Emory Report

 August 25, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 1

Alumni survey conducted;
finds high satisfaction levels

The results of an alumni research project are in, and they show that alumni generally have positive attitudes toward Emory and are interested in being involved with the university. That's good news for Bill Fox, vice president for institutional advancement.

"The information with which all of us worked regarding critical matters involving our alumni was entirely too anecdotal," said Fox. "We needed to know more about our alumni so we could know how we might better serve and involve them and, indeed, better understand how they both think about and feel about their alma mater," he said.

One specific outcome of the research findings is the creation of an alumni communications task force in the Institutional Advancement Division. "One of the most immediate ways we will use the information from the survey is to determine how we may communicate more effectively with our alumni," said Fox. "I hope to have a report from the task force within six months."

Alumni interest was the most surprising finding of the survey for Curt Carlson, associate vice president of public affairs, who proposed and carried out the survey. "Many, many alumni from across the University really want to be involved with their alma mater and powerfully expressed a willingness to participate more significantly with Emory," said Carlson.

The research project consisted of two components: a telephone survey of a representative sampling of alumni by the Gallup Organization and focus groups of alumni in selected cities by Gautier Marketing of Atlanta. The Gallup asked alumni to rate a number of universities, including Emory, in terms of overall quality where a five was excellent and a one was poor. Emory came in with a 4.25 score, behind only Yale, Stanford and Duke (see chart). In addition to this quality rating, 89 percent said their years at Emory were intellectually challenging; 84 percent said they would choose Emory if they had to make a college decision again; 73 percent said that Emory faculty members were supportive; 45 percent said they are interested in current events at Emory; and 33 percent said they still have strong ties to the University. Overall, friendships made at Emory topped the list of factors creating positive feelings about Emory.

The Gallup surveyed also explored how alumni currently obtain information about Emory and their preferences for obtaining information. The use of the Internet emerged as an important alumni communication vehicle as 57 percent said they have Internet access, and the Internet was the most frequently mentioned vehicle for improving communication with alumni.

Ninety percent of the respondents said they look at or read Emory Magazine, and 65 percent rated the magazine as very good/excellent. Slightly over 50 percent of all alumni reported reading a school-specific magazine, such as Emory Medicine or the Goizueta Business School Magazine. This figure rose to 65 percent of graduate-degree-only alumni reading a school-specific magazine.

In regards to programs for alumni, the four-year-old regional programs effort, which focuses on developing services and connections among alumni in 13 key U.S. cities, received high marks, with alumni urging Emory to create more alumni events where they live. "We started the Regional Programs effort with the hunch that we needed to be in more consistent contact with alumni, asking them to do real work for Emory while we keep them informed about the best the University has to offer," said Jack Gilbert, associate vice president, leadership development. "It is great to have those hunches confirmed by the data from this survey."

The Gallup Organization made seven recommendations based on the survey results:

1. Emory leaders are advised by the alumni to continue keeping up the good work and achieving academic excellence without losing sight of its key resource: the students.

2. Exploit the 90 percent reach of Emory Magazine and examine the content of the magazine to improve communications with alumni.

3. Incorporate new technologies, along with traditional approaches, to expand communication with and encourage participation of alumni.

4. Continue to expand alumni events at local and regional levels to demonstrate Emory's commitment to alumni and the seriousness of its efforts to reach out.

5. Evaluate alumni perceptions of events they attend.

6. Make a stronger case to gain more financial support from alumni by carefully addressing erroneous beliefs surrounding the endowment.

7. Because alumni giving is highly correlated with familiarity and participation, improved communication about student and faculty achievement and academic programs is needed to increase a valuable sense of familiarity.

Focus groups
The focus group portion of the research project was conducted to better understand alumni opinions, behaviors and attitudes by creating an environment for probing more deeply into alumni perceptions and opinions of Emory's mission and into personal reasons of alumni for feeling connected and wanting to get involved as Emory alumni.

The Gautier report contained 10 key findings and conclusions:

1. Even though focus groups represented different cross-sections of alumni by varying demographics, the responses were generally consistent across all groups.

2. Genuine affection for and pride in Emory were freely expressed, even by the most vocal critics.

3. Academic excellence is perceived as Emory's primary mission, now and then. That mission may not be communicated very well or consistently.

4. Lack of green space, overbuilding, visual inconsistencies and lack of distinctive entrances were criticized.

5. Regional alumni programming was highly endorsed. Atlanta groups want even more localization.

6. Every group had strong opinions about Emory Magazine. Its showcase quality and prominent role were praised. However, alumni want information more frequently, concisely presented and with more about day-to-day happenings. They suggested periodic mailings or easy access to a list of fellow alumni in their area and brief, even repetitive, reminders of alumni services, activities and benefits.

7. Social events were downplayed in favor of alumni gatherings that offer thought-provoking speakers and topics or career-related events.

8. Alumni remember receiving more fund-raising mail than other types of mail. They were not necessarily critical of this, but want more communication about other services and activities at Emory.

9. Members in every group were strong in their desire to become highly-engaged Emory alumni. Personal relevance and a genuine feeling of being wanted or needed were common threads.

10. To summarize: When Emory creates and then communicates specific opportunities that benefit alumni in a very personal way, they respond with force and with passion.

The Gallup Organization surveyed 861 randomly selected alumni in July 1996. Alumni spent an average of 13.6 minutes answering questions on a 41-item questionnaire. While school-specific results were tabulated, results from the Gallup survey are statistically reliable only across Emory alumni as a group. Data for individual colleges is useful as a starting point for further research, however. Atlanta-based Gautier Marketing conducted eight focus groups in three cities-Atlanta, Dallas and New York-each of which included eight to 12 participants. Focus groups were recruited by key demographic characteristics, randomly selected from a cross section of alumni, balanced by degree type and year of graduation.

Carlson has a comprehensive report of the research. People wishing more detailed information may contact him at <ccarlsn@emory.edu>.

Mean Overall Quality Ratings of Emory
and Other Universities by Emory Alumni
 School Total

Yale University

Stanford University

Duke University

Emory University

Northwestern University

University of Virginia

Georgetown University

Georgia Tech

Vanderbilt University

UNC-Chapel Hill

Washington University

Tulane University

University of Georgia

Five point scale ranging from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent).














-Jan Gleason

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