The University of Sheffield commissioned this research to understand how to encourage future alumni engagement, with the aim of increasing fundraising and alumni volunteer hours. Therefore, the research sought to better understand alumni behaviour, to drive the success of future campaigns and improve alumni relations more widely.
Shift utilised a strong comprehensive methodology to help understand these behaviours. This included internal interviews with key members of the alumni team to gain a better understanding of the objectives of alumni relations. Following this, an online alumni survey was created and disseminated, with a final sample size of 5980, consisting of both UK and international alumni. The survey design allowed for myriad techniques to be used in the data analysis:
- Segmentation analysis: Different alumni segments were created using questions exploring wider values and interests, particularly surrounding donation and volunteering, as well as those exploring engagement with the university. This contributed to building a picture of how different alumni might engage with the university at different stages of life.
- Key Drivers Analysis: To understand the underlying factors that contribute towards likelihood to donate or volunteer.
- Tracking scores: Creation of warmth scores and engagement scores using various survey questions, which can be tracked over time.
The quantitative phase was followed up by 5 online focus groups (with 5-6 respondents in each) across the UK and internationally to further understand drivers to donating/volunteering. These groups were successfully recruited during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results were analysed and presented in a detailed, highly visual report, which outlined key recommendations for the university in all aspects of their alumni relations. Following this, a two-part behavioural science workshop of the results was delivered to members of the alumni team to make these findings truly actionable, as well as to support different alumni relation teams in thinking more specifically about changing behaviours, including engagement, volunteering and giving. The workshop helped to identify and prioritise the behaviours to change, to review the evidence from the research and begin to focus on what barriers or challenges needed to be overcome and what solutions might help achieve real impact and success, and contribute to future strategies.
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