The Value of a Survey in Alumni Engagement

For any organization, surveys offer a valuable tool to learn more about a target audience, especially when it comes to better communicating and engaging with that audience. 

If you’re looking to generate greater interest from your alumni community, consider using a survey to learn what you want to know straight from the source. These surveys can help you gather key information, such as:

  • Learning more about your alumni community, including their age, where they live and their average income.
  • Evaluate how active they are in the alumni community, which events they have attended, what they thought of those events and which events they might like to attend.
  • Measure their attitudes about the school district and their satisfaction as a student with academics, sports, extracurriculars and other experiences. 
  • Gauge interest in programming and communication efforts from the alumni organization.
  • Learn about their interest in fundraising and support efforts for the school district.

The success of your survey depends on several factors. Alumni are ultimately taking the time to help you, so you need to meet them halfway and make the survey simple and easy to complete. Below are a few tips to help you design an effective alumni survey.

Clearly define your goal for the survey

Your questions should be brief and focused to encourage a higher response rate. Before you even write the questions, be clear on what you wish to learn about your alumni. Each question should serve the purpose of your survey, whether it’s evaluating an event or gauging interest in future programming. You do not necessarily need to share these survey objective(s) with the audience, although it may make them more inclined to participate. 

Avoid numerical scales

Instead of asking participants to rate the event on a scale of 1-5, 1-10 or an obscure scale like 1-7, phrase the question as: “How much did you enjoy the event?” Answers may ranging from “very much” to “not at all.” This will give you a clearer understanding of participants’ feelings. Numbered ratings are too subjective to provide sound data. 

Create questions chronologically

If you are creating a survey about an event, move from questions relating to before the event (e.g., “How did you hear about the tailgate?”), during (“Which activities did you participate in at the tailgate?”) and after (“Overall, how much did you enjoy the tailgate?”). This will help the participant move logically through your survey. 

Save open-ended questions until the end

No one wants to click open a survey only to discover they’ve been tricked into a writing assignment. Start with the easy questions first, like name and age, and work up to the more extensive questions. People who have already started the survey will be less likely to bail once they get to the open-ended questions at the end. 

There are many online tools that make it easy for you to collect and analyze information about your alumni and, more importantly, make it easier for them to participate. With an email list for your alumni community, you can easily send a link for participants to complete at their convenience. Whichever tool you pick, whether a Google Form or SurveyMonkey, you’ll be able to see results in real time. 

Although not every alumnus will participate, surveys are a great opportunity to learn more about your community and provide them with the service and support they desire from their alma mater or alumni group.

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