Publications & Products
Volume 2, Issue 5


The State of Community College Alumni Relations

A recent national survey reveals that most alumni relations programs at community colleges are nascent, remain small in scope and have budgets that are spread thin. However, the survey also reveals that community colleges are adopting several best practices that have led to early successes.

Fielded this summer, the survey gathered the responses of 133 community colleges. Results were presented last month at the inaugural Conference for Community College Advancement in San Diego, Calif.

Survey findings indicate the relative youth of many community college alumni programs. Nearly half of chief alumni relations officers had been in their position two years or less. Most of these leaders also noted that they are responsible for duties beyond alumni relations—extending to event planning and the management of an annual fund. The median alumni relations office also reported having only one full-time staff member.

Less than 60 percent of community college alumni programs have a dedicated operating budget—the median of which was $17,000 annually. Most of these programs have numerous sources for their budgets— the college, annual unrestricted gifts and special events or fundraisers were the most common ones. Nearly three quarters of alumni programs do not charge annual membership dues, and the vast majority that charge dues limit them to $49 and under.

Generally, alumni program budgets are spread very thin over a broad range of activities. No spending category—from printing and postage to special events and data sources—takes up more than 20 percent of the operating budgets.

Despite these difficulties, the survey identified several best practices in data collection, communications and fundraising that lead to successful outcomes. They include:

  • The higher the alumni association annual (or lifetime) dues, the greater the average alumni gift.
  • The larger the percentage of paid alumni association members, the greater the average gift from alumni.
  • The more frequently an institution runs change-of-address processing on its alumni records database, the more positive the financial outcomes of its outreach efforts.
  • The larger the percentage of viable alumni email addresses maintained by a program, the greater the percentage of alumni donors.
  • The larger the percentage of viable alumni mailing addresses maintained by a program, the more positive the financial outcome of an institution's donor outreach efforts.

For more information about the survey results—including what many programs do when they communicate with alumni and ask them for donations—view the presentation from the survey's release last month. A CASE white paper further exploring these results is expected to be released this winter.

Please share your questions and comments with Marc Westenburg via email at mwestenburg@case.org or +1 202 478 5570.

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This article is from the November 2012 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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