A Recent Alumni Engagement Retrospective

It's important in our professional and personal lives to take time for reflection. Reflection gives us a chance to gather context and build meaning between things we've experienced in order to develop real knowledge. Today, I'd like to revisit some internal thinking that's come up a lot lately, highlight a post that a lot of our friends have been really excited about, and point everyone to some thinking on alumni engagement that, frankly, I'm in love with.

An Idea Gaining Steam

A few months ago we shared a post entitled, "Beating the Correlation Is NOT Causation Deadhorse." It seems that in every interaction we have with our clients and prospects, this general thesis comes into view. Why? The rate of data expansion is as impressive as it is oppressive. Sometime during the writing of this post, we'll pass 3BN internet users in the world.

Every single one of them is consuming and creating data on the web. Consider this. At Facebook alone, they process over 30 Petabytes of data on a daily basis. What's a petabyte? 1Million Gigabytes. To put that in perspective, one petabyte is equivalent to the highest data capacity of the largest memory drive of any Apple computer...2,000 times over. That's ONE petabyte. Facebook actively analyzes 30 times that much (60,000 Apple hard drives).

So, with all that data, it's becoming increasingly important to ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. Because there is a correlation is absolutely NO reason to do or believe something. Data is profoundly valuable, but we have to consider our experience as fundraisers before letting the data lead us.

Folks Are In Love With This One

Just last week, we shared an interview with the great folks over at the University of Vermont about their successful Move-In Giving Day. Obviously, we were impressed, too, hence the interview, but what is it about this post that caught so many folks' attention?

"They look like me."

Even the rockstars at Columbia University have only recently begun their online giving day. It was immensely successful because they were able to put some unreal talent, time and resources against the project. Sometimes, though, teams aren't blessed with everything they need. What's more, we all need a dress rehearsal to know if our school will respond to a day of giving.

For UVM, who enjoyed success with a small, smart team, what seemed to really strike a cord is that it felt doable - exportable to other schools. I'm so thrilled that UVM's wonderful case study might wind up driving alumni engagement and dollars to other institutions. Way to go, UVM!

Something We Should All Read

This weekend, a corner of the Twittersphere was talking about a phenomenal post by Adrian Salmon from the University of Leeds' alumni team entitled, "Parent, Adult, Child - what can the insights of psychotherapy bring to alumni relations and fundraising?" It's not a long read, but the best stuff rarely is.

Effectively, Salmon has drawn out a concept of alumni as being generally positive on their experience or negative. This isn't new news. What is, though, is the underpinning of the psychology of these differing states as they are key drivers of emotional response to their alma mater's outreach. It comes down to this: Alumni boil into two segments: the generally positively inclined alum and those who don’t reflect on their school experience as halcyon. The first group dictates a strategy of maximizing yield while the second mandates that we find a kinder, less ask-centered approach to engagement that builds a new bond.

This is the core argument for aligning alumni relations and development; because some of our alumni need to (re)learn to love their alma mater before they can ever even hear an ask.

That's the roundup, but let us know what thoughts you have on these points, how context is advancing your own efforts, and what else we've missed!

Nick Zeckets