Summary: The VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking survey allows us to isolate responses from the Power 5 Institutions, and compare these responses with all other institutions. These larger alumni organizations have a measurable advantage in resources, staff and exposure, and can help us identify trends, discover best practices, and get a glimpse of what alumni programming will look like in the not-too-distant future.

(About a 4 minute read)

The VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking study reveals some interesting comparative data about the differences between alumni organizations associated with the Power 5 conferences, (I’ll just call them the “P5” institutions) and those that are not.

The P5 Schools are 65+ institutions and comprise the NCAA’s ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12 conferences, and notable independent schools. They make up the bulk of the largest alumni organizations in the U.S.

What the P5 institutions have that most others do not, is the advantage of persistent national exposure, coupled with their influence on local culture and heritage within their associated communities.

These alumni organizations are also unique because of their size, budgets, and reach. Their differences are significant in comparison to most other alumni organizations, so we broke out their data from all other organizations to see what they do differently, and possibly learn from their experience. 

In many ways, the programs and best practices can be precursors to what successful alumni organizations will be doing in the not-so-distant future.

I will add a bit of caution, however. Not all of these P5 best practices will translate to smaller alumni organizations and institutions. For example, launching a dues-paying program because many P5 institutions have success with theirs, is not necessarily a smart strategy.

But with that in mind, we can learn a thing or two that may help you make better business decisions.

Here are some data points that stand out to me:

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 who send fewer emails per year.
  • Are 182% more likely to use Instagram, Snapchat or other social media app (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 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 rates 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