Better Data Metrics for Your Alumni Community

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It seems like everyone is always talking about getting better data. But what does that mean, exactly—and why do you need better data for your alumni community? Collecting data has been the cornerstone of marketing for decades. But until recently, it was an inefficient and often fruitless endeavor because we simply lacked the resources to analyze and organize such volumes of data.

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Thanks to the age of technology, that is all changing. And along with it, our ability to make data-driven decisions allows us to work smarter and not harder in accomplishing our goals. When it comes to managing an alumni community, we can reach out to the right people, at the right time, with the right opportunities. We can increase our alumni engagement in measurable ways to support our institutions. 

What Metrics Should I Measure?

By default, we tend to gravitate towards donations as the single most important form of alumni support. But a 2020 survey conducted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education found that many institutions were missing up to three-quarters of their support opportunities by not focusing on the right areas.

Related: Boost Alumni Engagement in the Digital Age

Philanthropy Metrics

Donor giving will always be an important aspect of your institution’s alumni support. At a minimum, you should know the total dollars received from donors across every category. For example, what percentage of your alumni contributed an annual donation, and what was the average dollar amount of that donation?

Key metrics to benchmark and track:

  • Average donation size per event.
  • Percentage of alumni participating in philanthropy opportunities.
  • Number and quality of philanthropy opportunities that your organization pushes.
  • Alumni demographics such as age, gender, wealth, politics, and location.
  • Year-after-year giving trends.

Volunteer Metrics

But in our pursuit to fundraise, we often overlook many of the other important opportunities to engage our alumni. And it’s to our detriment because if we nurtured these relationships based on how people are willing to engage, we would likely see measurable financial gains in proportion to our efforts. Historically, volunteer engagement has been the lowest across all types of academic institutions, and this could point to a key area of focus to nurture alumni relationships. 

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Volunteer opportunities can be anything from serving on a board or committee to recruiting and mentoring students. While you might add labor to your alumni engagement team, the result will be ten-fold in the labor you will save by utilizing alumni resources. And when it comes to recruiting students, who better to be your spokesperson than your alumni.

Related: Schools are Challenged Trying to Address Alumni Engagement

Key metrics to benchmark and track:

  • Email open-rate and responses to calls for volunteer opportunities.
  • Percentage of alumni participating in volunteer opportunities by type.
  • The number of opportunities and time commitment requirements available.
  • Alumni demographics for those who volunteer like age, gender, wealth, career, etc.
  • Year-after-year engagement trends.

Are you struggling to keep track of your volunteers? Wavelength provides the right tech tools to engage your alumni, like map-based search functions, job boards, and Zoom integration. Request a demo today.

Experiential Metrics

And the chances are that there are plenty of alumni showing up for your school at sporting events and dinners that you may not even realize are engaged. The key is finding your alumni and reaching them using the avenues they are interested in engaging through. That means an email push to solicit cash donations could fall flat while the same ask strategically placed at a sporting event with a high number of alumni in attendance sets a record.

Key metrics to benchmark and track:

  • Types, size, and frequency of community events like sporting events, dues-paying associations, virtual and in-person attendance events, etc.
  • Percentage of alumni participating by event type.
  • Demographics of alumni participating in experiential events by type.
  • Total attendance vs. alumni attendance per event.
  • The number of opportunities by type.

Related: The Four Categories of Alumni Engagement According to CASE

Communication Metrics

And then, there are always the alumni who lurk in the shadows. They don’t don their school pep rally attire and show up at football games, and they don’t volunteer to serve on boards or committees. And they don’t feel obligated to write an annual donation check. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to engage. Have you looked at your click-through rate on email campaigns or social media engagement to see where the lurkers are?

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If a portion of your alumni group is willing to like and share your posts on social media, they are likely to be open to being engaged in other ways. At the very least, they have a positive attitude towards your institution and could be receptive to a gentle nudge. 

Key metrics to benchmark and track:

  • The number of email campaigns, content, and click-through rates.
  • The number of social media campaigns by type and engagement.
  • Percentage of alumni participation by channel.
  • Demographics of alumni who participate through communication channels.
  • The number of surveys and percentages completed by target alumni.

The Key to Getting Better Data

The first step in getting better data is knowing what to track. When it comes to alumni engagement, many schools falsely correlate this to financial donor engagement. This narrow focus hurts alumni engagement goals by making assumptions about who is willing and able to donate cash funds. While some, especially multi-degreed high earners, will sign a check with ease. Others need to feel engaged in various ways before they will open their wallets and write a check. 

To get better data, you need to have specific goals about what type of data you will be collecting and why. Start small and focus on a few data points and grow from there. But most importantly, employ the right tools. Technology is on our side, making it easier than ever before to collect and collate data. This data, in turn, helps us make better decisions, focusing our time and energy where it can make the biggest impact. 

Instead of guessing where you’ll find new donors among your alumni, start tracking them where they like to engage and meet them there. Wavelength provides software solutions that help you manage your alumni community with ease. Learn more today.