Key Trends from 2017 in Alumni Relations
An exciting 2018 is already in the making. As departments start gearing up for new strategic planning for the 2018-2019 year, I thought I'd share some of the key trends we saw last year through conversations, industry conferences and research. Here are my thoughts.
Below are the top 5 topic trends seen at the end of 2017 year in Alumni Relations.
1. Alumni Relations is tasked with staying relevant to a new generation of alumni
Colleges and Universities are looking to leverage their alumni successes and build stronger support communities around the network in hopes of attracting Gen Z applicants (and graduates).
However, this increased pressure has not been followed up with increased budgets - requiring alumni relations professionals to think more strategically about their program investments.
Wins in these departments are still strongly tied to advancement goals. For institutions trying to close the gap between their student and alumni data, the opportunity to more quickly tie impact to student success becomes a resource available to alumni relations to help prove their value proposition and increase budget potential.
For institutions who continue to see alumni relations as the "middle child" in the operational ecosystem, a big "I told you so" could be on the horizon when current philanthropic practices age out and new generational trends in philanthropy hit our doorstep. The successful alumni relations shops who have built themselves into the lifestyle of their constituents with meaningful connections and opportunities will continue to differentiate their institution's overall value proposition from admissions onward.
2. Creating a new operational culture at Institutions is becoming a priority.
With the continuous overturn and challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent in higher education alumni relations and fundraising, Institutions are looking to adopt new operational goals and cultures that drive an environment of impact. These changes are faced with their own internal challenges of getting institutional buy-in at all levels. Centralize collaboration is going to be critical to success for institutions moving forward - however optimism if it is possible seems to be pretty low.
3. Technology for constituents is changing the game, but goals and impact are still unclear.
As an industry, we've heard the "start with why" approach preached significantly over the past few years. For the front-line engagers, we know this easier said than done.
The implementation time of new technology platforms to engage constituents in new ways has sidetracked expectation and goal setting. Often times, goals are set to clear implementation hurdle (example: sign ups) and not necessarily around evaluating if the tool is providing value or driving specific behaviorial goals. Best practices have been and will continue to be shared industry wide when it comes to the future success on these platform. Additionally, these platforms will be measured against and within the overall engagement tool kit.
4. It's not just our constituents getting new technology.
Engaging constituents with technology is not the only technological approach for driving engagement seen in 2017. Offices are embracing technology for operational change to start optimizing inefficient processes and get back valuable time for their staff. In return, they are seeing more time dedicated to engaging constituents in meaningful ways. More time also offers up opportunities to test new theories in engagement programming.
In some situations however, budgeting for these types of technologies haven't been prioritized above technologies for constituents. This is largely due to the fact that leadership doesn't always face these tedious tasks on a day-to-day and sometimes aren't aware of the time saving opportunities or it's return on engagement.
This has let to a rise of "freemium services" to help streamline the day-to-day. Tools like slack - for communications, airtable - for project management and formstack - for data collection- are being leveraged to help simplify workflow.
5. Engagement Metrics are recognized as being important but are still misunderstood.
Engagement data should be utilize to better understand impact of program resources and identify opportunities for more strategic outreach. The goal when it comes to leveraging engagement data is to create the most effective engagement toolkit to helps drive the right behaviors in achieving your department's goals. Engagement metrics are not be confused with staff performance metrics. Aligning engagement metrics only with staff performance will not only impact learning opportunities on constituent behaviors, but can end up driving the wrong behaviors for your staff as well.
The key to success engagement metrics is all about data: how it's stored, how it's categorized and how it's coded. Good data structure is the golden ticket to understanding your constituents needs and biggest engagement opportunities. In 2017, we saw engagement data and training around data start to climb the priorities list. Data nerds everywhere have rejoiced!
If any of these topics have resonated with you, I invite you to join the conversation with us on LinkedIn or reach out to our team here at Tassl.