DIY: Building an Alumni Engagement Score

Graduates used to have to pick up a magazine, attend reunion, or call the alumni office to learn what was new with their classmates and on campus. Now our constituents check the latest Facebook post and network with fellow graduates on LinkedIn instead.

In a social media-driven world, these types of interactions are great indicators of alumni engagement and affinity. They’re data points that colleges and schools need to collect and measure.

Engagement happens in real time. We can no longer rely only on traditional engagement points (giving, event attendance, and volunteer activity) to build a complete picture of an alum’s affinity.

At Concordia University, St. Paul (CSP), Ryan Marshall, Prospect Development Analyst, and Staci Poole, Advancement Systems and Reporting Coordinator, are building a comprehensive constituent engagement score that covers an array of touchpoints—traditional and digital—to create the best-possible ranking of every constituent’s engagement.

These EverTrue power users spent months choosing the right data points to measure and worked hard to feed the information back to their database in order to launch a new engagement scoring method this fiscal year.

“We needed a score that showed how people were actually engaging with us,” said Staci. “Were they giving? Were they engaged on FB? Were they responding to gift officer outreach?”

The team narrowed in on 19 trackable activities that demonstrate meaningful interaction, then assigned each category a different weight. For example, Concordia values meeting with a gift officer or attending an on-campus event more than opening an email, as the former requires more effort on the part of the alum.

The CREST (Concordia Relationship Engagement Scoring Tool) includes:

The giving category scores gift recency, frequency (is someone writing a check every month vs making a once-a-year gift?), recurring gifts, planned giving society membership, and matching gifts.

This is where Concordia looks at traditional alumni activities. Who’s attending events? Did they return to campus for homecoming or attend a regional event? Are they an active volunteer or a member of an advisory council? Each of these activities receives different values within the CREST score.

With so much back-and-forth communication between alumni, parents, and friends, the team decided to create sub-categories to refine their CREST metrics.

  • Face-to-face communication, which includes gift officer visits or conversations at CSP events.
  • Digital communication, which looks at one-on-one emails either to or from a constituent and an advancement team member.
  • Mass communication. In this category, Ryan and Staci use EverTrue to connect Facebook likes and comments directly to alumni and parent profiles, and they also track open rates from their email marketing system.

Limitless Engagement

The new CREST score doesn’t have a cap. Currently, the most engaged constituent checks in with a score of 447, while the average engagement score is 27. Ryan and Staci chose this “infinite” scoring system to give the totals as much meaning as possible.

“The beauty of how we built it is we can go back and run the score on historical dates,” says Staci, which allows the team to detect newly engaged alumni and track trends over time.

We Built It, Now What?

Not only is the Concordia crew using the social data available in EverTrue to inform their engagement score, but they’re also feeding the information back into the platform. Every user can search and filter for prospects using their CREST score from their desktop or mobile device in EverTrue.

“The score tells me quickly whether they’re engaged or not,” says Ryan. “I can narrow down the entire prospect population and see who is making gifts, opening emails, or engaging on Facebook. They’re the best and broadest prospect pool because they’ve contacted us or responded to our outreach.”

As soon as they launched the CREST score, Ryan searched for people who were dual alums (holding both bachelor and graduate degrees from Concordia) and had opened an email recently. It was a low level of engagement, but he at least knew the search would uncover people who had some interest in giving.

This search led him straight to a successful franchise owner in the Twin Cities. Using EverTrue, he verified her career information and location through our preferred partnership with LinkedIn. He then sent her profile to a gift officer, who called her and had a great conversation, which then pushed her engagement score up further.

That’s the beauty of engagement scoring and why our industry is so keen on solving this problem. Having a score allows advancement teams to report back on outreach efforts, whether online or in-person, and locate prospects who have raised their hands and said they care about your institution.

I’m excited to continue following Ryan and Staci’s work as they continue to evaluate and refine the CREST model. And I’m pumped just thinking about EverTrue’s role in delivering digital and social insights, making it simple for every shop to measure and respond to alumni engagement.

See how EverTrue can deliver digital insights to help build a dynamic alumni engagement score.

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