engagement metrics, technology

The Value of Research in Higher Ed Decision Making with Mike Hanus

In today’s technology-infused world, data-driven decision-making has shifted from a “nice-to-have” to a necessity.

Universities want to see their resources be utilized most effectively (i.e. Growth Hacking). Large-scale, blanket campaigns are being replaced with individualized, targeted ventures as Alumni Relations Departments attempt to connect more intimately with their respective alums.

Recognizing this shift, I decided to sit down with Mike Hanus, Founder of Constituent Research.

Mike Hanus

Constituent Research conducts surveys and qualitative research across the student life cycle for higher education clients and for nonprofit organizations and associations’ audiences. Mike founded Constituent Research in 2014 in order to provide high-quality, customized research for the higher education and nonprofit sectors to help answer their research questions and inform strategic decision-making.

We met to discuss how data and effective research tools are shaping the future of Alumni Relations.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned when conducting research for Alumni Relations departments?

“Alumni populations are so large and span such long time periods that each person’s relationship with the university can differ by the year they graduated, the program/school they were a part of or even the campus they lived on.”

Colleges and campuses change over time, so older alumni might have their own connections to the alma mater that do not exist anymore or are different than how a young alum is connected to the present structure of the school.

Mike also added, “understanding the history of the college is VERY important when collecting information from alumni,” and taking the time to accurately map out these networks yields much more insightful research.

How are Alumni Relations Departments learning about their alumni?

Surveys are currently the most useful tool when measuring alumni attitudes and perceptions of their alma mater. These surveys help provide Alumni Engagement insights around alumni activity levels by asking questions around how they are specifically involved with their alma mater, (i.e. Alumni Group membership, season ticket ownership, etc.) and identifies which activities and organizations are most popular among alums.

These surveys tend to incorporate questions about communication preferences for engagement with the College/University (email, phone call, snail mail), which helps universities connect with their alums the way the alums want to be connected with. This is also a useful way to gain insights on other questions, such as, “What do you want to hear about?”

Alumni Relations Departments can also use the Net Promoter Score to benchmark their progress towards better connecting with their Alumni.

You can calculate your Net Promoter Scores using the answer to a single question, using a 0–10 scale: “How likely is it that you would recommend ___________ to a friend or colleague?”

What challenges do you find when conducting research in Alumni Relations?

According to Mike, “Current available data for decision making is often scattered and/or incomplete, causing road blocks in effective, data-driven decision-making.”

Scores from effective surveys help Alumni Relations professionals get a finger on the pulse of Alumni wants/needs, which may be different for distinct classes and regions.

Alumni Relations clients are leaning towards data-driven learning (through surveys) to help fully understand their alumni perspectives/behaviors/expectations.

It was great to sit down with a colleague and see how our companies are working hard to provide insight for the Higher Ed space to make more sincere connections with their alumni. Here at Tassl, we see metrics as a critical part of understanding alumni, which is why we incorporate them into all of our software and are continually looking for new and innovative ways to provide the right data to universities.

Innovative alumni engagement metrics are the future. How are you measuring your engagement?