That Question That Comes Up in Every Research Presentation, Part 2

In March, we dug into our normative database to provide some comparative data on survey response rates and Net Promoter Scores. Since it’s graduation time, it seems fitting to look at what we’ve gleaned about alumni engagement over our past decade of research work.

Current vs. Desired Level of Engagement

In years of asking our alumni survey respondents to rate their current and desired levels of engagement with their institutions, desired engagement is nearly always greater than current engagement. Across all our studies, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1=not at all engaged and 10=extremely engaged, the mean current engagement rating is 4.0, compared to a mean desired engagement rating of 5.5. This does vary a bit by school type, as shown below:

  • Current level of engagement: mean of 4.0 (29 schools)
    • Privates: 4.0 (19 schools)
    • Publics: 3.9 (10 schools)
  • Desired level of engagement: mean of 5.5 (27 schools)
    • Privates: 5.6 (19 schools)
    • Publics: 5.7 (8 schools)

Ways in Which Alumni Want to Engage

What can colleges and universities do to bridge this gap? How do alumni want to engage? Our research tells us alumni want more non-monetary interactions with their institutions. Specifically, they are interested in interacting in some of the following ways:

  • Mentoring current students and alumni
  • Speaking to a class as a guest lecturer
  • Participating in educational opportunities, such as webinars, lectures, or panels by current students, faculty, or fellow alumni
  • Attending networking events with current students and alumni—preferably in their local area
  • Receiving personalized communications
  • Attending events tailored to their career or major/program
  • Attending athletic events

While we want alumni to give back in monetary ways—and many will eventually—they need to be engaged and to feel connected to their institutions in other ways that make them more inclined to give. We don’t want them to dismiss us because it seems we are only asking for financial support. Molly Jackson, Associate VP at SimpsonScarborough, offers some great advice here for engaging with graduate alumni that can be applied to all alumni.

This is the second article in a three-part series in which we share general information we have gleaned from our work over the past decade. Part I explored survey response rates and Net Promoter Scores.

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