Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Customer Service and Fund Raising

I just had the pleasure of attending a conference put on the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education where I was invited to present a talk on customer service and retention. It was a great conference by the way. Well organized, well run, great fun and solid learning! Great conference and one heck of a lot less stuffy than many. Thanks CCAE.

The folks are advancement professionals so as I thought about what to say in my presentation, I realized something very important. Yet so darn obvious. Here it is.


Thus schools lose on all three ends of the potential continuum when students drop out. Students lose their chance at a better life from the education they would get at your school. Tuition revenue is lost. Potential donations are lost. That makes the advancement peoples’ job that much harder. Fewer alumni; fewer donation sources. And considering that a major role of presidents today is raising money and alumni are a major source of donations, attrition adds to the job.

By the way, a university or college can use alumni giving percentage as a metric to gauge their customer service. People give to organizations like colleges that they like and make them feel good. The “liking” aspect is directly linked to how the college treated the alumni when students. If the school fulfilled the three ROI’s (financial, emotional and affective), there is a higher likelihood that he or she will donate as an alum. If the school made the experience feel like a four to six year root canal, odds are extremely high alumni will not donate. So, one way you can gauge how well you serve students and make their experience a positive one looking at the percentage of alumni giving.

These alumni participation metrics can be even more precise indicators if they can be linked back to specific majors, work areas, events, etc. If a particular work area has a very low internal give, that is a spot that needs greater attention and increased customer service to increase morale and engagement with the institution. If students graduating from a particular major have a lower participation rate then other majors, that could be an indicator of a service problem in that area. Of course, if it is a major like art or philosophy, you will need to factor in the potentially lower discretionary money of these graduates. Less income; less money to give to the school.

The metric also works for employees and how they feel they are served by the university. You can evaluate the morale of and service to the internal community by the percentage of internal participation in a university’s fund raising effort. The lower the percentage, the lower the morale and feeling of positive engagement levels. And considering that most schools have a less than optimal internal give rate and an increasing employee turnover rate….. Well, let’s just say that there is room to improve.

But again, all these alumni metrics matter not if students do not graduate. And employees who quit generally do not wish to donate either.

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