Do You Know Your ROE?

First you gotta crawl, then walk… and then you can run.

Since my last post on the GG+A blog about alumni engagement metrics, we’ve noted that some colleges and universities are making strides in their ability to measure their efforts in a meaningful way.

Yet, when it comes to measuring alumni engagement, most schools aren’t even out of the crib yet!

Last year, I spoke at a conference with several large public universities in attendance and presented a basic engagement score – measuring the percentage of alumni who have:

  • * attended an event
  • * volunteered
  • * made a gift

Every school should be able to calculate this percentage. For example, if you have 300,000 alumni and 30,000 of them did at least one of those three things, then you can report a 10% engagement score.  You can break this down by college/school, class year, region, affinity group, and so on.  You can compare your progress year over year.  You can set goals.  You can report on this score to your Alumni Board.

To me, this is the crawl. 

At that same conference, I heard from more than a few that this approach is too simplistic.  I found this criticism troubling.  The fact is… the vast majority of the universities in that room could not even pull the basic data needed to calculate an engagement score.   They were looking for a comprehensive model with complexity that covered all possible scenarios and all types of engagement.  They wanted perfection.  In this case, perfection is the enemy of the good.

In a survey last year, we asked 15 large public universities to provide us with this data so we could begin to make some comparisons.  I was able to count on one finger the number of schools that were able to accurately pull this information.  The other 14 could give us donor numbers, make an educated guess at volunteer numbers, and were “NA” (not available) when it came to event attendees.  And forget about coming up with a “unique” number of engaged alumni.

A few months later, we asked 18 private universities the same questions and 14 of them were able to provide the data.  So there is still hope for data-driven humanity!

We have several examples of colleges and universities that are not just able to pull this data, but are also using it quite effectively to demonstrate what I refer to as “ROE” — Return on Engagement.  And the beautiful thing is, once you have this basic information in a reportable format, you can move from a crawl to a walk and to a run that provides incredible value.

One of our clients, a liberal arts college,  was able to pull five years of data and discovered some interesting trends. Download the GG+A – Alumni Engagement Score – sample chart.

Another client (a medium-sized private institution) was able to pull the data and visualize it in a pie-chart format (scroll down to view).

We have made some progress.  But we still have a long way to go for our industry to find some “standard” to measure our success.

What other models are out there? What  system are you using? How  have you used the data?

Are you crawling, walking, running… or sprinting?

I would love to hear from you about your efforts! Drop me a line at CMarshall@grenzglier.com. Follow me on Twitter @CMarshallGGA

Alumni Engagement Sample Graph (pie chart format):

Alumni Engagement Score - pie chart view

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