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SVA Alumni Engagement Tracking Strategy



The Context

The Alumni Affairs and Development office at SVA works to maintain an engaged community of alumni. Engagement is defined by all of the points of contact we have with alumni, through large events like networking receptions, one-on-one meetings and lunches, donations, and any other form of participation in our programs.

The Problem

While our team tirelessly tracks some very vital demographic and anecdotal data about alumni in our database platform, Raiser’s Edge, we needed a way to formally track and quantify their engagement. Raiser’s Edge does not have a dedicated feature to achieve this. 


My Approach

First, I defined exactly what we were tracking in a fiscal year, all of the activities and interactions that made up our definition of engagement, and organized them into four major categories. Next, I determined which features in Raiser’s Edge could be used to track and query these categories. 

I decided to use a function in Raiser’s Edge called the Events Module, which tracks all essential details about events, such as guest names, and RSVPs. It is possible to apply labels to certain data points, enabling us to segment the data in very detailed ways. In Raiser’s Edge, these labels are called “Attributes”.

I went through several rounds of trial and error, experimenting with different ways of configuring event records and attributes in the Events Module. I would take a small chunk of data and track it one way, then test how easy it was to query and retrieve it from the database. I assessed the results for how much manual reformatting and reorganization would have to be done to be able to analyze it, a result of using a “work-around” to achieve the desired outcome.


The Solution

The alumni engagement tracking system I developed is now being used by the entire department. After defining the four major categories of interactions, I determined how each category should be configured in the Events Module based on the information we needed to have about the interactions in each category. I created a complex system of attributes within the Events Module to make that information trackable. For instance, the category “Small Group Events and Engagement” includes small-scale, one-off events and interactions. They are tracked as a group, and the important details about each are delineated with attributes. 


By comparison, the category “Primary Events” includes the large-scale, annual events our department hosts every year. These events are tracked individually, since we need to have very detailed information about them throughout the event-planning process, such as invitation lists and RSVPs.

Read my complete strategy document here.

Next Steps

Throughout this process, one of my goals was to remain open to making adjustments to the procedure as we encounter scenarios that we hadn’t anticipated. It has so far proven to be malleable, and I expect that we will continue to make improvements as time goes on.

Now that there is a solid tracking procedure in place, the next phase of this project will be to begin analyzing and visualizing the data, with the goal of producing an annual engagement report and using our data  to help optimize our efforts.

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