New white paper gives alumni/advancement professionals comparative benchmarks for alumni staff, budgets and ratios of dollars spent per alumni . 

About a 4 minute read. 

We are happy to announce our newest whitepaper: Staffing & Budget Benchmarks for Higher Education Alumni Organizations. It’s free, and you can get it here: 


It’s just another tool to help improve the scientific rigor of the alumni relations and engagement profession.

Since we released VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking Study in March, hundreds of alumni relations and advancement executives have leveraged this study to help them make informed business decisions. Others have written about some of its unexpected findings, or argued for or against my conclusions. Here’s a sampling of those articles here, here and here.

But with so much available data, we were simply unable to publish all the available findings in our original report. I’ve since used the data to write about topics related to alumni staffing levels, conflicts between athletics and alumni, skills development in alumni relations, database management best practices, and alumni benefits.

And yet the data continues to beg new questions. So much so that many institutions have approached us with specific requests for comparative data about their peer institutions. Their hope was to find reliable data that will help them compare themselves with organizations of similar size.

That’s the reason for this whitepaper.

You’ll find new benchmarks for such things as professional and clerical staffing levels, general budgets and programming budgets. You’ll also find ratios relating to the number of professional staff per clerical staff, and the total number of alumni/ae per staff member.

Best of all, the data is structured to allow comparisons between peer institutions according to the size of the alumni database.


The Average Alumni Organization  

So as a little teaser of what you’ll find in the white paper, here are some numbers to show statistically what the “average” alumni organization looks like. Of course, there is no such thing as a typical alumni organization. All institutions can have vastly different goals, budgets, staffing, history and circumstances. But it can be interesting to see how your organization compares with the statistical average alumni organization.

You’ll notice a metric called “Dollars per Alumni” or DPA. It provides a simple metric to compare organizations of differing size, and is similar to per-pupil unit spending metric used in K-12 public education that allows states and school districts to compare spending levels with each other.

Along with providing a DPA for all sizes of alumni organization, you’ll also find the total budget numbers into the amount spent for salaries and benefits, and the amount dedicated on the direct costs of alumni programming. 


Average Database:

Total Alumni in database:                                                            81,023

Total Addressable Alumni:                                                           61,937

Percent of Addressable Alumni:                                                  76.4%


Average Staffing

Total Alumni Staff (In FTE):                                                           7.26

Clerical Staff (In FTE):                                                                    1.62

Total Professional Staff:                                                                5.65


Average Budget

Total Budget (Includes Salaries/Benefits):                                   $553,574

Total Programming Budget:                                                         $235,977

Percent of Total Budget Spent on Salaries/Benefits:                   57%

Percent of Total Budget Dedicated to Programming:                 43%


Ratios & Proportions

Ratio of Clerical Staff per FTE:                                                      .27 to 1

Ratio of Staff to Alumni:                                                                1 to 11,155

Average Total DPA: (Total Budget)                                               $6.83

Average Programming DPA:                                                         $2.91    


What You’ll Find in the White Paper

The white paper provides these same metrics for alumni organizations based on the size of the alumni database. We have broken it down into seven segments, starting with small alumni organizations under 25,000 alumni, and ending with large organizations with 250,000 or more.

As an aside, we extracted this data from over 450 institutions who participated in the VAESE survey. However, not all organizations opted to provide their budget data. Fortunately, we have more than enough data to achieve a high level of confidence in nearly all identified segments, with the exception of organizations with 250,000+ alumni. For whatever reason, many organizations of this size opted not to provide their budget data for this study. Consequently, this particular segment has a margin of error is 9.5% +/-. All other segments have a margin of error of roughly 5% +/-.

Hopefully, when the next VAESE survey goes out to alumni professionals in November, organizations of all sizes will be willing to share their budget information with their peers. And as always, we’re committed to providing this valuable data to alumni and advancement professionals free of charge.

I’d love your feedback on this white paper. Let me know what types of information is most useful in your situation, and what type of data you would like to see.

Happy reading.







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Topics: Alumni Relations & Engagement, Customer Engagement, surveys, higher education, white paper, benchmarks

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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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