Report of the Alumni Relations Committee
For the Year 2006-2007
Presented to the University Senate
May 4, 2007
In its Annual Report of 2005-2006, which focused on the intellectual engagement of the alumni with the University, the Alumni Relations Committee noted that more aggressive use of databases and data mining could provide powerful tools for better understanding alumni needs and interests and for improving strategic planning and resource allocation. In this way, the University is like any other business – understanding the needs and behaviors of the customer makes it more likely that the business will produce products or services that find a market and help it build its brand and a loyal following. Indeed, the challenge of a university seeking to engage its alumni is even greater than that facing many businesses, given that alumni have not been subject to the same systematic study that consumers have.
At the beginning of this academic year, the Committee decided to investigate this issue more deeply, and over the course of the year met with the following:
Susan Mescher, Associate Dean for Planning
Alex Whitney, Executive Director,
· Kai-Joachim Kamrath, Senior Project Manager for Advance
· Demetrius Mossaidis, Advance Systems Manager and Associate Project Manager
J. Cappeto, Director of Information Services,
Truscinski, Executive Director of Alumni Relations
and Annual Giving,
Herin, Associate Director for Development Services,
To summarize these conversations, at the University-wide level, there are three primary data platforms, each with their own function.
· Sundial is a calendaring system developed by CCIT which is undergoing regular upgrades. It currently is the designated University Calendar and allows users both the ability to access a list of events and register for them, and provides event sponsors the ability to manage registrants and wait-lists as well as to customize registration pages and reminder/cancellation information. CCIT is currently developing the e-commerce capability, which will allow end-users to pay a registration fee online. It is currently being used by 120 units (groups, departments, centers, etc.) within the University. This is a significant increase from the beginning of the year, but still represents only a fraction of the potential universe.
· Advance is the database employed by the University Development and Alumni Relations Office to track alumni, friends of the University and potential donors, covering demographic data, giving history, prospect management (combing public records and news sources to identify potential donors) and, to a lesser extent, event tracking.
· Harris Connect is the e-community/social networking platform which allows alumni to interact with each other and update their records and biography.
In the absence
of a centralized system until recently, and reflecting the independent-minded
history of many of the University’s schools, many of them – the Business and
Law Schools being notable examples – have their own methods of tracking and
retaining data. It should be noted,
however, that both the Business and
With this background, the Committee makes the following findings and recommendations:
The University and its schools should
take a more holistic, big-picture view of data management.
A University-wide working group should
be established to promote information integration and the exchange of best
practices. The Committee found several textbook examples
of siloing. The
The University should increase staffing of appropriate offices. Several of the people we spoke with noted that our peer institutions have similar data systems but devote more staffing resources to managing them. Given the benefits that can accrue to alumni giving alone, a small additional investment in this area may well carry a sizable return.
Alumni Relations Officers should be
more aggressive in the use of data mining to drive strategic planning. The actual process of data collection
absorbs much of the resources currently devoted to data management. Equal emphasis needs to be placed on using
the data in decision making. Analyzing
the zip codes of its Bay Area alumni, for example, prompted the
At the same time, the Committee notes two areas of concern. First, identifying such patterns from ever-larger pools of data will not be trivial and will likely require not only additional staffing resources but additional skill sets in data analysis, programming and algorithm development. Second, data ownership issues, linked as they are to fundraising, will continue to be a disincentive to collaboration. These issues will have to be met with a combination of institutional resolve at the senior administration and Trustee level, incentives to collaborate, and policies to address the legitimate concerns of the various players.
Sen. Wenndy Carrasco (Stu., SPIA)
Mr. Eric Furda, University Vice President for Alumni Relations
Mr. Jose R. Gonzalez, Associate Director of University Alumni Relations and
Advisor to the Committee
Prof. Robert McCaughey
Sen. Jonah Rockoff (Non-Ten., Bus.)
Sen. Daniel Savin (Res. Off.)
Mr. Walter Sweet, Alumnus Advisor to the Committee
Sen. Paul Thompson (Alum.)