The Key to Analyzing Results at Scale

Using higher education engagement data to adjust advancement strategy.

GUEST COLUMN | by Mirko Widenhorn

With everything going on, who has time to look at advancement data and why bother? None of us thought this year would turn out this way, and we’re all pivoting constantly to adjust to the latest situation of the day.

But what if I told you that now is the perfect time to use technology to increase the use of advancement and alumni data for making decisions on where to focus time and energy? Rather than focusing on all graduates as one group, what if you were able to leverage technology to break out and review who is engaging with you at different levels?

‘…now is the perfect time to use technology to increase the use of advancement and alumni data for making decisions on where to focus time and energy…’

This takes the opportunity for personalization and segmentation to the next level and helps your team foster deeper relationships with graduates. Personalization and segmentation have become the expectation of graduates – that’s the type of communication all of us receive daily from brands with which we interact.

Smart Strategy Shifts

Implementing automated, data-driven approaches to generate insight into who and how graduates are engaging with the institution allows you to tailor specific strategies to groups of individuals. One example that many schools already use are recent alumni programs – these resonate with a subset of the recent alumni population. However, by using analytics to establish an engagement score for every graduate, you can automate the process of identifying similarities and differences in engagement by graduating class, the school or college level, the institution as a whole, or at the individual level. In our research, we have found that the older “recent” graduates are less engaged with their alma mater, often including the groups that graduated seven to ten years ago. 

By reviewing engagement data at scale through a technology dashboard and reporting, institutions can identify whether that is the case at their institution and shift their strategy to engage these populations. This may be an indication that communications and programming are more tailored to the most recent graduates, rather than those who graduated in previous years.

This is just one example of how actionable data can help tailor strategies. Another way that engagement data can be helpful is to identify populations that you may want to reduce communication with. By looking at individuals who have not engaged in measurable ways over a period of several years, have no giving history, graduated years ago, and have low capacity, it may not make sense to continue to solicit them as frequently. Perhaps this group of graduates receives fewer print solicitations, fewer issues of the magazine, or other print communications, saving funds that can be invested in other segments that are more engaged with the institution.

Lastly, tech-enabled engagement data also provides an opportunity to track and assess progress in real time. By having an overall engagement score for graduates and being able to track that score over time using a solution, an institution can see how communication and programmatic changes are impacting engagement within the population. This provides one data point that can be used to highlight activity, rather than needing to track a number of different elements.

A Final Data Point

These are only a few ways that data-driven engagement information can help you refine strategies and incorporate new data points and actionable decisions into your engagement and fundraising goals; it’s bound to be different within each institution but automation is key to generate and analyze results at scale.

Mirko Widenhorn, Ed.D, is Senior Director of Engagement Strategy at Anthology, a leading higher education enterprise data management solution. Follow @mwidenhorn

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