How Northwestern Health Sciences University drove 1000+ event registrations in 2 years by adopting alumni centricity

With a small team overlooking alumni functions for over 9000 alumni, Northwestern Health Sciences University found it challenging to keep its alumni database updated and drive consistent engagement. Additionally, the pandemic prompted the university to rethink its alumni programming with alumni at the center. The University leveraged the Almabase & Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT integration to update its alumni database while successfully engaging alumni digitally.


of alumni either have an updated email ID, phone number, or mailing address


alumni engaged over emails


event registrations in less than 2 years

William Peace University grand welcome to the Class of 2020 virtually with Almabase

About Northwestern Health Sciences University

Established in 1941, Northwestern Health Sciences University is one of the largest natural health care research institutions in the United States. Its programs focus on alternative and integrative health care, patient care and research. The university has surpassed the $7 million mark, raised through funds for their research programs and is only expanding since.

Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, the university is abode to eleven academic programs ranging from Undergraduate in Health Sciences to Doctoral degrees in Chiropractic and Chinese Medicine, with a community of over 9000 alumni.

What were the challenges faced by Northwestern Health Sciences University?

1. Low alumni participation

Despite attempts to engage their alumni over social media and emails, the University found it testing to fetch expected participation from its alumni community. In a year where universities across the globe had to find new ways to substitute in-person alumni events, Northwestern Health Sciences University not only had to focus on finding a way to navigate the crisis, but also drive higher participation through it.

2. Outdated alumni database

Northwestern Health Sciences University, like many other institutions, found it challenging to keep track of its vast community of over 9000 alumni. With only a limited staff handling alumni operations, their database required automation to maintain updated information of their alumni.

3. Absence of a culture of philanthropy

Another challenge that the alumni development team faced was the absence of a philanthropic culture in the community. The University was not able to boost fundraising capacity and found it difficult to cultivate the sense of giving back amongst its community members.

4. Limited staff resources

With a small team overlooking alumni operations, it was exceedingly difficult to reach out and connect with a colossal alumni community at Northwestern Health Sciences University. The University’s alumni engagement & fundraising efforts are largely overseen by Katy Hargis (Development Manager) and Joe Crosby (Marketing Program Manager).

5. Too many silos of email communication

The alumni development team at Northwestern Health Sciences University had a diverse alumni population to cater to. However, the University lacked the right tools to segment alumni based on various criteria such as class years, interests, location, employment status, etc. to engage in more effective, personalized email outreach. The institution, therefore, needed to shift to a more streamlined platform for email communication, for a better engagement experience.

What was Northwestern Health Sciences University able to achieve after implementing Almabase?

1. Drive higher alumni engagement by being more alumni-centric

Leveraging its online alumni platform and an alumni-centric engagement strategy, Northwestern Health Sciences University was able to effortlessly drive higher alumni engagement consistently since 2018. In addition to hosting in-person engagement initiatives before the pandemic, the University drove participation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic via a string of easily accessible virtual events -  panel discussions, online career seminars, and their virtual series Navigating Now that discussed and explored ideas on career, community and professional development.

The University has sent out over 200K emails, consistently engaging 51% of the alumni community in less than 2 years.

The University started its Navigating Now series amidst the pandemic to support NWHSU alumni and other health professionals. The series included a host of virtual events aimed at enabling conversations on careers, community, and the current state of healthcare.

The University sent email invites to alumni to connect with other health professionals as a part of the Navigating Now series

After significant delays due to the pandemic, NWHSU team successfully hosted their 40th Annual John B.Wolfe Alumni & Friends Golf Tournament with adequate safety measures in place. The University invited registrations for the in-person event via social media and emails.

NWHSU hosted several virtual seminar series during the pandemic that served as educational resources. University alum Alex Sundin invited community members to the Virtual Chiropractic Homecoming 2021. View the post on Facebook.

In addition to hosting various events round the year, Northwestern Health Sciences University also supports its community by regularly posting job updates and classifieds. The University’s Mentor Program partners individual students with alumni or professional mentors, offering abundant opportunities for professional growth and development.

2. An up-to-date digital alumni database

Northwestern Health Sciences University leveraged Almabase and Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT together to keep their alumni database up-to-date. NWHSU alumni were able to automatically pull information from their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles or manually make changes themselves, ensuring that their information is always up-to-date. Automatic updates eliminated any risks of errors associated with manual entry of data.

With an all-in-one platform in place to collect all event registration & donation data, the University no longer had to worry about manually adding this data to their database.

98% of NWHSU alumni either have their email address, contact number, or mailing address updated in the database

44% of NWHSU constituents signed-up using Facebook & LinkedIn
24% increase in platform sign-ups over the last year

3. Foster a culture of philanthropy & grow donations year-on-year

Northwestern Health Sciences University hosted its first ever Give Day in 2019 and a year later, the University hosted its second Give Day 2020 during the pandemic, in support of student scholarships, campus upgrades, and student services. NWHSU was able to hit the right chord with their Give Day messaging, theme and the overall strategy, unlocking the giving spirit of their community. For their Give Day 2020 campaign, the Development Staff incorporated virtual campus tour videos and made a compelling appeal to its community to come together in support of students.

60% increase in gifts raised ($4770 & $7644 raised during Give Day 2019 & Give Day 2020 respectively)
34% increase in the number of donors (75 donors & 101 donors contributed to Give Day 2019 & Give Day 2020 respectively)

The University invited their alumni community to extend their support on their first Give Day in 2019

NWHSU offers a virtual tour of its campus and Chiropractic program in Bloomington, Minnesota ahead of its Give Day 2020

A snapshot of NWHSU’s fundraising success with Almabase & Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge from 2019-2020

Northwestern Health Sciences University continues to empower and support its community by adopting alumni-centric initiatives and raising donations for student welfare round the year via Almabase. Check out Northwestern Health Sciences University’s alumni network.

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