When the Arkansas Alumni Association contracted with Performance Enhancement Group, Ltd. (PEG) of Houston to conduct the 2009 Alumni Attitude Study, the Association was already in the midst of implementing its latest strategic plan. The cornerstone of this plan is a segmentation model based upon geographic territories and life stages of alumni. As part of PEG’s Alumni Segmentation Model, results for the study are provided based upon era of graduation year versus generational segmentation. After reviewing the results, the Association adopted this model because of its application of the varying times that influence a college experience, which in turn shape the relationship alumni have with their alma mater. The key findings by era in the Alumni Segmentation Model include:
WWII/Post WWII (classes prior to 1963): Graduates from this era are the most loyal members of the Arkansas Alumni Association with 31.5% listed as active members. Like all eras of graduates, this group of alumni values their connection to the University; however, they put slightly more emphasis on receiving the alumni magazine. Their distance from campus is also a larger barrier to membership and participation than other generations. They feel that there are plenty of networking opportunities available through the Association, but still feel like improvement is needed to identify job opportunities for graduates.
Woodstock/Vietnam (1964-1973): The second most loyal members of the Association come from this era with 24.1% active members. Their attitudes and values are closely aligned with those of the WWII/PostWWII era graduates. They value their connection and the information about the University. They also have a higher expectation of knowing how their dues are utilized by the Association. They don’t prioritize career resources as much as more recent graduates, but still place a higher emphasis on it than their older peers. For those choosing to not become members, the priority on the value proposition (value vs. benefit) starts to be noticed with this era. This era also has a higher expectation on student recruitment and mentoring programs.
Post-Watergate (1974-1980): For the 18.5% of alumni who are active members in this era, they view their membership as a way to stay connected and to give back. This era signals a change that continues through the recent eras of declining membership participation than older alumni. They start to emphasize the value of a membership to them personally and professionally. They are also skeptical that membership will lead to further solicitations. Time and family/work commitments are the primary barriers to participation in alumni activities for this era (more varies from distance being a leading factor for the older eras).
Yuppie/End of Cold War (1981-1993): Graduates of this era participate in membership at 13.9% and also represents the largest group of alumni with 29,395 alumni classified in this era. The degree to which they emphasize their desire for career resources relates to their present career status. They still seek resources, but do not prioritize them higher than more recent graduates. They require a value and usefulness to their membership and feel like they support the University in other ways (often through the attendance of their son or daughter).
Electronic Revolution/Dot-com (1994-2000): This era of graduates signal the growing importance of electronic communications and tools. The active membership participation of this era is at 10.8% and represents the lowest participation among all eras. Access to career and business networking opportunities are nearly as important as their connection with the institution. Those who are former members feel like the benefits of the Association were not worthwhile. They demand to know more about how their dues are used and how their membership impacts the University more than other eras. Their priority on career and mentoring resources is only second to the most recent era of graduates.
Post-9/11 (2001–present): The recent graduates in this era participate in membership at 13.3% and make very clear that their decisions are based upon their career (job placement or career growth). They are also still formulating their relationship with the University as alumni and looking for ways to contribute their time and talent and feel like they are not getting as much assistance as they should in this regard. Their personal circumstances are by far the biggest barrier to membership participation. They are also unaware of the purpose of membership and the personal benefit they would derive from it.
Just as with their alumni status (we all hold the University in common), each era of graduates has similarities and differences among the eras. The Association is working hard to continually analyze these results and make modifications to its programs, communications and services to best serve the alumni in each era. The strategic plan of the Association called for the adoption of a geographic and lifestage model of program and service delivery. The data derived through the era analysis has set the stage for the second portion of this model and is currently engaging discussion regarding the Association role and purpose in career development and growth of alumni. If you have thoughts regarding new or improved programs that would demonstrate value and benefit, please share your ideas!