The Importance of Setting Measurable Engagement Goals
May 2023 — By BrightCrowd

How do you measure the success of alumni engagement efforts? By setting measurable goals. These goals help universities focus on what they want to achieve with their alumni community. Goals give a clear plan of action to get there. They can provide encouragement, motivation, and feedback to help keep alumni efforts on track.

One of the biggest goals of universities is to keep alumni engaged post-graduation. It's certainly a challenge, but many institutions have been successful in creating a positive community of active alumni. An active alumni community has many benefits for a university and its students. In a recent survey, 85% of alumni say that they would donate more often if they knew how their funds were being used (on-campus organizations, student housing, initiatives, sports, etc.)

Alumni relations teams shouldn’t overlook the importance of goal setting. So, how can universities achieve the overarching goal of creating an active alumni community? Setting measurable goals is the first place to start.

Setting Measurable Goals

Goal setting often uses the acronym SMART to define how goals are set and measured.

  • Specific: Define the parameters of the goal and what determines success
  • Measurable: Have a way to measure the results
  • Achievable: Make sure the goal is realistic
  • Relevant: The goal should apply to bigger organizational goals
  • Time-Bound: Set a timeframe to measure the success of the goal

SMART goals can be a tool to help universities set and stick to their engagement goals. However, an area that many universities struggle with is metrics. How can they measure the success of their efforts? With schools facing more alumni relations challenges, the pressure to show the success of campaigns and associated goals is increasing.

Some of the metrics used to measure the positive outcomes of a university’s engagement campaigns include:

  • Donations
  • Event attendance
  • Volunteers

Monitoring the movement of each of these areas throughout the course of alumni engagement efforts can provide valuable information – universities should see a spike in all key performance indicators (KPIs).

Many schools are eager to utilize data-driven platforms. They're signing up for expensive services with bells and whistles that allow them to engage with everyone and measure everything. However, the more meaningful way to measure success is to focus on one or two areas of alumni engagement. It’s important that universities set goals they can measure and then measure the success of those goals; they don’t want to measure just for the sake of measuring.

Let’s take a look at an example of alumni engagement. Email open rates are good to know, but they're not the end goal. Universities want to measure the number of event registrations and gifts that come from that email instead. This provides real community engagement data that can help determine the success of alumni initiatives.

The Importance of Goal Setting

The first step of goal setting is to identify what a university is looking to prioritize – they can then figure out which dials need to be turned on each tool to make everything align with the goal.

Goal setting gives universities something to focus on. It’s easy to get lost in a million little things that they could be doing. Instead of trying to do a little bit of everything and ending up with no amount of success, setting sights on one specific goal will help increase effectiveness. Alumni engagement teams can be more productive and notice a higher return on investment. Focusing on one goal at a time provides a defined path in which to follow.

Once engagement goals are established, it’s crucial to set up a system for data organization. Numbers are great only if university alumni teams know how to interpret or find them – a system or tool for tracking and analyzing metrics can be beneficial. The measurement of data should be carefully monitored.

Types of Engagement Goals for Universities

In terms of what goals to set, the CASE modes are an excellent guide. CASE helps universities better understand how different types of engagement inspire a deeper connection with alumni. These are the different types of engagements:

  • Experiential Engagement
  • Volunteer Engagement
  • Communication Engagement
  • Philanthropic Engagement

Goals relating to each type of engagement should include:

  • Attendance at events (experiential engagement)
  • Number of acquired volunteers (volunteer engagement)
  • Email opens and response rates (communication engagement)
  • Donations received (philanthropic engagement)

These engagement metrics should provide universities with information about the success of specific efforts. If they determine that 3,000 people came back for a reunion, that checks the experience box but doesn't answer pressing questions – Is it more than last year? What percentage of those made a gift to their class fund? How many made their first gift? How many lapsed donors made a gift? How many alumni have made annual gifts since their reunion? Metrics must relate back to the ultimate goal, which in this case, is to increase donations.

Using BrightCrowd to Measure Goals

BrightCrowd can teach universities how to measure goals. BrightCrowd’s digital books provide a way for alumni to connect over shared interests and experiences. Schools can measure the number of pages filled out in their digital book, compare listed names to that of donors, etc. It’s a great resource for universities to perform community-engaged research.

The importance of goal setting is crucial for universities looking to improve alumni engagement. Contact BrightCrowd today to learn more about how digital memory books can help measure real community engagement among alumni.