A new major survey of alumni engagement, the first since 2008, reveals strong support among those who once climbed Colgate’s hill, and data collected from this effort is slated to help inform planning in the alumni office for years to come.
“As we enter Colgate's third century, this is an opportune moment to gather feedback from alumni about how we communicate, engage, and raise support for the University,” said Tim Mansfield, associate vice president of advancement and alumni relations. "All of us at Colgate are eager to take the survey data and improve our work with alumni."
The Colgate-commissioned survey asked a host of questions related to alumni engagement, attitudes toward Colgate, and resonance of the University’s messaging and priorities, and gauged interest in future engagement. On the whole, survey responses were overwhelmingly positive and point to a number of areas in which Colgate is a beloved institution with an incredibly enthusiastic alumni body.
GG+A SurveyLab conducted the online survey in June 2019 with a strong 17 percent response rate and a total of 4,798 participants. GG+A representatives said industry averages for similar surveys are well below Colgate’s response rate. Due to this excellent alumni response, the overall margin of error for results is about +/- 1%.
A vast majority of respondents feel positively toward Colgate (90%), and 87 percent say they would recommend the University to a prospective student. Strong majorities of alumni say that Colgate’s reputation is improving or at least staying the same (83%), with 19.9% saying that it is significantly improving. Another strong majority (78.3%) feel informed about what is happening at Colgate, with 46.2% feeling very informed.
In the words of one alumnus, “Colgate already has a national presence and is well established as a competitive liberal arts institution. 'Somewhat improving' is a high bar for an already well-established place.”
More than 68 percent of respondents said they have participated in on-campus reunion or homecoming programs, 48.6% have attended an athletic event, and more than a third (35%) say they have participated in programming held by a regional alumni club. A quarter of all respondents (25.3%) say Colgate networking or professional development programs that help in their career have been very important, and almost a third (31.7%) say attending athletic events has been very important.
Colgate alumni are generous. More than two thirds (67.7%) say they donate to three to 10 non-profits in a typical year, and more than two in 10 (21.4%) say they donate to more than 10. The vast majority of alumni surveyed say they give to Colgate out of loyalty to the institution (80.7%), and 59.1% say their confidence in the University’s leadership was an important factor in their decision. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) said Colgate is their first giving priority.
When it comes to communications, strong majorities of alumni feel that Colgate is doing a good job in communicating its essentials (85%), academics (86%), personality (82%), community (80%), and ambitions (71%).
Most Colgate alumni say their main preference for receiving information from the University is the Colgate Magazine (84.2%), followed by email newsletters (61.2%), and social media (35.7%). Among alumni from class years after 2000, social media (57%) and email newsletters (50%) are the preferred sources of Colgate information.
Survey results also revealed some areas for improvement, including familiarity of the Alumni Council and a high percentage of alumni who say they want more engagement from Colgate.
“We are very fortunate to learn so much from our alumni,” said Mansfield. “We will work with the Alumni Council and our colleagues across campus to take action and consider new opportunities for outreach.”