Successful Strategies for Alumni Engagement

Alumni can have a big impact on your school’s revenue via contributing to a capital campaign, volunteering their time, and generating positive word of mouth. From working with many schools, we’ve seen a variety of alumni engagement strategies. We’ll use three schools we’ve worked with, School A, B, and C (anonymized to protect their privacy), to serve as case studies for successful strategies. Each school faced different challenges and was able to tailor its engagement based on the vision of the school and the preferences of its alumni. School A wanted to have more of its parents of alumni to be promoting the school in the local community. School B and School C focused on charitable giving and each took suitable data-driven strategies to improve alumni giving.

A question that is used industry wide to gauge perceived quality is how likely someone is to recommend the service, or in this case, the school to a friend. School A found out that it had a below average score for their parents of alumni to recommend the school to a friend. This score was largely driven by the parents’ low perception of school community and connections compared to peer schools. From the data the school realized it needed to focus more of its resources on building community among parents. Since then, the school has hosted two community events for parents of alumni, and chose the event type based on the parents’ preferences stated in the survey. Without surveying its alumni, the school would not have known that the parents of alumni perception was lower than its peer schools and caused by a lack of community. Those parents are now turning into promoters for the school in the local community and encouraging other families to send their children to their Alma matter.

Another school, School B, had a strong perceived quality, including a very high score on alumni feeling prepared to take on leadership roles but a low priority of charitable giving back to the school. While this high score on leadership roles was a great nugget for marketing the school to new parents, the school’s alumni engagement strategy wasn’t working. Alumni were interested in options to mentor current students and not in attending the professional networking events which is where the school was focusing its time and resources. Also, the school thought it was reaching out to the alumni too often with appeals for fundraising, but the survey data revealed that the alumni thought the school was contacting them too infrequent for fundraising purposes. The data served as an awakening to the school and the administration is now focusing its efforts on areas that will pay dividends, instead of just relying on guess work.

School C seemed to be doing everything right, they had high scores on perceived quality; sure, some alumni felt more prepared in certain academic areas compared to others, but overall, alumni were very likely to recommend the school to a friend. The engagement strategy also seemed to be effective, alumni were satisfied with the amount of outreach from the school and its current alumni programming, yet charitable giving was still low. School C learned from the survey that the school scored low compared to its peer institutions on developing a culture of giving. The school recently implemented a new plan academically called Philanthropy 101 on better educating students, before they become alumni, on the importance of giving back to their school.

All three of these strategies were effective at engaging the school’s alumni to improve giving, drive positive word of mouth, and strengthen alumni’s relationship with the school. Instead of constantly guessing if something is going to work, each school was able to focus their time on a data-driven strategy that represented the collective voice of the alumni.