Understanding the CASE Four Modes of Alumni Engagement

February 2023 — By BrightCrowd

Alumni engagement is imperative when it comes to the current and future success of colleges and universities. As the number of high school seniors seeking higher education has slowly declined in recent years, institutions are struggling to meet enrollment goals and increase alumni participation. With enrollment down nearly 4.1% nationwide, there’s even more pressure on philanthropy to support school budgets.

We know alumni engagement has always been crucial to the long-term success of an institution, but now CASE has developed "buckets" that help create a better understanding of how the type of engagement inspires a deeper connection with alma mater.

Given the various ways that alumni may choose to engage with their alma mater, it can often be difficult for universities to measure what efforts are most beneficial. As a result, alumni engagement can be broken down into four different modes. Let’s take an in-depth look at each one.

Mode #1: Experiential Engagement

Experiential engagement refers to the “experience” that alumni receive when participating in alumni events. Traditional alumni reunions or homecoming celebrations, memberships in school-sponsored associations, involvement in networking opportunities, and seasonal attendance at sporting events or cultural programs typically fall within this category. These opportunities are meant to foster meaningful relationships between the university and its alumni, as well as amongst one another – this mode of engagement focuses on driving school spirit and raising awareness.

As recent trends indicate the rise in popularity of virtual events and gatherings, schools and universities must expand their alumni efforts to target a newer and broader target audience. Whether it’s granting online access to social events and association meetings or live-streaming theatrical performances, it’s important that schools extend access to all their alumni. Expanding options for participation allow colleges and universities to attract individuals who are unable to attend these in-person events but would like to actively remain connected with their school in the way that suits them best. One of the simplest ways to supplement traditional in-person experiences and enhance engagement is through BrightCrowd’s digital scrapbooks. With a BrightCrowd digital memory book, alumni can create personalized pages within a matter of minutes from anywhere in the world. These personalized pages offer a non-committal way for past, present, and future students to participate in experiences they cannot attend in person.

Mode #2: Volunteer Engagement

Volunteer engagement focuses on the ways that alumni can give back to their college or university in a non-financial capacity. This can be viewed simply as donating one’s time. Some individuals may wish to have a more hands-on approach when it comes to making important decisions regarding the college or its affiliated associations. One example would be serving on an alumni advisory board. Here they can provide guidance on how to effectively promote the university throughout the community, aid in the development of new programs, and ensure the use of fair practices. The alumni advisory board might be an ideal opportunity for seasoned professionals that are looking to give back to future generations.

Alumni with outgoing and energetic personalities may find that their strengths lie within the realm of student recruitment. Attending college fairs, participating in campus tours, or attending networking events can help spread awareness of the school’s unique offerings and work towards increasing school spirit. Student recruitment efforts can be tailored to meet the needs of both broad and niche target audiences.

Volunteers can also provide career mentorship to those students that may be struggling to obtain internships, job interviews, or leadership positions. Having forged a successful path for themselves, alumni can provide valuable insight when it comes to choosing a major, identifying career choices, and developing one’s own professional network. Access to career mentorship may increase the likelihood that students graduate with a positive attitude and willingness to promote their alma mater.

Mode #3: Communication Engagement

Communication is key when it comes to increasing overall alumni engagement. Although many colleges and universities utilize direct mail, email lists, and newsletters to connect with alumni, these efforts are often one-way.

While basic metrics are available from the above efforts, colleges and universities can take the power of digital interactions one step further by introducing the use of digital books. Digital books, such as those provided by BrightCrowd, are an excellent way to inspire more meaningful connections and generate key qualitative data that schools otherwise miss from other marketing efforts. An institution can measure the engagement ROI by tracking the number of pages created, as well as the number of pages visited per participant.

Mode #4: Philanthropic Engagement

The final mode of engagement is philanthropic engagement. University endowments and donations are crucial to funding academic and athletic programs, providing student scholarships, maintaining campus infrastructure, and employing qualified faculty and staff. Alumni donors can contribute hard or soft donations to universities to be used in conjunction with any state or federal government funding. While the ultimate goal is philanthropic engagement, it doesn’t have to be the alumni relations office’s only approach. Studies show that those alumni engaged in one of the non-philanthropic engagement tiers are more likely to still be donors. To measure philanthropic engagement, colleges can create databases that store information about each individual donor and the amount of funding that was raised across various campaigns.

How BrightCrowd Supports the Four Modes of Alumni Engagement

Alumni engagement can be difficult to track. It comes in various forms and is often more qualitative than quantitative in nature. By using digital tools to support your in-person engagement strategies, you can more effectively grow all four modes of engagement at your school.

Partnering with BrightCrowd can help you expand engagement in the following ways:

  1. Experiential Engagement: BrightCrowd books increase participation for many in-person experiences, while also delivering data and insights not normally shared by attendees.
  2. Volunteer Engagement: Digital books are a great way to empower volunteers to rally specific communities of alumni together in support of each other, students, and the institution.
  3. Communication Engagement: BrightCrowd books celebrate a specific affinity group, (class, sports, team, greek chapter, etc) thereby making them a great way to communicate with alumni. Communications sent through BrightCrowd books typically see 2-3 times the average email open rates.
  4. Philanthropic Engagement: Because BrightCrowd digital books focus on a community that alumni have a personal connection to, they are more inclined to share information about themselves than they would be for an alumni directory or social media group. This provides the institution with hundreds to thousands of "contact reports" per book, which gives insight into donor capacity and inclination.

Contact BrightCrowd today to learn more about meaningfully engaging your alumni and boosting your alumni engagement metrics.