Proving the Value of Alumni Relations

While reading my daily briefing on alumni relations discussions I came upon this Q&A that I thought was just perfect to share with you.

Q. How do you prove the value of alumni relations on your campus and within the advancement department? With tighter budgets these days you may find yourself having to justify alumni relations expenses to your boss.

A. From Michael Wall, Director of Alumni Relations, Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Coon Rapids, MN:

I think you will get four answers or types of answers:

1) You can’t. (I would ignore this, as it does not help and we all know administrators and trustees who hold purse string do not often fund based on faith.)

2) Everyone knows that alumni relations is necessary; all the big universities and privates have them. (Again, no help here. If everyone knew this to be true then there would not be a need for us to justify through data.

Two left, one cold, hard science and one warm, fuzzy, and perhaps no less true.

3) Alumni Relations is valuable because we have the data to prove it. (This is, of course, on the heels of your work collecting and analyzing data, and finding that in your case it is true.) Data points for involvement, attendance, communication, and other indicators of engagement can certainly be tracked and compared to giving for the individual and group. The more engaged, we may show with data, the more likely to give and perhaps give more generously. (And, it goes without saying, and yet here I go saying it, that stewardship of the relationship, matching alumni with efforts, projects, needs, etc. that match that person’s interests/concerns have a large role to play in the direction and intensity of giving.)

4) Alumni Relations is an investment in the future of the institution. Results will not show monetarily in the near term, as our alumni are still in school or paying for it and getting adjusted to the ‘real world.’ But the things we do in Alumni Relations- engaging them on campus as students, maintaining contact once they leave, updating pertinent life information in their record, inviting and encouraging them to return, utilizing them in substantive, productive ways to help the institution and the students through their gifts of time and expertise (volunteering), exposing them to the giving of others and the impact those donations made (on their costs as a student and on the costs for current and future students- these things set alumni up to be donors. Giving back is so, so often not a reflex, not a product of attendance. Giving back is a matter of feeling invested and invested in, and a part of the life of the institution.

That last one is my pitch because we have only paid attention to our alumni for the past five or six years. Go decades through the life of an institution without any education about what it is to be alumni and without any ongoing connection, and when you start your alumni program it is going to take time for the money to begin to roll in, if it will at all. If we knew who would give what there would be a lot fewer of us and a lot more psychics in Advancement.

That’s my two cents.