Key Findings of the 2016 VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking Survey

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PowerPoint PresentationKey Findings of the 2016 VAESE Alumni RelationsBenchmarking SurveyWeb ClinicMarch 15, 2016Host: Andrew Graft VP Corporate MarketingAccess Development Gary Toyn VAESE Primary ResearcherMarketing/Communication ConsultantAccess DevelopmentGary Toyn is a Marketing and Communication Consultant at Access Development, and its subsidiary TriQuest. He consults with organizations ranging in size from a few hundred members to over a million, aiming to help them better engage their constituents, expand their reach and improve their operational efficiency. His background is in higher education advancement, having experience in capital campaigns, planned giving, major gifts, and annual funds. He was Associate Director of Alumni at his alma mater, Weber State University, and director of alumni at Utah Valley University, where he was successful in growing alumni engagement, and building membership and marketing programs. He is the author of several titles related inspiration and humanity, but today is focused on research and writing about alumni engagement in higher education. 2AgendaOverview and Data reviewQ & A From ParticipantsSharing:Use Hashtag: #VAESEFollow @AlumniAccess @GaryToynFacebook: Alumni AccessSubscribe: blog.AlumniAccess.comContact:1-888-878-6178info@AlumniAccess.comWhat is VAESE?Voluntary Alumni Engagement in Support of Education surveyFilling a gap due to a lack of research focused on alumni relations and engagement practices. (most research relates to fundraising)Survey instrument was a collaboration from alumni relations professionals world-wide.Key objective: to increase the body of reliable data that alumni relations professionals can use to better do their jobs.Results shared openly under a relatively unrestrictive Creative Commons license (permits remixing, re-purposing and building upon this work.)Responses from all 50 states, 5 countries. 97% are from United States, 3% Canada, Europe.49% participation from the 351 NCAA Division 1 institutionsMargin of error 4 % +/-First let me thank all those who participated in taking this rather extensive survey. It looks like many of you completed this survey, so we appreciate your participation, and hope that we can get everyone here to participate in next years survey coming up again in November.Methodology4Key ObservationsAlumni organizations appear to struggle with life-long alumni engagementA widening gap appears between the haves and have-nots.Progress: email communication, digital/social media, membership marketing, database management.Growth needed: engaging GOLDs & new grads, embracing technologies like mobile, delivering meaningful & engaging benefits.We see a large number of institutions that are hit and miss with their long-term engagement efforts. Its interesting to note that many alumni organizations were created in the 60s and 70s, when the focus was on appealing to a completely different demographic. This was a time when diversity was reflected by the increasing number of women in higher education. Now its completely different scenario, as the US census shows a dramatic increase in ethnic and cultural diversity in higher ed. Not to mention the demands of technology, as is it any wonder that engagement practices are often legacies of a by-gone era. And because it appears that many alumni dont connect with the current alumni programs as being relevant to them, the result is a growing number of alumni opting out of contact with their alma mater. (well talk more about that later). Well also talk about the result of alumni organizations that use gift solicitation as their primary means of engagement. This apparent lack of long-term engagement strategy is a concern, and future surveys will need confirm or disprove that observation.Larger institutions, especially those associated with Division 1, NCAA college athletics, seem to be using the resources they get from these athletic enterprises to better impact alumni engagement. Smaller institutions that dont enjoy that exposure and revenue, seem to be struggling more frequently. Thats not to say that smaller institutions arent succeeding, but they simply face additional challenges when their institutions arent part of the March Madness cycle or the College football bowl cycle.Institutions are becoming more sophisticated with their email engagement, and are quite adept at maintaining high open and click rates, most are actively using social media to attract and engage alumni, and for those with a dues-paying structure, they are skilled at membership best-practices used to increase acquisition and retention of their members. Data base management has also come a long way in recent years, as organizations have refined their techniques in keeping their database current. But we still see a significant number of institutions struggle to find meaningful ways to get GOLDs and new grads engaged. We also see many organizations struggle with new technologies like offering a mobile responsive website, and adopting alumni engagement programs on a mobile platform. Our research found that a potentially significant gap exists between alumni executives, most who are digital immigrants, and most of their staff who are digital natives. And finally, we see a significant number of organizations that solely rely upon alumni loyalty and philanthropy, and dont offer any type of alumni benefit as a means of attracting and engaging alumni who are not yet in a position to give money. 