Publications & Products
Volume 3, Issue 3

Tracking Alumni Engagement

To show the return on investment of alumni relations, two community colleges have developed systems to measure alumni engagement beyond donations.

George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Ivy Tech Community College, the 30-campus Indiana state system, are in the process of refining alumni engagement tracking systems. In addition to donations, both institutions track alumni activities such as event attendance, participation in affinity discount programs and volunteerism. This information is then used to further cultivate relationships with alumni, encourage giving and shape other advancement efforts.

"We need to understand the return on our investment in terms of alumni relations," says Shannon Potts, director of alumni relations at George Brown. "If we're blindly going out with our campaigns and not seeing how we're deepening our relationships, how can we rationalize what we're doing? We want to be outcomes-oriented. And we have objective outcomes in our relationships here. Gone are the days we just say we're friend-raising."

George Brown's alumni engagement tracking system was borne out of a 2010 survey which revealed programs and services that were of most interest to graduates. In 2011, the college adjusted its alumni programming to correspond with alumni interest, and campus leaders set the goal of increasing engagement to help the college achieve the following outcomes:

  • Increased financial support
  • Improved student recruitment
  • More work-integrated learning opportunities for students
  • Jobs for graduates

Potts says the college drafted its engagement tracking framework based on literature review and consultations with a number of Canadian and U.S. institutions. George Brown's system attributes points for a variety of engagement activities, and these points are weighted based on the level of commitment involved. As alumni garner more points, their engagement level is categorized along a five-level spectrum from "extremely low"—having only one point—to "high"—having more than 15 points. This year, benchmark scores revealed that 17 percent of the college's alumni were in an "engaged" categories.

Potts says the engagement tracking system has already started to change the institution's advancement operations. For example, the system is being used to segment alumni for fundraising outreach and identify individuals to feature in marketing campaigns. More refinements to the system are expected in the near future, including the possibility of building in alerts when alumni become more or less engaged so that Potts' team can engage in more focused stewardship.

"This [engagement tracking system] adds professional integrity to what we're doing in alumni relations and applies a new level of rigor," Potts says.

Ivy Tech's alumni engagement tracking system is similar to George Brown's in many ways. For example, the database is shared with the college's fundraising professionals and some engagement points are automatically assigned to alumni when an action such as registering for an event is taken. And although points are not weighted as they are in George Brown's system, point totals in Ivy Tech's system are helping alumni officials identify individuals who might be more inclined to volunteer or engage with the institution in other ways.

"The [engagement tracking ] system has certainly been worth it," says Christopher W. Hancock, executive director of advancement and alumni engagement at Ivy Tech. "The data are going to drive our future investment in alumni relations. If alumni professionals are able to develop data like this, that'll help boards and presidents understand what we're trying to do."

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

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This article is from the September 2013 issue of the Community College Advancement News.