Since July 2008, the Arkansas Alumni Association has been operating under a new strategic plan. The plan seeks to improve the Association’s ability to connect and serve all University of Arkansas alumni and friends by providing products and services that are segmented by geographic territory and stage of life. The first phase of this plan was to implement geographic territories that serve as a way to segment the market and deliver programs. A reorganization of the Association’s programming unit in addition to the development of segmented markets has been in operation since the plan’s implementation in 2008.
When the results of the 2009 Alumni Attitude Study were received, data analysis was requested by the new geographic territory model. While the Association’s preliminary research indicated that the geographic segmentation was needed to more effectively relate to alumni and friends, the results of the Attitude Study are providing additional information for the Association and its volunteer leadership to utilize in making decisions in regard to our work with alumni and friends.
The newest area of focus to the Association’s programming efforts is a focus on our international alumni (both those living internationally and individuals from foreign countries that study at the University of Arkansas). The study results indicated that international alumni have more pronounced needs from the Association related to their connection to the University and fellow alumni. While our traditional alumni from Arkansas and nearby states have pre-built networks, many of our international alumni are building their networks during their educational experience. The results have also confirmed that our international alumni need unique forms of electronic communication to keep up with University news and events in a timely manner. We also have to provide ways for international alumni to be engaged and serve as University ambassadors abroad to overcome their distance from alumni activities and events.
Another area of positive growth for the Association this past year has been a focus on the alumni and friends who are our faculty and staff at the University. This group of stakeholders has a high degree of investment in the institution and as confirmed with the Alumni Attitude Study results, they expect targeted programs, services and benefits to their unique needs. This group of individuals commits their professional careers to the University and its success, so messages of being connected to show support do not resonate with this market as much as in our other territories. We also learned that faculty and staff members feel that their time is the largest barrier they have to participation, so Association activities for them must be convenient to their work day.
Our fastest growing territory is Northwest Arkansas. With over 24,000 alumni calling the Benton and Washington County areas home, the Association is presented with unique challenges in delivering a unique product that is relevant to a market that is highly exposed to the University through personal connections, localized media and Razorback athletics. The Alumni Attitude Study results indicate this market views time and their family/job commitments are the largest barriers to participation in events. There is also a desire for alumni in this area to receive more information about activities on campus in which they (and their families) can participate. In regard to membership, this market more than any other, has an expectation that the impact of their membership needs to be visible.
The Alumni Attitude Study results also shared insight into our alumni from Arkansas and those residing out-of-state in regard to messaging and program outreach. The results show that alumni want to be connected and informed but view the opportunity to be engaged as a localized one through geographic chapter or by returning to campus. The Association is examining how to overcome the distance barrier so that alumni across the state and nation feel connected to their University of Arkansas Family external to the presence of a local chapter.
The results as analyzed by each territory are available for viewing online. Over the coming year, the staff and volunteer leaders will be analyzing the results and utilizing this information to formulate more effective approaches to serving alumni. We welcome your feedback and comments about how the Association can achieve this for you, based upon where you live.