How to show ROI + improve alumni engagement with your alumni relations program

Improve alumni engagement with alumni relations software

The ultimate guide for alumni relations professionals

You’re investing heavily in your alumni engagement activities, but how do you measure whether what you are doing is working and what metrics should you be looking at?

As a college or university alumni relations professional, you know intuitively that the more engaged the alumnus, the more likely they are to give to the school. But without data to back up this notion, you can’t really prove it and act on it. Like every department in the school, yours answers to board members and leadership regarding expenditure on programming and return on investment (ROI). When trying to justify your resources, facts and figures speak louder than guesswork and feelings. 

Taking their cue from the world of fundraising, many alumni relations departments measure success in terms of funds raised or numbers of ‘friends’ converted into ‘donors,’ but these metrics do not provide a full picture of an alumni relations program’s success. This is because alumni relations activities focus on multiple areas of which fundraising is only a small part.

So, let’s consider what metrics an alumni relations department should be measuring and how alumni relations software can help gather data that meaningfully demonstrate ROI of your alumni engagement efforts.


In business, ROI is a performance measure used to evaluate the gains reaped as a result of the initial investment in a company or program. In the world of alumni relations, however, it makes more sense to talk about alumni engagement rather than investment. The more engaged alumni are, the more likely they are to give back to the school on every level, not just financially. 

In their analysis of several clients, Gravyty discovered that donors are disproportionately likely to be active members of their institution’s alumni network. Their research revealed that many alumni only became donors after joining an alumni network and also that for those who were already donors, the average donation size rose steeply once alumni became actively engaged.

So how and where do you measure engagement?

Key parts of a successful alumni relations program

There are many facets to a successful, engaged alumni program.

Recruitment of prospective students 

First and foremost, the success of an alumni relations department at higher education institutions can be measured by the number of alumni it recruits into its ranks. The more members, the more impact they can make. 

Community-building initiatives

This can be anything that builds community and makes alumni want to belong, such as online and in-person events and special interest groups. It also includes a vibrant online alumni community such as those hosted in many schools through the Graduway virtual alumni platform


Alumni departments sometimes support direct fundraising, like when helping to arrange a Giving Day. More commonly, however, they are only indirectly involved in fundraising by getting alumni more engaged and therefore more likely to give to the school. 

Career services: Meaningful matchmaking 

This is one of the most popular services offered by alumni relations departments. It is not uncommon for prospective students to select a school based on the strength of its careers program. Prospective students want to know that they will be supported at all stages of their career and gain access to an active and committed career networking community consisting of mentors, employers and peers. Some common careers services are online or offline mentorship programs, in-person events, webinars, interview training, alumni job boards and active recruiting by local recruiters.  

In order to demonstrate the ROE of your department, you should track each of your different programs and activities individually. Doing so allows you to evaluate the level of engagement each program is sparking separately, as well as the engagement level of your department as a whole.

Different types of engagement

The Global Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) developed an industry standard for measuring alumni engagement

The CASE framework identifies four main areas in which alumni can actively contribute, or ‘engage with,’ the school: 

  • Philanthropic—Making a donation at any level
  • Volunteerism—Giving of their time on behalf of the institution
  • Experiential—Attending an online or offline event 
  • Communication—Having some form of trackable communication with the school

The framework advises recording the number of alumni participating in any of the above ways each year and feeding them into a formula to get an overall engagement score.

While it is not necessary to follow their specific process, the CASE Framework provides useful guidance about what kinds of engagement an alumni relations department can track when evaluating their programs.

How alumni engagement software helps

Using a virtual platform to host and manage your alumni relations program is the most efficient and scalable way to gather the necessary data to demonstrate ROI (or ROE). As well as providing a customized platform for your alumni to connect and collaborate, Graduway also gathers analytics on all activities which can be used to demonstrate program success through KPIs. 

Say, for example, you wanted to see what percentage of your alumni volunteered as mentors, what percentage of total alumni created a profile on the platform, or how many attended a certain webinar—all this data is readily available to you.

You can also track how engaged certain alumni are in certain groups and which of your events or programs are the most successful and which need improving.

What you measure gets better

Anything you can measure, you can improve. Using alumni relations software like Graduway takes the worry and stress out of measuring your programs’ ROI—or ROE. All the data is collected and stored in the backend, where you can analyze it, create reports, or use it to set KPIs. In an environment where schools are being run more and more like businesses, any tool that helps you collect data and use it to measure ROI and set targets is extremely valuable. 

Start measuring success of your alumni engagement program with Graduway. Reach out to us today to get started.

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