Why do alumni give back, and what makes them want to give more? These were the questions asked by Grove City College, which partnered with Haven Insights in late 2016 to gain a deeper, more holistic perspective of their alumni donor base.

Client Snapshot

Grove City College is a Christian liberal arts college that “equips students to pursue their unique callings through an academically excellent and Christ-centered learning and living experience distinguished by a commitment to affordability and its promotion of the Christian worldview, the foundations of free society, and the love of neighbor.” The College enjoys a large and diverse alumni network bonded by the College’s unique “faith and freedom” mission—a strong incentive for alumni engagement.

Research Questions

But successful alumni engagement is becoming an increasingly vital part of Grove City College’s—and every private college’s—future. While Grove City College’s tuition remains far below the national average for private liberal arts colleges, subsidized tuition at state-funded institutions mean the the average tuition-plus-fees difference between public and private colleges exceeds $100,000—a daunting number for any family, equaling more than half of median income.

So to continue and enhance it’s success in engaging alumni, Grove City College partnered with Haven Insights to answer the following questions:

  1. To what extent do donors understand the impact of their gifts?
  2. How, and how frequently, do donors engage with communications from the development office?
  3. To what extent do donors feel connected to the life of the College?

Haven’s Approach

After extensive consultations with the College’s development team, Haven Insights designed an extensive, online donor perceptions survey for the alumni relations department to send, via email, to alumni-donors. The survey covered topics from general satisfaction and communications effectiveness to forecasting and planned giving. In the end, the survey instrument met the College’s needs for enhanced insights, as well as uncovering donors’ perceptions of the College’s success in reaching out to them and asking for gifts.

Beyond survey design, programming and administration, Haven Insights conducted an in-depth analysis and presentation of the survey data that segmented results along a number of metrics, shedding light on how alumni-donor perceptions differ across age, gender and prior engagement, as well as across a number of other metrics and characteristics specifically noted by Grove City College as relevant to their development effort. The findings both confirmed existing preconceptions and raised new questions among the development team, who will use this research to optimize and enhance communications with donors in the coming years.

Project Outcome

Here are some highlights from the project:

  • 20% response rate for 5,000+ survey recipients (almost 1,000 survey responses)
  • 400+ unique visits to the College’s new “planned giving” webpage
  • Dozens in inquiries on planned giving—to download and/or receive planned giving brochures in the mail

Overall, donors’ high engagement with the survey instrument—a testament to both the College’s careful work with donors and Haven Insights’ project management—contributed to what ultimately became one of Haven Insights’ most exciting projects of 2016.

“This survey has been our most successful method for driving traffic to our new planned giving site,” said Brian Powell, Senior Director of Development at the College.