumni to make philanthropic investments that are meaningful to the donor and support the institution's strategic direction,” and outlines the following areas:

    • Volunteer Engagement – formalizing volunteer roles and measuring activities including membership on a governing or advisory board, career mentoring or advising, public advocacy, guest speaking to classes, and project review
    • Experiential Engagement – measuring activities that promote the mission of the institution, such as participation in alumni activities, attendance at cultural and sporting events, and other enrollment and advocacy
    • Communication Engagement – incorporating likes, follows, retweets, along with measuring activities such as writing letters to the alumni magazine and adding class notes

    Measure Differently

    In many ways, alumni engagement is a deeper and more meaningful metric. Rather than simply focus on the alumni who give monetarily, engagement also looks to quantify the other ways alumni bolster their community and make an impact on the true bottom line: the institution’s mission.

    As a result, it’s imperative that institutions tackle measuring this differently, too. This could result in transforming your data to better capture the comprehensive and diverse nature of your interactions to gain a clearer understanding of their value as it pertains to donor stewardship. 

    Rather than simply focus on the alumni who give monetarily, engagement also looks to quantify the other ways alumni bolster their community and make an impact on the true bottom line: the institution’s mission.

    Leveraging technology to improve upon your data collection can be vital to ensure a prompt pivot to improve your bottom line. Focus on ways you can empower your fundraising through productivity and more meaningful actions that collectively can grow your organization’s prestige, impact, and ultimately, revenue.

    After proving your alumni engagement, what is next? Organizations like UMass Lowell are using their annual fund to reinforce the major giving pipeline by taking alumni engagement and looking for ways to improve donor journeys. We were recently joined by Dereg Berger, Associate Vice Chancellor for Development, for a webinar on their strategy to use alumni engagement to drive giving through the entire fundraising office. You can download the webinar on-demand for free here:

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