54 Key TakeawaysThe integration of alumni relations with fundraising/ development/advancement operations is becoming the norm.When alumni relations and fundraising operations integrate, lifelong alumni engagement efforts may suffer.Dues-paying alumni organizations appear to be on the decline.The alumni professionals anxiety index offers new insights into pressing issues among professionals.The Integration of Alumni Relations with Fundraising/ Development/Advancement Operations is Becoming the Norm.67% of alumni organizations report being fully integrated or are working toward or discussing integration with fundraising/development5% of alumni organizations oppose integration11% of senior alumni relations executives report directly to the President/ Chancellor.Private institutions have a much higher rate of integration than public institutions (76% vs. 5 4%). Smaller schools with under 100K alumni are also more integrated (70%) than are schools with more than 100K alumni (56%)67% of alumni organizations report being fully integrated or are working toward integration with fundraising/development. 5% of alumni organizations reporttheir opposition to integrating their alumni engagement programs with fundraising/development. 11% of senior alumni relations executives report directly to the President/ Chancellor of the institution. When the top alumni relations executive has frequent access to the institutions top decision maker, greater emphasis can be given to promote both engagement AND fundraising goals if needed.Private institutions have a much higher rate use of assimilation than public institutions (76% vs. 54%). Smaller schools with under 100K alumni are also more integrated (70%) than are schools with more than 100K alumni (56%).7When Alumni Relations and Fundraising Operations Integrate, Lifelong Alumni Engagement Efforts May Suffer.62% of alumni organizations are not focused on offering alumni any significant benefits, or instead appeal to the philanthropic generosity or loyalty of alumni/ae to (get them to) engage, join, or give.82% of institutions send at least one gift solicitation to new grads within the first year of graduation.Nearly one-third of schools (30%) send three or more gift solicitations to new graduates during their first year.7% of institutions send five or more solicitations to new graduates during their first year.With the increasing number of institutions integrating alumni relations and development, the data reveals an increasing number of engagement programs that appearto be taking a back seat to the demands of fundraising. When alumni are solicited without regard for timing, cultivation, prior engagement or willingness to give, long-term engagement can be affected. How is it manifested? By under-delivering on alumni benefits, and over soliciting alumni. This statistics makes the point: 62% of alumni organizations are not focused on offering alumni any significant benefits, or instead appeal to the philanthropic generosity or loyalty of alumni/ae to (get them to) engage, join, or give.This can be especially evident for new graduates whose desire to stay connected with their alma mater is often at its peak. But they are asked to contribute in the only manner they are least capable of giving, a cash contribution. Many would gladly give time, talent or otherwise engage in ways that dont require a cash contribution, but are never asked.Many institutions dont seem interested in waiting to cultivate young alumni, based on how often they solicit new grads. Cultivation often becomesbecome subordinate to short-term demands to raise money. For example: 8When Alumni Relations and Fundraising Operations Integrate, Lifelong Alumni Engagement Efforts May Suffer.One in four institutions have seen at least 10% of their alumni opt out of all contact with their alma mater. 6% have suffered opt-out rates as high as 39%Opt-out rates have not improved, or are getting worse at 41% of U.S. institutions.33% of institutions admit they dont track alumni opt-out rates. With the increasing number of institutions integrating alumni relations and development, the data reveals an increasing number of engagement programs that appearto be taking a back seat to the demands of fundraising. When alumni are solicited without regard for timing, cultivation, prior engagement or willingness to give, long-term engagement can be affected. How is it manifested? By under-delivering on alumni benefits, and over soliciting alumni. This statistics makes the point: 62% of alumni organizations are not focused on offering alumni any significant benefits, or instead appeal to the philanthropic generosity or loyalty of alumni/ae to (get them to) engage, join, or give.This can be especially evident for new graduates whose desire to stay connected with their alma mater is often at its peak. But they are asked to contribute in the only manner they are least capable of giving, a cash contribution. Many would gladly give time, talent or otherwise engage in ways that dont require a cash contribution, but are never asked.Many institutions dont seem interested in waiting to cultivate young alumni, based on how often they solicit new grads. Cultivation often becomesbecome subordinate to short-term demands to raise money. For example: 9Dues-Paying Alumni Organizations Appear To Be On The Decline.22% of respondent institutions have a dues-paying alumni membership program; 74% of institutions with a non-dues structure.Dues paying organizations at D-1 institutions with an annual budget over $1 