Engaging 241,000 Alums Nationwide Key to Fostering Pride and Support
Alumni giving has a direct impact on UConn’s overall national ranking.
So the UConn Foundation is trying to improve the university’s national ranking by getting a greater number of alumni to donate.
UConn is ranked 6th out of the top 25 public research universities in terms of alumni giving participation rates. Currently 16.3 percent of alumni donated to UConn, according to U.S. News & World Report.
“I think it’s good that we’re at that level, I just think we can definitely do better,” said Montique Cotton Kelly, associate vice president of alumni relations.
The alumni giving rate is important because it’s a factor that U.S. News & World Report uses in calculating the national college rankings that many students and families use to decide where to go to school. The giving rate part accounts for 5 percent of the formula used to determine the ranking.
The alumni giving rate isn’t based on the amount of dollars raised, it’s based on how many alumni donate, Kelly said.
“The higher that is, that shows alumni investment in UConn,” Kelly said. “People are paying attention to that number and this is needed for us to continue moving forward in the national rankings.”
UConn’s alumni participation rate has hovered at 16 percent to 17 percent since 2013. Compared to all public schools in the country, this puts UConn at a relatively high ranking of 32 out of 462 schools. The highest alumni giving rate for a public university this year was Dixie State University at 36.3 percent while the lowest was the University of Maine-Machais at 0.2 percent.
Focus on engaging alumni
UConn Foundation officials said while they are extremely grateful for the 16.3 percent of alums who have already given, they are focusing on doing a better job of engaging all 241,000 of the University’s alums worldwide so they feel a better connection to UConn.
“The alumni giving rate is a direct reflection of the engagement that alums feel toward our great university. If we can amplify that, good things will happen as a result,” said Kim Manning, a member of the alumni committee of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors.
The engagement plan was developed shortly after the UConn Alumni Association integrated with the UConn Foundation, a move designed to consolidate and strengthen alumni engagement efforts.
No more membership fees
The first change the UConn Foundation made is to no longer ask for membership dues, which had deterred some alums from being involved.
“Instead of saying, ‘Hey, welcome into the group,’ we were saying, ‘Welcome and pay 50 bucks,'” Kelly said.
“Now that we’re not asking for dues as a first step, I think they’re more likely to come to an event or volunteer their time,” she said. “We’re going to explore more ways for them to engage, which will increase donations at some point in time.”
“You have to meet people where they’re at,” Kelly said. “We can’t expect everything to be done electronically or by telephone. Volunteers need to see that we care. Alums need to see UConn in their city and we’re committed to doing that.”
Getting out there
UConn’s new alumni outreach efforts include:
- UConn President Susan Herbst making visits around the country.
- Top faculty going out to talk about the exciting research going on at UConn.
- Alumni chapters hosting paint nights and other fun activities
- Launching a new app so alums can find out what’s going on in their area, and
- Relaunching Alumni Insider to publish three times a year—in August, December, and March.
Spreading the word about UConn’s accomplishments and engaging alums in a much more substantial ways is likely to help them feel more connected to and proud of UConn, Kelly said. And that should pay off long term in more alumni support.
“The real heart of it is building engagement—and fueling UConn Nation is key. If we can do that, the ripple effect will be very positive,” Manning said.