Located in Rochester, New York, The University of Rochester is a medium-sized (12,000+ students) private university that prides itself n their focus on research and “long tradition of breaking boundaries.” The sense of roots in pushing the boundaries of education come out in the statement on their website: “always pushing and questioning, learning and unlearning.”
Like most Universities around the U.S., The University of Rochester’s Office of Advancement had a desire to do better outreach to alumni, but found that the demographic data they collected wasn’t robust enough to do appropriate and nuanced engagement. They struggled with the questions around whether their engagement strategies worked universally or with one particular racial, gender identity, or religious group. They also weren’t certain about whether their messaging was reaching everyone or just a few.
Beyond demographic data, The University of Rochester wanted to learn more about the interests and activities of each alumni. Understanding an alumni’s interest areas allows for targeted messaging about specific programs such as the arts or research or service-learning that might lead an alumni to donate. That’s where the data and updating data gathering strategies comes in.
To approach this challenge, The Tzedakah Lab Director, Noah D. Drezner, took the following steps in partnership with The University of Rochester to create a more robust data collection strategy:
The initial survey was launched to alumni in North America in Fall of 2019. Based on the University's historical email open rates and engagement, we set a stretch goal for the first wave of 5-10% participation (approximately 10,000 alumni). Within two months, we achieved 12% participation, or over 12,100 alumni completing the survey! Perhaps, even more impressive is that nearly two-thirds (64%) of those who participated in the survey were not considered “engaged” alumni. Meaning this was the first time, or first time in multiple years, that those alumni participated in any alumni activity.
With Covid-19, the outreach efforts outside of North America were delayed. But the initial data gathering process has resulted in some new information despite the slower than expected start.
So far the University has used the data to:
Beyond the data, UR has received positive feedback and excitement around the newly created networks for Black, LGBTQ+, and First-Gen and how the new leaders were brought on board for those initiatives.
We expect to see more from the work they’re doing with the data as they take deeper steps into navigating what it all means.