Leading universities are busting information silos between alumni relations and development

Topics: Advancement, Alumni Affairs, Donor and Prospect Relations, Fundraising, Student and Young Alumni Fundraising, Organizational Structures, Information Technology

John Tannous

John Tannous, Senior Analyst

Alumni relations professionals face increasing pressure from institutional leaders to justify the value of their engagement efforts. But while other offices like admissions, advising, and career services have developed metrics to demonstrate return on investment, many alumni relations offices continue to rely on "soft" metrics like event attendance and post-programming satisfaction. Unsure of where to start, many alumni relations professionals look to the promise of big data and find themselves drowning in the number of possible indicators.

Benefits of information-sharing

In an ideal state, information-sharing between alumni relations and development forges mutually beneficial relationships and drives higher fundraising returns. At progressive institutions, engagement programming establishes and enhances relationships with alumni, allowing development staff to capitalize on the most promising prospects surfaced through these programs. Engagement data can also reveal prospects’ passions, leading to segmented appeals and targeted upgrade opportunities. Unfortunately, engagement data often remains hidden behind the walls of the alumni relations office, and this synergy never occurs.

Collaboration yields more informed decision-making

Emory University shows what is possible when alumni relations and development collaborate. A disciplined approach to data management allows them to take a granular look at the depth of affinity across the entire alumni community, as well as at individual alumni, and drive decision-making accordingly. This matrix allows advancement staff to prioritize resources by intensifying engagement initiatives among engaged non-donors that are high-affinity and ready to give. Advancement staff can also divert resources away from disengaged non-donors.

Emory University saw giving increase in the years after this initiative. But McMaster University, Portland State University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Marquette University have also developed information-sharing practices to parlay rich engagement data into fundraising returns. The secrets to their success are:

Read the Full Study

The Strategic Alumni Relations Enterprise examines how alumni relations and development leaders can work together to not only share data, but also to facilitate digital engagement initiatives, targeted volunteering opportunities, and revenue-oriented programming.

Access the study