million see on average 9% of their alumni database paying dues.Dues paying organizations at smaller institutions with an annual budget under $1 million see just 3.7% of alumni paying dues to their alumni association.The VAESE survey reveals some interesting stats about dues-paying alumni organizations. They appear to be a diminishing breed. Only 22% of respondent institutions have a paid alumni membership program; about 4% have a tiered benefits model for both alumni and non-alumni. That leaves 74%of institutions with a non dues paying structure.While each school has their unique needs and challenges, a dues-paying structure is not suited for all types of institutions. Clearly the size of the institution and its alumni budget has much to do with the success rate of dues-paying programs. Another important indicator that may predict success is an affiliation with a Division 1 (D-1) NCAA conference. Larger, D-1 institutions with an annual budget over $1 million have, on average, 9% of their alumni database paying dues. However, smaller organizations with an annual budget under $1 million see just 3.7% of alumni willing to pay dues to their alumni association.10Dues-Paying Alumni Organizations Appear To Be On The Decline.Of all institutions who have studied the pros and cons of implementing a dues-paying model over the past five years,66% have rejected dues-paying programs. 8% have approved or implemented a dues-paying modelDues-paying organizations impact on opt-out rates: 12.4% of alumni opt-out of contact at dues-paying organizations 9.2% of alumni opt-out of contact at non dues-paying organizations.Dues-paying organizations are 63% more likely to have alumni opt-out rates above 30%.The apparent drawbacks seen by smaller schools with a dues-paying structure have led many to investigate the feasibility of implementing such a program. Of all institutions who have studied the pros and cons of implementing a dues-paying model over the past five years, 66% have rejected it. Just 8% have approved or implemented a dues-paying model. Alumni organizations generally seem to be rejecting the dues-paying model, but this is especially true amongorganizations with less than 100,000 addressable alumni. Thats not to say that a dues-paying structure isnt a valuable tool for numerous schools, many of which arehugely successful at engaging their alumni with a dues-paying program. But each school has their unique needs and challenges; a dues-paying structure is suited for some, but not for all. Another interesting tidbit of data indicates the correlation of dues-paying organizations with the number of alumni who opt-out of receiving communication from the school. Dues-paying organizations, on average, see 12.4% of their alumni opt-out of contact with the institution. For non dues-paying organizations, their opt-out rate is 9.2%. Dues-paying organizations are 63% more likely to have alumni opt-out rates above 30%.11The Alumni Professionals Anxiety Index74% of professionals report that being under-staffed is either very or somewhat concerning.68% report that a general lack of engagement among their alumni.Job satisfaction appears to be of least concern for alumni professionals. Only 12% report concern.Only 18% are very or somewhat concerned about the work ethic of their fellow employees.Institutional Support: This score relates to general concerns about the institutions willingness to sustain the alumni organization and its programming, such as budgets, staffing, and fears of reorganization. It also talks about the level to which alumni professionals feel your institution is invested in the work of alumni relations, and whether you sense your work is being embraced or neglected by administrators.The next one is Organizational Concerns: This score is about the alumni organization itself, your worries about leadership, alumni engagement, the ongoing demands of technology, and sharing of workloads among staff members.The final element of the index is Job Security: This score relates to employment, the fear of losing your job, whether you lose sleep about work-related issues, and your personal future in alumni relations.12Benchmarks & Key Statistics1. Organizational Benchmarks2. Staffing Benchmarks3. Technology4. Marketing & Communication5. Membership 6. ProgrammingOrganizational Benchmarks89% of alumni organizations are dependent or interdependent on their institution for financial support. (leaving 11% that are self-funded and/or autonomous.)80% of respondent organizations report an annual programming budget (excluding salaries) of $250,000 or less.75% of respondent organizations report a total annual budget (including salaries) of $500,000 or less.63% of alumni organizations have the same or larger budget than five years ago. 33% of alumni organizations in North America have at least half of their alumni living in a different state/province. Staffing Benchmarks75% of alumni organizations report their biggest concern is a lack of sufficient staff to complete necessary tasks. 