The evolution of outreach: How engagement centers are redefining alumni engagement 

January 18, 2024

Engagement centers fill the gaps left by traditional call centers and transform your alumni engagement strategy. 

Evolution of Outreach: Engagement Centers - Alumni Engagement

As the demands of higher education advancement centers evolve and change, leaders are facing an important decision: to continue investing in traditional call centers or to explore new strategies for alumni and donor engagement. Many are facing pressure to produce immediate ROI, and many universities are moving away from alumni participation rate as a measure within the university ranking system. As a result, it’s time to rethink the call center—not as a relic of the past—but as a springboard into a future of more dynamic, effective engagement and fundraising operation. 

Understanding the challenges of traditional call centers: 

  1. Student recruitment and staffing struggles: Traditional call centers often grapple with high turnover and continual training demands. This labor-intensive model struggles to retain full-time and student staff, leading to inconsistent outreach efforts.    
  1. The decline in engagement rates: University leaders have observed a worrying trend: decreasing engagement rates from alumni and donors, questioning the call center’s value in today’s digital world. 
  1. Perception of a negative ROI: With substantial operational costs and dwindling engagement, traditional call centers are increasingly perceived as generating a negative ROI, leaving many leaders puzzled about how to stimulate engagement and giving.  
  1. Stagnation and lack of innovation: On re-evaluating strategies and priorities, leadership often finds themselves facing a stark lack of innovation within this area of engagement and advancement. The same traditional approaches, without any significant evolution, leave them questioning the future viability of call centers. 
  1. Shifting priorities in US News & World Report rankings: US News & World Report recently eliminated alumni participation rate as a means to rank universities. As a result, many in university leadership are taking a more critical look at the value of these student-led operations and considering where to invest resources. 

Introducing the Strategic Opportunities of Engagement Centers: 

Enhancing ROI with data-driven outreach: 

With so many distractions competing for their attention, it is crucial to understand what information will resonate with your constituents, and how/where to share it so that they’ll engage with it. The call center model simply cannot compete with the strategic use of data analytics that we use in engagement centers, to help us send targeted and efficient outreach. Using technology to help us monitor interests and interactions, engagement centers are able to create a curated 1:1 connection for each constituent and deepen a constituent’s passion for the university by focusing on what they already care about.  

These data points also allow the engagement center to pinpoint the optimal timing and methods for connecting with alumni, resulting in improved participation and engagement rates.  Engagement rates go beyond traditional ROI, evaluating how effectively alumni and donor interactions translate into lasting relationships and advocacy. It’s a crucial indicator of the long-term impact and sustainability of alumni relations, which yields an increase in the number and size of major gifts, increasing the long-term ROI. 

Using a data-driven engagement approach, Legends recently implemented a campaign targeting young alumni and saw a 90% engagement rate. 

Revitalizing the work environment: 

Engagement Centers revolutionize the traditional call center workspace by introducing a 1:1 outreach strategy and using multiple channels to amplify the traditional phone model, including email, video content, social media, and more. By leveraging multiple means of outreach, students are connecting with constituents in a manner that meets the constituents where they are, leading to increased positive interactions.  

Further, the variety of channels allows for increased job variability and lowers burnout among our staff. Student staff, whom are an extension of the full-time advancement professionals, must have the resources and content to establish meaningful connections with the constituent base. This not only provides them with better work experience but also increases their efficacy in driving engagement and donations.  

Providing top-tier professional development opportunities to allow team members to develop verbal and written skills is key to their success, and in turn, the success of the engagement center.  

Across Legends partnerships, we are seeing an average retention rate of 81%.  

“Our student-focused approach has significantly altered the landscape of the engagement center, creating an environment that fosters development and a positive culture.” 

Riley Fenter, Student Staffing Associate

Redefining alumni interactions: 

For years, the approach to call centers was transactional and strictly solicitation-focused. Shifting the focus from a solicitation-only approach to an engagement focus leads to a far more positive constituent experience while resulting in strong alumni interactions and overall giving participation rate. Institutions adopting engagement centers have seen up to a 30% increase in positive alumni interactions. 

Breathing innovation into alumni engagement: 

Leveraging our background and success in premium curated experiences, amplifying the customer experience, and maximizing revenue, Legends’ engagement centers are redefining the industry and setting a new standard.  

Legends has brought cross-industry best practices, seeing a rise in engagement levels by implementing cutting-edge techniques that utilize data and analytics, new media, and a multichannel approach. At a time when many schools are seeing a decline in donors and dollars, engagement centers that have implemented Legends’ constituent-first process are seeing an increase in both dollars and donors while focusing on the overall constituent experience. 

“The engagement center gives us the ability to personalize messaging across our entire donor base, quickly and seamlessly adjust our approach based on events, priorities, and opportunities, and build preferred, trusted points of contact for thousands of our constituents.’

Thomas Lenneberg, Executive Director of Development, Air Force Academy Foundation

Leveraging advanced technology for custom solutions: 

Legends pairs its innovative approach to fundraising with industry-leading technology. Legends believes in finding the right solution and approach to each partnership. Whether the partner has 10,000 records or 10,000,000 records, Legends works to bring a custom solution to life that allows the Engagement Center to work efficiently while augmenting and enhancing the existing tech stack with the partner. 

  • Legends introduced top tech platforms at a Northeast university and realized 75% growth in new/long-lapsed donors and 13% growth in donor retention.
  • A Midwest university has realized 155% growth in engagement center participation since incorporating Legends and industry-leading technology. 

Fostering lifelong community and support: 

Despite shifts in collegiate ranking criteria, engagement centers underscore the timeless value of building a robust alumni community. By facilitating genuine personal connections, they help sustain and enhance the vital support network that underpins every successful institution. Further, with the ability to be constituent-focused, institutions employing Legends’ engagement center model are realizing a whole new pool of major gift donors that are ready to engage and make transformative gifts now. 

The solution isn’t to abandon the call center; it’s to reimagine it as a vibrant, multi-faceted engagement center. By addressing the inherent challenges of traditional models and embracing the opportunities presented by engagement centers, universities can enhance their student experience and significantly enhance their connection with alumni and donors. The future of engagement and advancement is here, and it’s time to be part of this transformative journey. 

Ready to revolutionize your alumni and donor engagement? Download our guide and discover how an engagement center can boost your institution’s outreach and relationship-building efforts.