Although drawing speculative conclusions from statistics is a common danger, statistics can also reveal some interesting relationships between measures that are vital to organizations, including alumni associations.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) recently conducted a study of more than 70 schools in Europe and Australia to better determine what alumni relations measures lead to alumni relations success (for CASE Members – see this study and more).
“Success” in the study was defined as “the number of event attendees, volunteers and donors to the institution.” The study measured the relationship between a variety of university initiatives including alumni directory information, staff, budgets, the number and type of events hosted — and their success rates. For those of you who are absolutely wild about statistics, we’ve added a short note on the statistical techniques used in the study at the bottom of this post.
Below are our main takeaways from this CASE study of the European market. Again, keep in mind that these takeaways might slightly differ from the US but have similar themes.
Email addresses are vital
Having accurate information on your alumni turns out to be related to alumni success (surprise, surprise). However, what is surprising is that in Europe having a database with accurate phone numbers and mailing addresses did not necessarily correlate with higher alumni participation. As the study notes: “Completeness of the constituent database with regard to postal addresses also seems to have no relationship either; however, the completeness of email addresses is significantly related to the number of attendees, volunteers and donors.”
In short: In your quest for alumni data e-mail addresses are vital, so make sure you get the address they actually use.
Events: Quantity over quality
The number of events an institution puts up is related to the number of donors and attendees, but interestingly enough, an increased expenditure per event is not. More specifically the study noted that holiday and excursion events are well correlated with the success measures, especially with the number of donors. So remember that for your next event you can skip out on the flamingos, fireworks and expensive champagne. It seems like your alumni are there primarily to meet with each other.
In short: If you are able to increase your budget spend it on resources that will help you put on more events, not more expensive ones.
Keep up communications
Communications with alumni, namely the number of magazine issues and frequency of e-newsletters was also correlated to more attendees at events and to attracting donors. The study points out how many schools are currently struggling with budget cuts in tandem with the economic climate in Europe. This is making it harder for institutions to afford more meaningful interaction with alumni: “As pressure to reduce expenditure grows, it can be difficult to defend the cost of printing and mailing magazines to large numbers of constituents, but the data suggest that withdrawing print magazines would be a false economy and may impact negatively on donor numbers.”
The takeaway: Do not let communications be the first thing that goes if you are trying to save money.
In addition, this report included insights into the unfortunate norm of alumni participation in the EU. In the study it was found that institutions with an average size of 10,000 alumni would be in the “top third” if they reached 152 attendees at events, 26 volunteers and 160 donors within the last 12 months. As such, there is a tremendous opportunity for participation growth in this market; a market that is going to need to call upon its alumni now more than ever before.
Are the measures of success at your University the same as the ones used in the study? How does your school measure success, and do you currently use any of the measures in this study?
Note on statistical techniques used in the study: The full name of the statistic used is the Pearson bivariate product-moment correlation coefficient ( known as the “r” statistic) and measures how much one variable is affected by changes in another. In this case it means the covariation between the different alumni relations measures and the number of attendees, volunteers and donors of the institution. It can vary between -1.0 and 1.0, with 1.0 being a perfect positive covariation. If, for example, the number of events hosted and the number of donors had an “r” of close to 1.0 this would suggest that you should expect more donors by putting on more events.