The Top Challenges for Alumni Relations and How to Overcome Them

May 2022 — By Keith Hannon

At BrightCrowd, we work with more than 200 colleges and universities. Though the schools all differ in size, level of alumni involvement, and public or private designation, they all struggle with a few common challenges:

  • Reduced Budgets
  • Limited Staff
  • Inefficient Technology

In the current environment, these challenges aren’t going anywhere, and unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased their crippling stronghold at already struggling universities.

But despite these obstacles, innovative services like BrightCrowd are helping alumni relations increase overall engagement, giving pipelines, and alumni participation. Today we'll discuss each of these challenges more closely and highlight how universities are addressing them with BrightCrowd.

Reduced Budgets

Shrinking overall university budgets, and especially alumni relations budgets, have been paralyzing for many alumni associations. Without sufficient funding, schools are struggling to create strategic and effective campaigns that drive alumni engagement, and in turn, build their alumni giving network. Alumni make up the second-largest source of higher education contributions. Without this key revenue source, universities may struggle to fund programming, faculty salaries, scholarships, and more.

Many have just accepted this as a new reality. In fact, 43% of higher-education fundraisers have vocalized that they aren’t expecting to meet their goals. So, how can you mitigate the challenges of minimized budgets and still build impactful engagement and participation in university alumni relations initiatives to meet your goals?

BrightCrowd’s alumni digital memory books allow organizations to increase reach, engagement, and lead pipelines at a cost that fits within your standard swag budget. (Trust us, the results are far more valuable than those you’ll get from mugs, pens, and t-shirts!) While returning to campus for a reunion is only realistic for a small percentage of graduating classes or affinity groups, an unlimited number of alumni can create a page in your customized digital memory book from anywhere in the world. Simply complementing your reunion with a BrightCrowd book can drastically increase your alumni engagement rates for a fraction of the cost. Many of our university partners see more than double the number of participants in their books than they do for traditional initiatives.

Limited Staff

The Great Resignation has affected every industry, with more than 38 million workers quitting their jobs in 2021. If your alumni relations team is struggling to find, train, and retain new staff, you’re not alone. And for the remaining staff that are left to fill in the gaps, longer hours are leading to increased burnout and lower productivity.

While 70% of alumni relations professionals say their number one priority is to increase alumni engagement, almost one-third said they had no dedicated strategy in place to do so. Without a full team to build a creative strategy and then execute it, that top goal will likely be a miss.

With BrightCrowd, you’ll be able to immediately boost your alumni engagement rates without any additional personnel (a welcome relief, especially when compared to other alumni engagement tools/services!). BrightCrowd’s personalized alumni books launch within just one day. Plus, our simple user interface and dedicated university FAQ pages ensure that alumni worldwide can create a page in less than 10 minutes without any help from already limited alumni relations staff. Our team of experienced alumni and advancement professionals becomes your team’s dedicated consultants, assisting with the implementation and management of your books.

Inefficient, Outdated Technology

Another frustrating challenge plaguing alumni associations and universities is outdated technology and data. Roughly 50% of email addresses on record with university relations are not deliverable, and those that are accurate mean little more than a name to a university. The platforms many institutions use don’t enable alumni relations staff to intelligently understand more than simple contact and graduating class information from their existing alumni database.

This lack of actionable data leads universities to spend their already limited marketing dollars on generic snail mail and email campaigns that often do more harm than good. Generic campaigns lead to:

  • Higher opt-out rates
  • Higher unsubscribes
  • Little-to-no return on investment

Vaese’s 2020 Alumni Benchmarking Study uncovered that the average alumni organization’s email unsubscribe rate is 0.5%. Though this may sound low, it’s 150% higher than the industry-wide average for email marketing. And the trend is only increasing. The number of universities with opt-out rates of 10% (or greater!) has increased 79% in the last five years.

When you consider that businesses can spend as much as 80% of their budgets on lead generation, you’ll immediately see why opt-outs can have costly consequences. Personalization is key to creating campaigns that convert alumni and provide measurable ROI for marketing efforts.

So, how do you easily obtain updated data that can be used in more personalized outreach efforts while combating the first two challenges we discussed? You guessed it – BrightCrowd!

On average, 30-50% of alumni invited to join a university BrightCrowd book end up creating a page. While alumni build renewed and meaningful connections amongst their peers, universities collect detailed contact information, anecdotes, and personal stories that can be imported into existing databases and used in future marketing campaigns.

Overcome Your Alumni Relations Challenges With BrightCrowd

In today’s climate, challenges are inevitable, but subpar results don’t have to be!

Enhance your alumni engagement strategy, build your database, and create long-lasting alumni relationships through the power of BrightCrowd’s digital memory books. Whether you launch memory books for recent graduates, affinity groups, graduating classes, or university initiatives like anniversaries, you’ll get the benefits of engaged alumni and updated (actionable!) contact reports without needing additional budget, staff, or technology.

Ready to learn more about how a strategic partnership with BrightCrowd can enhance your alumni relations efforts? Contact us and schedule a complimentary demo today!

Keith Hannon