Alumni Column: Measuring Alumni Engagement to Colgate

I wanted to take a few minutes to share with the Colgate community at large an interesting project officially launched in July 2012. The project, titled “Engagement Metrics Project,” is an effort by the offices of Advancement and Alumni Relations to establish quantitative metrics pertaining to alumni engagement to Colgate. It reads, “for purposes of measuring data and setting benchmarks/goals, the project focuses on three forms of engagement to Colgate: volunteerism, giving and event attendance. To calculate a percentage of alumni who are engaged with Colgate, each alumnus who performs in any of those ways are considered engaged. Each alumnus is counted once, so a volunteer that makes a donation and attends 10 events is still counted just once. With those numbers, we create an Alumni Engagement Index.”

The Financial Year of 2012 (FY2012) data summarized below is helpful in establishing benchmark metrics:

Volunteers:1,825 alumni served in key volunteer roles for Colgate in FY2012

Giving:12,932 alumni made a gift to Colgate in FY2012

Event attendance:6,867 alumni attended a Colgate event in FY2012

Engaged/No Gift: 1,658 alumni volunteered or attended an event but did not make a gift

The bottom line:

14,590:individual alumni engaged with Colgate in FY2012

27,164: alumni (removing those who are missing, “do not contact”, “do not solicit”)

Therefore, the FY2012 Alumni Engagement Index for Colgate is 53.7 percent.

Is 53.7 percent good? Who knows? What I do know is that the business of higher education is an increasingly competitive and crowded market place; especially as web-based education and distance learning opportunities proliferate around the globe. 

It makes sense for Colgate to develop metrics to measure alumni engagement. After all, an engaged alumni body suggests demand for the intangibles behind the brand that is Colgate. High demand suggests perceived value, which can be monetized in the form of gifts of time and treasure. By engaging with Colgate, an alumnus is essentially “buying” into Colgate.

But what exactly is being purchased? Personally, I equate my contributions to Colgate to the payment of my monthly Comcast bill. Both deliver “bundled benefits.” Where a single payment to Comcast simultaneously delivers phone, cable and Internet services, investing in Colgate delivers countless rewards.

For me, investing in Colgate is an investment in the preservation of friendships and memories, both old ones to be fostered and new ones to be formed. It means supporting a not-for-profit institution that represents much of what is important in life and in the world, an institution that will not survive without our support. It is an investment in the youth of today so that they may pursue their interests and passions and become the leaders of tomorrow. It means making a Colgate education accessible to more than just the wealthy. It means access to an influential network of more than 27,000 fellow alumni who will support my efforts to find a new job or advance an existing one. It means I may smile again and be proud when Colgate is once again listed near the top of the U.S. News rankings or when one of our Division I teams wins a game.

An investment in Colgate is an investment in the future of our country. It helps preserve quality education in the United States so that we may continue to be leading innovators in business and technology, strengthen our economy and defend our freedoms against the spread of tyranny around the world. Call me sentimental, but when I see the block “C,” deep feelings are evoked that I want preserved for myself and for future generations. 

So, as Colgate’s advancement professionals seek to increase Colgate’s Alumni Engagement Index, please reflect on what engagement to Colgate means to you. You will not be disappointed. Go ‘Gate!