Over on LinkedIn, Daniel Cohen asked, "Is it possible to prove the value of alumni relations?"
This is a fundamentally important question for advancement professionals.
I'm sharing my comment to Daniel here as a standalone idea for further consideration. It's about the reasons for measuring the value of alumni outreach.
[There's a strange dynamic in almost every conversation
about 'the value of alumni relations']
There's a strange dynamic in almost every conversation about "the value of alumni relations." This week marks my 27th year in the alumni profession, so I've been privy to thousands of these discussions over the decades.
Almost every one of these conversations begins with the assumption that alumni engagement at institution X certainly has enough value to warrant further investment, and that the alumni team's role is to prove that to their colleagues.
We should recognize that in the eyes of their audiences, not every alumni team delivers real value to its respective organizations and communities. For underperforming teams, perhaps the focus should shift from "proving our value" to "improving our effectiveness." It's risky to start by assuming:
- that alumni love the program,
- that your job is to prove that, and
- that you will inevitably prove your value, if only you sift through the data for long enough.
[Perhaps the focus should shift from "proving our value"
to "improving our effectiveness"]
This matters, because the opportunity cost of tracking, recording, reporting and analyzing data can be relatively high, especially in small shops. You must also improve outreach, enhance your engagement targeting and customize your communications and interaction.
You need a balance, and some teams don't update or improve outdated offerings, but instead use the increased availability of data to select measurements that will influence leadership to provide continued or additional resources.
Daniel asks what you'll say when, going around the leadership table, it's your turn to "make the case" for investment in alumni engagement. "If you have no data," he points out, "it is very difficult to justify your value."
That's right. Having no data is a big problem. But if you have the data, and they say you're failing, you have a bigger problem.
Establishing a benchmark for your effectiveness is not only for proving how good you are. It's for improving how good you are too.