72% of alumni offices have six or fewer full-time employees.69% of alumni organizations have one FTE or less dedicated to administrative or clerical functions.64% of alumni organizations have not seen an increase in their office staff in the past 5 years, and 26% have seen a decrease in their staff.15Technology77% of alumni organizations believe they need to update the technology solutions they offer alumni.65% of senior alumni executives report they are mostly or somewhat proficient with technology, versus 85% of staff members that rate themselves the same way.21% of D-1 alumni organizations have a dedicated mobile app to engage their alumni.13.1% of non dues-paying organizations have a dedicated mobile app.16Marketing & Communications85% of alumni organizations use response rates (opens/ clicks/visits, etc) as a primary tool to measure the effectiveness of their communication and engagement efforts.60% of organizations have seen alumni opt-out rates increase or not improve. Only 10% have seen a decrease in opt-out rates.47% of alumni organizations report to having a mailable address for four out of five of their alumni constituents. (corresponds with the national alumni participation rates also on the decline)13% of alumni organizations report that the benefits they offer have the ability to motivate alumni to give, join or engage.80% of alumni organizations do not use measurement tools such as ROI, data mining, A/B testing, or net return after costs of servicing, to determine the effectiveness of their communication & engagement efforts17Alumni Programming87% of respondent organizations report they do a poor job, or need to do more to attract and engage young alumni.80% of alumni organizations report that blogs, social media and e-newsletters have the most impact on alumni engagement. 71% say clubs, chapters and reunions are the most impactful.31% of alumni organizations dont know the percentage of GOLDs or young alumni in their database. 14% of alumni organizations rate their benefits as having a strong influence on motivating alumni to engage/join/give.Downloading the Final ResultsComparing DataExecutive Summary of Key StatisticsPrivate vs. PublicIn addition to offering the overall survey results, we have segmented the data into four pertinent segments. They include:Private vs. Public: Identifies the type of institution as it relates to being a private or non-government owned/funded institution versus a publicly owned/funded institution. For the purposes of this specific comparison, weve excluded the very small percentage of for-profit institutions. I also realize that this segment has little relevance to our international alumni organizations, but its relevant to the vast majority of US respondents. 20Comparing DataExecutive Summary of Key StatisticsAthletic ConferenceAthletic Conference: Identifies institutions associated with a NCAA Division 1intercollegiate athletic conference for a majority of their student athletes, versusall other institutions, regardless of their NCAA, NAIA or other athletic conferenceaffiliation.21Comparing DataExecutive Summary of Key StatisticsTotal AlumniTotal Alumni: Identifies institutions that report to having 100,000 or more totalalumni, versus those with less than 100,000 total alumni.22Comparing DataExecutive Summary of Key StatisticsDues-Paying vs. Non Dues-PayingDues-Paying Organizations vs. Non Dues-Paying: Identifies institutions thatoffer benefits for alumni paying a membership fee versus non dues-paying modelin which alumni have equal access to alumni benefits/programming. For thepurposes of this specific comparison, weve excluded the very small percentageof institutions offering a tiered benefits model for both donors and alumni.23I also wanted to highlight this particular slide from the survey results. These graphs relate to the question Based on its capacity to attract and engage alumni, rate the impact of the following benefits. (I apologize for the small type, but I wanted to show this slide in case anyone had any questions.)What weve done in the bottom graph, is added the scores for the most engaging category of benefits, and subtracted the scores of the least engaging. What we see are four benefits that have high impact, and the remainder of benefits that appear to be far less engaging overall. Now thats not to say that if you are successful with any of these types of programs, that you should stop using them. But I hope its helpful to those who are considering adding or changing the types of benefits they offer, to look at what is successful or not at other institutions. I might add, that at the bottom of the list least impactful benefits is campus discounts, (like at the bookstore or to the gym), but because so few institutions have a nationwide alumni discount program (like Alumni Access) we didnt include that type of benefit in this study. 24Contents:ForewordIntroductionThe State of Alumni Relations in Higher EducationAnalysis: Key Takeaways from the VAESE SurveyExecutive Summary of Key StatisticsComparative Survey DataDownload the final results at blog.AlumniAccess.comTo download the complete whitepaper with all the results, you can now go to blog.alumniaccess.com, and download it to your desktop. 25About Alumni AccessAlumni Access is Americas Premier Alumni Discount Network. This turn-key alumni benefit program offers a proven, ongoing alumni engagement platform for alumni that live anywhere in the U.S. With over 200,000 participating merchants, these discounts arent the same deals available to anyone online these are private, in-store offers at popular national and local merchants. And because these retailers want to attract an educated and affluent audience like college alumni, they offer their deepest discounts, as long as these VIP discounts are behind a password protected website. Alumni Access delivers 25-50% off, BOGO, and 2-for-1 discounts at restaurants, retailers, major theme parks, and on movies, auto service, travel bookings and more, and all for less than a penny per alum.1-888-878-6178info@AlumniAccess.com

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