Increasing Alumni Engagement Through Affinity Networks at The University of Oregon

November 2022 — By Keith Hannon

Transitioning to any new environment can be stressful, and this is certainly the case for new college students. In fact, studies show higher rates of anxiety and stress during the first two years of college. With more than 19 million individuals attending college each year, it’s relatively easy to feel lost and out of place.

Joining an affinity group is a great way for students to feel more comfortable in their new surroundings. Affinity groups provide students with an immediate sense of belonging and much-needed support to ease the transition. Often, the longest-lasting connections formed during a student’s college experience are from within these groups.

Capitalizing on Affinity Groups for Alumni Relations

According to a VAESE Alumni Engagement Survey, more than 60% of alumni organizations report their number one goal is to increase the number of alumni who engage. On our recent Bright Ideas Webinar, Raphe Beck, Executive Director at the University of Oregon’s Alumni Association, highlighted just how effective affinity group targeting can be for increasing overall alumni engagement.

At the University of Oregon, engaging alumni through affinity networks is a cornerstone of their alumni relations strategy due to many benefits like:

  1. Greater engagement and participation
  2. Increased volunteering
  3. More successful outreach through targeted personalization and segmentation
  4. Better data and contact report accuracy
  5. Increased financial contributions

While students may attend a university for only four years, they are alumni for the rest of their lives. Alumni are more likely to give to causes that mean something to them, and strong affinity engagement is a great way to increase giving.

“Brightcrowd is an amazing tool for re-connecting people in an existing community, but it’s also helpful in creating a sense of community among people with shared interests who may never have met before. It’s quick and easy for organizers to set up and does its own promotions automatically. And it removes the performance anxiety for users who might otherwise get stuck trying to decide what to share.”

How to Enhance University Affinity Network Engagement with Brightcrowd

The University of Oregon partnered with BrightCrowd to expand its alumni engagement initiatives, specifically through affinity engagement books. As a large state school with over 250,000 alumni, the university needed a way to focus on connections that are most meaningful to its alumni. Within the privacy of the pages, participants have the opportunity to reconnect in a more personal and authentic manner with their affinity network than they would for a university-wide initiative.

By targeting alumni through their associated affinity groups, the university was able to gather valuable alumni information while increasing engagement and participation. Here’s a quick snapshot of the incredible participation rates the University of Oregon saw from their BrightCrowd affinity books:

  • Black Alumni (88% of invitees created a page)
  • Native American Alumni (62% of invitees created a page)
  • Veterans (59% of invitees created a page)
  • Clark Honors College (94% of invitees created a page)
  • Latin American Alumni (just launched)

Beyond the impressive participation rates, university alumni relations staff also shared another key win - garnering additional contact reports for university alumni they had not previously coded as being part of that particular affinity in their database. As these additional alumni requested to join the book, the university was then able to add them for inclusion in future outreach efforts targeted to that particular community.

Re-engaging alumni through BrightCrowd’s university affinity group books ultimately leads to greater reach, participation, and volunteering, all key stepping stones to greater alumni giving. Request a demo to learn how BrightCrowd can help leverage the power of affinity groups to launch successful alumni relations initiatives at your university.

Keith Hannon