What Alumni Want

A pretty young woman listening to a colleague in the office

Andrew Crisp

Andrew Crisp is co-founder of CarringtonCrisp and one of the authors of the See the Future report.

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Alumni can be a great resource to help a business school’s marketing messages. But, says Andrew Crisp, they must be properly motivated to do so.

As a high-flying executive in an international business with an MBA degree, what do you yearn for – reducedprice tickets to a theme park? Probably not, though that was the highlight of an alumni offer from a business school recently.

Making the most of alumni is not difficult but it is essential. A strong alumni network offers a business school many opportunities – mentoring, attracting new students, speakers, a source of placements/jobs, fundraising and much more. What do alumni want in return?

A new report, Alumni Matters, by CarringtonCrisp supported by EFMD, suggests the top priority is to keep learning. But many alumni are either unaware of what their school offers or find themselves too busy to get involved with alumni activities. Just under 40% of alumni are not involved with their alumni network because they are too busy with work and other commitments. A third of alumni suggest they are not active in the alumni network because they are unaware of the services for alumni.

Alumni relations needs to be a lifestyle offer, something that works around busy alumni lifestyles, be that work or family, and continues to help alumni obtain the lifestyles they desire.

Eight business schools from Ireland, UK, South Africa and Switzerland took part in the Alumni Matters study, questioning their alumni and final year students about what they want from the alumni experience. More than 2,500 respondents, comprising 90 different nationalities took part in the research.

While alumni have a clear view of the purpose of alumni relations, it may not be the same as that of their business school. In North America, alumni relations has a long tradition of playing a central role in fundraising for a business school. In 2010 BusinessWeek reported that 67% of alumni of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire made gifts at a median level of $200. More than $5 million was raised for the school’s annual alumni giving campaign, making Tuck the best-performing American school that year.

With finances under pressure in European higher education, the potential for alumni as donors has come to the fore. Unfortunately, only 11% of alumni and 10% of current students believe the purpose of alumni relations is largely fundraising. Instead, alumni highlight facilitating friendships and business connections as well as fostering collaboration and networking among alumni and with their school.

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