The Evolving Role of Alumni Relations

How institutions are organizing, mobilizing and measuring the value of alumni engagement.

“Friend-raisers.” This has been the historical view of alumni relations, and to no great surprise: alumni offices have for decades focused their efforts on bringing graduates together in largely social settings on the vague notion that when alumni are happy, good things result.

Correspondingly, institutions have tended to expect little more from their alumni offices.

Thankfully, this mostly benign view of alumni relations has increasingly gone by the wayside with far greater attention being paid to tangible ways in which the alumni function can contribute to advancing the institution — such as recruitment, advocacy, fundraising and helping students with their careers.

The area of alumni volunteerism — the ways in which the alumni office coordinates opportunities for graduates to interact with the institution — is gaining significant traction in the field. The importance of this type of active engagement cannot be understated in terms of the potential to validate and elevate the role of alumni relations while undergirding strategic initiatives.

Yet, only a relatively small body of work exists from which to guide alumni offices in this regard.

This benchmark study focuses on five core aspects of alumni volunteerism and measurement:

  1. What volunteer opportunities are offered through alumni relations offices, and how does this differ between public and private institutions?
  2. What volunteer metrics are in place?
  3. How is data collected?
  4. Is there a direct connection between volunteerism and giving?
  5. What are the outcomes of increased volunteerism at the institution (i.e., more recruiters, mentors, donors), and how does this address institutional goals?

Such measures can provide clues to:

  • Prioritizing alumni relations programs and budgets.
  • Elevating the role of alumni relations to something far more definitive than in the past.
  • Taking the focus off of alumni participation as the predominant indicator of alumni support.

Download the full report.