College and university alumni believe email is the most effective way for their alma maters to communicate with them, according to the results of a survey released by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). The study specifically explored donor motivation as well as the communications and philanthropic preferences of graduates.

More than 80% of alumni responding to the survey ranked email as “highly effective”. In order of preference, this was followed by online newsletters, printed newsletters and direct mail. Conversely, social media, personal visits and phone calls ranked significantly lower than other communications avenues.

Fifty percent of those alumni regarded as ‘strong advocates’ for their institutions, indicated that social media was an effective communications vehicle. However, “less connected” alumni rated social media much lower in terms of effectiveness.

The implications of the survey findings are explored in the second in a series of white papers published by Converge Consulting, a marketing firm, and licensed exclusively to CASE. The paper’s authors noted that, while phone calls and personal visits ‘will never be abandoned by fundraising professionals, particularly where major gifts and annual funds are concerned,’ institutions should note that respondents viewed them ‘as highly ineffective across the board in terms of reaching them with messages.’

Due to the relative cost-effectiveness and broad acceptance of email and online communications, the authors suggested that institutions may find value in using these channels to reach all graduates, whilst targeting more costly alternatives to more engaged alumni.

More information can be found on the CASE website: