In the VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking survey, we have the opportunity to analyze responses specifically from the Power 5 Institutions and compare them to other institutions. These larger alumni organizations have a significant advantage in terms of resources, staff, and exposure. By studying their practices, we can gain valuable insights, identify emerging trends, and gain a sneak peek into the future of alumni programming.

(About a 4-minute read)

The VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking study uncovers fascinating comparative data regarding the distinctions between alumni organizations associated with the Power 5 conferences, which I'll refer to as the "P5" institutions, and those that are not.

Comprising the NCAA's ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12 conferences, as well as notable independent schools, the P5 Schools, totaling over 65 institutions, represent the majority of the largest alumni organizations in the United States.

What sets the P5 institutions apart is their advantage of consistent national exposure, along with their influence on local culture and heritage within their respective communities.

These alumni organizations are also unique due to their size, budgets, and reach. Their differences are significant compared to most other alumni organizations, which is why we have separated their data from all other organizations to examine their distinctive practices and potentially learn from their experiences.

In many ways, the programs and best practices of these P5 institutions can serve as indicators of what successful alumni organizations will be implementing in the near future.

However, it's important to exercise caution. Not all of these P5 best practices will be applicable to smaller alumni organizations and institutions. For instance, launching a dues-paying program simply because it has been successful for P5 institutions may not be a wise strategy.

Nevertheless, we can undoubtedly acquire valuable insights that can aid in making better business decisions.

Here are some noteworthy data points that have caught my attention:

The Power 5 Alumni Organizations, when compared to non-Power 5 institutions:

  • Are 52% more likely to use digital content like e-newsletter/e-zines
  • Are 78% more likely to have a blog
  • Are 16% less likely to use a student call center
  • Are 48% more likely to have a YouTube channel
  • Are 31% more likely to use direct mail in their member solicitations.
  • Have 14% more email addresses of their alumni (64% vs. 56% for non-P5)
  • Send 16% more emails to their alumni annually, but have the same unsubscribe rate as organizations that send fewer emails per year.
  • Are 182% more likely to use Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media apps (other than Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn)
  • Are 409% more likely to have a dedicated mobile app
  • Are 900% more likely to use webchat to communicate with alumni


  • Of all P5 alumni organizations, 98% offer a suite of meaningful benefits as a tool to attract and engage alumni. 
  • Are 51% more likely to offer meaningful benefits as a way to attract and influence alumni engagement


  • Are 43% less likely to appeal to alumni generosity, loyalty, and philanthropy to engage their alumni.
  • Send 37% fewer gift solicitations to first-year graduates.

 Integration of Career Services

  • Are 15% more likely to have studied the pros and cons of integrating Alumni Relations & Career Services, and
  • Are 99% more likely to have approved integration of Alumni Relations & Career Services


Analytics/Measurement Tools

  • Are 139% more likely to use Net Promoter Score as a tool to measure engagement
  • Are 64% more likely to use ROI as a measurement tool
  • Are 26% more likely to measure social amplification metrics (shares/reposts etc., as opposed to digital responses such as “likes”)
  • Are 35% more likely to conduct regularly scheduled alumni surveys (annual or otherwise)


Dues Paying Membership Programs

  • Are 115% more likely to have a dues-paying organization
  • Are 110% more likely to have a member renewal rate of 71% or higher
  • Have 24% higher success rate with direct mail to renew members.
  • Are 40% more likely to have “lack of engagement” be the primary reason members don’t renew.


What are the trends to keep an eye on?

In a nutshell, here are the seven key trends I see in this data:

  1. To engage alumni, offer them compelling, relevant benefits. Relying on their loyalty or philanthropic generosity will only go so far.
  2. Be careful not to oversolicit alumni. Try dedicating more time to cultivating and "romancing" alumni to achieve life-long engagement. 
  3. Content creation (blogs, social media, e-newsletters) engages alumni more efficiently than more expensive programs like events. (more to come on that later)
  4. Measure your engagement programs regularly and make adjustments based on real data.
  5. Get a mobile app. 
  6. Consider offering more and better career services to alumni.
  7. Dues-paying programs are more likely better suited for very large alumni organizations.


What are your thoughts?  Any surprises? 


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Topics: Alumni Relations & Engagement, alumni benefits, Customer Engagement, best practices

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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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