Why is the VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking study both a valuable peice of research AND free to alumni relations professionals. Because it is a world-wide crowd-sourced study, all participants deserve to have free access to its findings. The second reason involves the law of reciprocation.

(About a 5 minute read)

I’m pleased to provide the 2017 VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking Study. If you haven't done so already, you can download it free here: http://ww2.accessdevelopment.com/vaese_alumni_study_download

This is the second year Access Development has conducted this comprehensive assessment of higher education alumni relations practices. But I am frequently asked why go to the effort and expense of conducting this study, and then give the results away?  Why don’t you charge something for it? The implication being, it can’t be of much value if it’s free. 

Well, allow me to explain why it’s both highly valuable, why you will benefit from having it, and why we want it to remain free for alumni relations and advancement professionals.  


1- Scope and Accuracy

This year’s study includes 866 completed responses from 581 unique institutions worldwide, representing alumni professionals in 17 countries on five continents. Notwithstanding the international participation, 91% of respondents hail from institutions within the United States, with all 50 states represented.

All types and sizes of institutions are represented. Some report their alumni database exceeds 750,000 alumni, while others have fewer than 5,000 total alumni.

We’re pleased to see that the vast majority of large institutions participated, with 74% of all NCAA Division 1 institutions represented. Additionally, of the 65 schools comprising the Power 5 Conferences, 85% of these institutions participated.

2- Methodology & Limitations

We have not included responses from institutions who do not employ at least one half-time FTE serving in an alumni relations/engagement capacity. Wherever possible, we have combined responses from the same institution, or selected responses from the highest ranking executive, with the aim of avoiding bias in favor of one institution, or one particular type of institution. When considering the total number of institutions that meet this criteria, our overall margin of error is a respectable +/- 2.69%.

While we invested significant resources into collecting, analyzing and disseminating this study, we must be clear of what it is and is not. The VAESE study is not academic research, but a business intelligence (BI) tool. We have made every effort to execute a professional study according to the highest standards of business research. But with any BI tool it can have its flaws.

3- Worldwide Collaboration

Evidenced by the overwhelming number of alumni professionals who downloaded last year's study, we know there's a significant need for this type of research. As most advancement research relates to fundraising, we saw a need that wasn't being met. We reached out to alumni professionals world-wide and received valuable input about how to craft this study, and what information they’d like to know about their peers.

Because this study is a collaborative effort, we were determined to share the results openly under the less restrictive Creative Commons licensing that permits remixing, re-purposing and building upon this work, providing the original study is referenced as the source. Our approach of offering this research free of charge may contradict the typical practice where quality research and analysis comes at a substantial price. But because so many collaborated to make it happen, it’s only fair that we make it available to everyone.

4- Practicing What We Preach: the Law of Reciprocation

The most significant reason we offer this research free of charge is because we are practicing what we preach. We believe in what social scientists call the Law of Reciprocation. When you give something of value, you generate goodwill, and most normal people feel compelled to reciprocate in some way. We see this law in action when we go to a supermarket and try a free sample. Something makes us feel socially obligated to reciprocate, whether it’s offering a compliment or buying the product. We are wired to give back when someone gives us something of value.

Likewise, we encourage alumni organizations to offer benefits that can attract and engage their alumni. Doing so starts that cycle of reciprocation and improves the probability that your alumni will give of their time, talents and treasure.

By our giving away the VEASE study with all its data, research and analysis, we are hoping you will likewise consider Alumni Access when you are looking for a compelling alumni benefit. Alumni Access leverages the nation’s largest alumni discount network, and gives your alumni rich, deep discounts at 150,000 local restaurants and retailers. When you give your alumni this tool capable of saving each alumnus from $250-$500 per year, the goodwill you generate will spur engagement and giving. 

I’m happy to discuss this report with alumni and advancement professionals and answer specific questions about our data and analysis.

Feel free to contact me here at gary.toyn@alumniaccess.com


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