Best Practices

Why should you embrace Alumni Centricity?

Why should you embrace Alumni Centricity?




June 29, 2021

Last modified: 

June 29, 2021

Is your institution student-centric? Certainly, most of the institutions will respond with a firm affirmation. Students are the sole reason for the existence of educational institutions; how can they not be student-centric? However, when the same question is translated to the Alumni Relations plane, the answers are not as obvious as they may seem. The concept of alumni centricity might sound simple on the surface but a deep dive reveals that a majority of advancement professionals are not quite sure about the essence of it.

Alumni engagement fundraising

What is Alumni Centricity?

Alumni-Centricity is a discipline of advancing your institution by building relationships that are not solely based on alumni loyalty, but equally on value; keeping the needs and behavior of the alumni at the center of program design. It paves the way for lifelong relationships that are mutually rewarding and more fulfilling. Despite the benefits, most institutions are not able to incorporate it in their engagement strategies. A simple question can dig out the reason behind this.

Do institutions understand their alumni enough to focus on their needs?

 Alumni Centricity Framework
The Alumni Centricity Framework. This approach captures the very essence of alumni centricity as it places alumni right at the center of program design. Instead of the traditional technique of creating alumni programming based on team resources, the alumni centricity framework is an approach that builds programs based on what alumni need.

Why do you need to be alumni-centric?

According to the 2020 VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking Study, 46% of alumni organizations have at least 10% of their alumni who have opted-out of contact with their alma mater.

As advancement teams let revenue generation guide their decision-making, what often gets overlooked are alumni programs that matter to alumni and their changing needs. Alternatively, institutions simply continue to deliver programs they've always had, crushing all creativity, and steering farther away from catering to needs of their alumni as they approach crucial landmarks in their lives. All these factors result in a severe disconnect between alumni and their alma mater.

Institutes that have gauged this disconnect have started to transform their engagement strategy. They’ve seen barriers break by understanding their alumni better, and this understanding has helped them design useful programs. They have seen tangible results by surpassing engagement and revenue goals and collecting more alumni data.

If you are still on the fence about whether or not your institution has an alumni-centric approach, this simple exercise by Jay Dillon can help you figure it out.

The cost of not embracing Alumni Centricity

While we’ve understood the need for educational advancement to embrace alumni centricity, the next question that might pop in your head is, “We’ve always done things this way and we seem to be doing okay. Why change anything?”

According to the latest CASE Annual Giving Survey, for the first time in a decade, the total giving for the fiscal year 2020 dipped slightly from the previous year. And at this point, you might bring up Michael Bloomberg’s billion-dollar story, but tell me this - would Bloomberg have contributed if he had not felt a continuous sense of connection with his alma mater? The answer is a flat no. Every institution has its own Bloomberg, and not focusing on his/her needs is a lost opportunity as universities now compete for the attention and donations of their alumni.

Additionally, many institutions still rely on gifts from 5-10% of their alumni, that account for about 90% of all the funds they raise. Amidst an economic crisis ensued from Covid-19, this over-reliance on a select group of donors has led to some institutions facing massive constraints and a few even shutting shop.

The disconnect between institution and alumni further leads to alumni estrangement. If you continue to focus on short-term fundraising rather than the needs of your alumni, your endless solicitation calls would sooner or later meet a dead end. Your alumni will see little to no value being delivered to them and eventually, would discontinue the relationship, starting with opting out of communication.

This is the way: Alumni Centricity

It’s not too late for you to take the plunge and turn the tables: a win-win situation where you and your alumni both derive value from constant mutual efforts to serve each other’s needs. Aligning your engagement strategies to meet the needs of your alumni is the only way forward to build lifelong relationships while driving engagement, hitting revenue goals, and collecting more alumni data.

Want to know how institutions around you are embracing alumni centricity to drive alumni participation? Here are a few reads that I think you’ll enjoy:

1. Piedmont College launched a virtual giving campaign to support sheltered students and provide protective gear to frontline healthcare professionals on campus. Read the story.

2. Antioch College provided emotional support via a Virtual Dance Party to alumni amidst the pandemic. Read the story.

3. Misericordia University transitioned to a Virtual Homecoming celebration amidst the pandemic, keeping the health and safety of its community as the utmost priority. Read the story.

4. As the Class of 2020 missed their traditional commencement, William Peace University found a way to uplift their spirits by launching a series of virtual engagement opportunities to toast to the success of these grads. Read the story.

About the Author

Kalyan Varma

Kalyan Varma | CEO & Co-Founder of Almabase

Kalyan believes in helping universities build lifelong relationships with their alumni by helping them increase participation. He is also the host of the Almabase Spotlights Podcast, which showcases relatable stories and actionable ideas of various Alumni Relations and Fundraising professionals. Kalyan has previously delivered sessions at CASE and Blackbaud conferences and is the creator of the popular LinkedIn series  #30daysofadvancementideas.


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