A Simple Way To Measure Alumni Engagement

Posted on 04/01/2018 - by Dan Allenby

Whether you work in annual giving or alumni relations, it’s important to know that you’re both on the same team. Unfortunately, there is a lot that can get in the way when these two groups try to work together. Sometimes the obstacles are organizational – like when the departments have different bosses or are located in different locations around campus. Other times, the obstacles are strategic – like when they have different goals and priorities.

When it comes to setting goals and priorities, annual giving professionals tend to concentrate on getting alumni and others to donate money, while alumni relations professionals generally focus on involving alumni through events, educational programs, and social networks. Having distinct goals is understandable and helps each unit assess its own productivity in the short-term. However, both groups should have the same common goal over the long-term: increasing alumni engagement.

One of the biggest challenges of tracking engagement is that there isn’t a universally-accepted way to measure it. With so many factors to consider and different ways to calculate engagement, a lot of advancement programs end up talking about it but never actually doing it. The trick is to keep it simple. Rather than accounting for every single action that could be considered a form of engagement, try focusing on a few of the most important ways alumni can engage. Use those ways to create a score for your entire alumni population and then measure the change over a period of time. Here’s an example:

  1. Take a random sample of 200 alumni records from your database.
  2. Assign 1 point to each record when you see evidence of any of the following actions: attending an event, serving as a volunteer, or making a gift.
  3. Produce an “engagement score” for each record between 0 and 3 based on the sum of the individual points assigned to each action.
  4. Sort the scores for each of the 200 records from lowest to highest and identify the median (i.e., mid-point) for the entire sample population.
  5. Wait a year and repeat this process to see if/how the score has changed.

One of the reasons why it’s so important to monitor alumni engagement is that simply doing so improves your chances of increasing it. That’s because people are more inclined to achieve what they measure. What’s more is that the individual types of engagement can have a positive impact on one another. For example, alumni who serve as volunteers are more likely to make a gift later on – and vice versa. Engagement builds upon itself, helping to create a stronger alumni community and support the institution’s overall advancement efforts today and well into the future.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Alumni Relations & Annual Giving Collaboration.