no_more_alumni_dues.dibThe VAESE alumni benchmarking survey reveals some interesting stats about dues-paying alumni organizations. They appear to be a diminishing breed.  

About a 4 minute read


According to the VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking Study, a mere 22% of respondent institutions offer a paid alumni membership program, with approximately 4% implementing a tiered benefits model for both alumni and non-alumni. This leaves a significant 74% of institutions operating with a non-dues paying structure.

Are you surprised by those numbers?

I must admit, the survey results did catch me off guard initially. However, after carefully analyzing and cross-referencing the data, I found that the results were indeed consistent with the information we gathered. With responses from over 400 institutions, specifically those with at least one part-time employee dedicated to alumni relations, our confidence in the study's data is solid. The survey's overall margin of error stands at a respectable 3.89%, considering both the total population and our sample size. 

Unless you’ve not been paying attention, this issue has been the topic of frequent discussion among alumni professionals, industry groups, and internal institutional leaders. This is why the survey asked specific questions about how institutions decided whether or not to add or eliminate a dues-paying structure. It was apparent that many schools had recently conducted lengthy investigations looking into the pros and cons of implementing such a program. The results are intriguing.

Of all respondent institutions that have studied a dues-paying model over the past five years, 66% have rejected it. Just 8% have approved or implemented a dues-paying model.

That’s not to say that a dues-paying structure isn’t a valuable tool for numerous schools, many of which are hugely successful at engaging their alumni with a dues-paying organization. But each school has their unique needs and challenges; a dues-paying structure is suited for some, but not for all.

The study indicates a clear correlation between the size of the institution, its alumni budget, and the rates of success in engaging alumni with a dues-paying program.

One indicator that may help predict the success of a dues-paying program is the school’s size, and more particularly, its affiliation with a Division 1 (D-1) NCAA conference.  D-1 institutions with an annual budget over $1 million see on average 9.1% of their alumni database paying dues. However, smaller dues-paying organizations with an annual budget under $1 million see an average of just 3.7% of their alumni currently paying dues.  That’s a significant gap and may be especially relevant for organizations that struggle to grow their membership or face increasing demands to generate dues revenue rather than using those resources to engage more alumni.

It is also worth noting that after controlling for the size of the alumni database, organizations with a dues-paying structure have 58% more clerical personnel than non-dues-paying organizations. This is likely a function of the added administrative requirements necessary to operate a dues-paying organization.

Another interesting tidbit of data from the survey shows the impact of a dues-paying structure on the rate at which alumni opt-out of receiving communication from the school. Dues-paying organizations, on average, have seen 12.4% of their alumni opt-out of contact with the institution. For non-dues-paying organizations, their opt-out rate is 9.2%. When controlling for the size of the alumni database, organizations with a dues-paying structure have a 34% higher opt-out rate than non-dues paying organizations.

The comprehensive VAESE alumni benchmarking report is available here. You can also view the webinar to see a summary of the data by going here. 


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Topics: Alumni Relations & Engagement, alumni, membership marketing, alumni benefits

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For 25+ years Gary Toyn has helped organizations large and small improve their constituent/member acquisition, retention and engagement. He's a multi-published author, writer, and researcher.

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