Here on the Holly Palmer Consulting blog we’ve written extensively about the importance of bringing relationship fundraising into higher education, we’ve examined why it struggles to take root and what it can achieve where it does. We’ve also studied the quality of donor care at a number of UK universities, and we’ve taken a critical look at the default model of both alumni relations and fundraising campaigns in UK higher education. In our view there are huge opportunities open to the sector, but our sense is that improvements to how universities seek to understand, support and communicate with their audiences are in some cases urgently required. Today’s front-page splash in the Daily Mail could provide the catalyst for that change – it all depends on the industry, the alumni, and the public’s response over the next week.
Throughout the years I have worked in higher education advancement, I have never felt the need for a strong business case for alumni relations more acutely than now. Universities have been getting a bad rap in the media, along with charities and fundraising practices in general. I’m also hearing more from colleagues that alumni are complaining their universities are only interested in them for their money.
I was interested to read today a guest blog on the Cool Data site by Peter B. Wylie and John Sammis. It is called “Are we missing too many alumni with web surveys?” and is part 2 in a series (part 1 was published in 2012).
In summary, they looked at a North American university’s recent survey data (and presumably the institution’s full constituent data) and compared respondents, non-respondents and email-uncontactable alumni with regard to age, event attendance and giving. They were looking to identify and demonstrate demographic or behavioural differences in the survey respondents as compared with those who were unable to be invited to complete the survey (no email address) or those who chose not to.
What university doesn’t want to measure the engagement of their alumni? Not many if the latest International CASE Alumni Relations Survey (ICARS) results are anything to go by. But why are we measuring it? And what makes it so challenging? Here’s my take on the subject and some ideas for taking alumni metrics to the next level.
There are probably two things we can safely conclude from the pervasiveness of customer satisfaction surveys: one, they must be very useful to the organisations that commission them, and two: it’s getting harder to make a survey stand out.
At some point nearly every Higher Education institution will wind up wondering how to plan an alumni survey (or how to improve their results), so I thought I would collate a few tips from personal experience. For my sins, I have now been involved in two full scale quantitative alumni survey projects, co-ordinated a qualitative donor satisfaction survey and have designed and delivered countless satisfaction and engagement surveys to similar audiences. And this is what I’ve learned…