Summary: The recent VAESE survey reveals 14 key statistics to help explain the current state of alumni relations in higher education.  About a 3 minute read.


With the completion of the survey phase of the VAESE study, we now have some interesting data to work with. While this is only a preliminary analysis of the latest survey data, here's my list of 14 key numbers that help explain the current state of alumni relations.


Alumni Communication

10.3        Average institutional opt-out or “churn” rate.  It measures the percent of alumni who ask to be listed as “Do Not Call” “Do Not Contact”, “Do Not Solicit,” etc.  This new higher rate reflects a 26.3% increase over last year.

245        The estimated number of higher education institutions in the U.S. that report an alumni opt-out rate of 20% or more. The data suggests an increasing number of alumni are exercising more control over who communicates with them.

19.8       Percent of alumni organizations that do not track their opt-out rates. If your organization is one of those that ignore or neglect your opt-out trends, you’re wasting a lot of time, effort and resources. See this article about churn rates for alumni organizations.


Alumni Benefits

90           Percent of alumni organizations who choose not to offer alumni benefits, or who report they see little or no engagement from the benefits they do offer.  In fact, two out of three institutions (67%) believe that appealing to alumni loyalty and philanthropy is all that’s needed to motivate their alumni to engage/join/give.  While the majority of alumni organizations don’t focus on trying to incentivize alumni to engage, the data shows that opt-out rates and poor engagement rates (especially among young alumni) are likely lagging indicators that show institutions aren’t making a strong enough case for support among their alumni.

85           Percent of alumni professionals who believe their organization does a poor job, or needs to do more to attract and engage young alumni.  Attracting and engaging young alumni has become increasingly challenging, and the data indicates that young alumni want to communicate via their mobile device, on social media, or via web chat, yet few institutions are equipped to do so... and that correlates to the next number:

75          Percent of alumni professionals who believe their organization needs to update the technology solutions/benefits they offer their alumni/ae.  These two stats indicate a correlation between engaging young alumni and offering technology tools that are popular among younger audiences.

6              Percent of alumni organizations that report the benefits they offer have a strong influence on alumni engagement.  While only a small percentage of alumni organizations offer engaging benefits, surprisingly most are NOT dues-paying organizations. Many of these alumni organizations use benefits as a tool to attract, incentivize and engage alumni.  See our article here about the 3 Highest Rated (not lame) Alumni Benefits.



67         Percent of alumni organizations that are integrated with institutional fundraising, or are working toward integration.  4% report they are not integrated and have no plans to integrate.  The assimilation of alumni relations and institutional fundraising is an ongoing trend that we’ve written about previously. The most recent survey indicates that trend continues into 2017.

6.1      Percent increase in the number of alumni organizations who report their alumni budget has increased in 2016. Overall, 38% of alumni organizations report an increase in budget in 2016.  Still, 52% report their budget has decreased or remained the same.   

4             Average number of solicitations higher education institutions send to new graduates within the first twelve months after graduation. This raises ongoing questions about the assimilation of alumni relations with institutional fundraising, and how cultivation and engagement efforts can take a back seat to the demands of fundraising.  See my article:  When Development Treats Alumni Like Their ATM.


Alumni Professional’s Anxiety Index

70      Percent of alumni professionals who report that being under-staffed is either “very” or “somewhat” concerning.  We’ve written extensively about the correlation between staffing and engagement.  See our whitepaper: Staffing and Budget Benchmarks for higher education alumni organizations.

68        Percent of alumni professionals reporting that a “general lack of alumni engagement” is a significant concern. We  plan to write extensively about this issue in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned! (Or simply subscribe to be notified when these new articles are released)

44           Percent of alumni professionals that are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the lack of strategic leadership in their alumni organization. With the previous stat regarding lack of engagement, and this stat regarding concerns about strategic leadership, the digital generation gap may be at the root of the problem. See this article for more details.

3              Percent of alumni professionals who are very concerned about losing their job.  90% of alumni professionals report “little” or “no concern” about losing their job.  Despite some of these discouraging trends and challenges we face, alumni professionals enjoy job security, and are pretty darn fortunate to work in such a positive and rewarding industry.


I’m pleased to report that we’ve had a huge response to the VAESE study. We received over 800 responses, with a significant number from highly respected and influential institutions from around the globe. All types and sizes of institutions are well represented. Our confidence level in our data is even higher than last year.  With so much data, our analysis will take some time. I plan to release small segments of the new data in the coming weeks and months.  To be notified when it's released, subscribe here.



subscribe to Alumni Access blog


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