Community College Alumni Efforts Gain Traction

Paul Heaton (@heatonpc) is director, CASE Center for Community College Advancement.

Community college alumni relations programs appear to be gaining momentum, based on the findings of a new CASE survey.

Of the 139 institutions that responded, 47 percent have increased staff time spent on alumni relations in the last three years, and 50 percent said overall engagement by alumni has increased during the same period.

Total giving from alumni increased at 52 percent of the participating institutions in the last three years, according to the survey, whose results were released at the 2015 Conference for Community College Advancement in Anaheim, California, and will be presented again  during a free online presentation on Tuesday. Dec. 1.

Community colleges clearly have begun to see the value of investing in alumni relations, but the size of alumni relations programs at community colleges remains relatively small, especially compared with four-year institutions.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • Although the amount of time spent on alumni relations may have increased, staff sizes have not. The median number of full-time alumni relations staff members remained at one, although the proportion of institutions reporting any full-time staff increases rose from 54 percent when the survey was last conducted in 2012 to 61 percent in 2015.
  • More than half of those working in a leadership capacity in community college alumni relations have been doing so for less than two years. The 2012 survey yielded similar results, indicating a high level of turnover in this area.
  • Similar to the 2012 survey, those working in alumni relations usually perform other significant duties, such as managing an annual campaign.

The ability for community colleges to grow their alumni relations programs will continue to be limited by the amount of staff and time devoted to this important area of advancement.

Findings indicate that community colleges are moving away from charging dues for alumni association membership. In 2012, 72 percent of respondents did not charge dues. That number increased to 81 percent in the most recent survey.

The majority of respondents do not charge alumni association dues.

The majority of respondents do not charge alumni association dues.

For those who do charge membership dues, here are the amounts.

For those who do charge membership dues, here are the amounts.

The size of budgets dedicated to alumni relations has grown. The median budget, according to the 2012 survey, was $17,000; in 2015, it was $20,000.

There also were healthy increases in alumni gifts to participating community colleges since the 2012 survey. Total alumni gifts (median numbers) increased from $19,474 in 2012 to $37,173 in 2015. The alumni portion of total giving at community colleges increased from 6.5 percent in 2012 to 9.1 percent in 2015.

The median number of alumni who contributed to their community college increased from 100 in 2012 to 130 in 2015.

While these numbers overall remain relatively small, it is encouraging to see this kind of growth. It is clear that community colleges are becoming more sophisticated and intentional in their approach to alumni relations.

The survey covered a number of topics including dues, board size and communication and engagement practices. A CASE white paper with details will be released in early 2016.

Delve into the details and discuss them at an  online presentation at 1 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The presentation is free, but registration is required.

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