How Alumni Like to Engage With Their Alma Maters, According to a Survey
More than half of alumni polled in a new survey said they were interested in helping current or prospective students at their alma mater, by mentoring current students, helping admissions recruit new students, speaking with current students about their careers, or other methods.
The national survey questioned 2,365 graduates of American colleges and universities about the kinds of engagement they like to have with their alma maters.
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More than half of alumni polled in a new survey said they were interested in helping current or prospective students at their alma mater by mentoring current students, helping the admissions office recruit new students, speaking with current students about their careers, or other methods. Among respondents who had graduated in the past 10 years, three out of four said they were interested in providing such support.
With college enrollment plummeting, alumni enthusiasm for counseling current and future students is encouraging, says Mirko Widenhorn, senior director of engagement strategy at Anthology, the education technology company that sponsored the survey.
The June survey questioned 2,365 graduates of American colleges and universities about the kinds of engagement they like to have with their alma mater. While roughly a quarter said they had donated to their college over the past year, 48 percent said they had participated in a college-organized activity during that time. Those respondents had attended webinars on academic topics (34 percent), discussions with campus representatives (32 percent), and virtual gatherings with classmates (29 percent).
The survey also asked how frequently graduates like hearing from their alma mater and the kind of outreach they find meaningful. Data collection enables colleges to compile detailed profiles on alumni. But fundraisers must walk a fine line between sending messages that align with an alum’s interest and giving the impression that they’re invading their privacy. “One of the things that institutions struggle with is, to what degree do we personalize? When does it become scary for an alum?” Widenhorn says.
Asked whether they’d prefer messages from their college tailored to their interests — such as news about their academic major or student organizations they participated in — 72 percent said they would or they had no preference. Just 12 percent said they would not like to receive personalized messages.
Widenhorn says the results suggest receiving tailored updates won’t discourage alumni from giving.
When asked about attending events, respondents expressed an almost even preference for attending virtual events (33 percent) and in-person events (39 percent). Another 29 percent said they’d be comfortable attending either.
This doesn’t mean all events need to have options to attend online or in-person, Widenhorn cautions. “It’s really hard to do hybrid well,” he says. Rather, he encourages fundraisers to ask themselves, “What type of program works best for what we’re trying to do?” A panel discussion, for example, could seamlessly turn into a virtual event, while a happy hour might work best in person.
Among the other findings:
- Nearly three in four respondents said they preferred receiving monthly emails from their alma mater, holding steady with past Anthology studies.
- Among respondents who donated to their college in the past year, 41 percent said they did so after receiving an email appeal, 32 percent after opening a mailed appeal, and 26 percent after receiving a phone call from their college.
- The smallest share of donors polled — 8 percent — said they gave after their alma mater texted them.