What it Means to Engage

Professionals in the alumni relations field have spent the past decade working on metrics that help quantify and tell the story of how alumni engage with their college. Philanthropic measures have been consistent over time and are easy to calculate—defined by what amount of money was raised by what number of alumni. Of course, giving is one important measure to capture when thinking about engagement, but what else should be added to the mix? At Williams, we track three more: event attendance, the myriad ways you volunteer for the college and your online engagement, including voting in the Alumni Trustee election or “liking” a post on a college Facebook page.

In the process of establishing a goal of $650 million for Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams, we had the opportunity to create an accompanying engagement goal. For the first time in the college’s history, the success of a campaign would be measured not only by the dollars raised but also by how well the college and its Society of Alumni engaged with all alumni. We set an engagement goal of 85 percent encompassing the four metrics mentioned above—event attendance, volunteerism, online engagement and giving. We also created unique opportunities for alumni to contribute, including the Williams Song Competition and a retiring faculty recognition program, all under the umbrella of an initiative we called Purple With Purpose.

What would it take to get 100 percent engagement from the alumni community during the bicentennial?

Once again, the Williams family answered the call, surpassing these ambitious campaign goals. We raised more than $707.6 million, and—not to our surprise, but to our great pleasure—we can report that 88.4 percent of alumni engaged with the college during the campaign. We are blessed with an alumni community whose commitment and passion for alma mater is unparalleled in higher education. Even so, to have nearly 9 out of 10 alumni engage with Williams in some measurable way confirms that standing, and our gratitude to you knows no bounds.

These definitions of engagement tell only part of the story. Whether or not you attend reunion or regional events, choose to volunteer for Williams, follow Eph Alum on Facebook or Instagram or make a gift to the college, we know that Williams is with you. It may be in your friendships and relationships with fellow alumni. It may be in the skills you bring to your career and everyday life. Certainly you tell us when you feel the college is falling short of your expectations for it, and that form of engagement is perhaps the most important of all.

As we plan for the Society’s bicentennial in 2021, we will bring forward what we’ve learned about the ways you engage with Williams. What would it take to get 100 percent engagement from the alumni community during that milestone period? Let us know what you think we need to do to get there.

With best wishes from Williamstown,
—Brooks Foehl ’88, Director, Alumni Relations
[email protected]