About a year and a half ago, Penn State Dean Danielle Conway invited me to be a contributing author to Incorporating Antiracist Principles in Alumni Affairs and Advancement (Volume 8) of the book series created by the Antiracist Development Institute (ADI). The book series is entitled “Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession,” and it will consist of eight volumes and be published by the University of California Press.
“More than 100 colleagues from the legal academy, legal profession, and adjacent organizations are contributing to the book series as chapter contributors, editors, content reviewers, and workshop facilitators, representing 55 institutions across the country.” https://dickinsonlaw.psu.edu/adi-book-series.
I agreed to write the chapter on Antiracist Metrics for Alumni Engagement, Fundraising, and Communications. In so doing, I started by trying to make myself more knowledgeable about the existing engagement and fundraising metrics. That effort led me both to author the blog post below and the two that preceded it, which I have permission to publish here from the ADI, and to author the chapter, which is now proceeding towards a second draft.
I thank Dean Conway for the opportunity to grow my knowledge of antiracism, alumni relations, fundraising, and communications and think through the intersections among the four from a design thinking lens.
Because the possibilities are so much more extensive than I had imagined, I have a lot to share. In fact, I divided the information into three posts: (1) Introduction to Advancement Metrics and Fundraising Metrics, (2) Alumni Engagement Metrics, and (3) Communications Metrics. This final post focuses on Communications Metrics.
I hope the three posts might be helpful to deans in goal-setting and evaluation for departments whose functions are not typically areas of expertise for law school deans.
Email Open Rate, Click-Through Rate, and Email Opt-Out Rate. As part of an overall alumni engagement measure, a counting metric is possible and easily implemented: the total number of alumni who open any alumni email in a given year. In fact, mass email tools, such as Constant Contact and Salesforce, automatically count the number of recipients who open each email message. These totals can be compared on an email-by-email basis or year-over-year basis.
More refined is the email open rate, which is calculated by dividing the number of alumni who opened the email(s) divided by the number who received the message(s) multiplied by 100 to get to a percentage. Open rates also are compared on an annual basis to gather data about alumni engagement, and they also can be calculated for various types of alumni messages to ascertain alumni preferences.
The click-through rate is similar to the email open rate but measures a different phenomenon. It is common in electronic alumni newsletters to include links from the email to news stories about alumni on the institution’s website and to various parts of the institution’s website that might be of interest to alumni. This metric measures the percentage of alumni who receive the email and click on one of those links; it is calculated by dividing the number of alumni who click through by the number of alumni who receive the email multiplied by 100 to get to a percentage. Click-through rates can be disaggregated for emails and even for particular links within an email, allowing, over time, for patterns to emerge that can influence future choices.
All email tools include a mechanism for recipients to communicate, electronically, a desire to discontinue receipt of emails. In addition, some alumni communicate such desires by separate emails or phone calls. The email opt-out rate is the percentage of alumni who receive the email(s) and choose to opt out. It is the number of people who choose to opt out divided by the number who receive the email multiplied by 100 to get to a percentage.
Landing Page Conversion Rate and Website Page Views. In some instances, an institution has strategic reasons for wanting to get alumni to click through from an email or from a social media post to a particular landing page on the institution’s website. Most commonly, that page would be the institution’s online giving page. In other instances, however, the institution might want alumni to read a full statement from the dean regarding an issue of institutional significance (e.g., a law school name change or a statement about a community issue). The landing page conversion rate is the same as the click-through rate discussed above regarding emails, but it also focuses on pages to which the alumni go rather than pages from which they go and includes a similar measure for social media posts. It is calculated by dividing the number of people who went to the particular page between the time of the communication and for a reasonable time thereafter divided by the number of people who received the email and/or were followers or subscribers to the social media posts that included the link multiplied by 100 to get to a percentage. Of course, while the landing page conversion rate is intended to measure the effectiveness of an email or social media posting(s), the numerator is imprecise because the number of people who visit a particular page may and often does include some who visited the page for reasons unrelated to the posting.
Website pageviews can be valuable as a point of comparison to prior years’ results. Most of the time, institutions use this measure to evaluate whether a new digital marketing campaign for prospective students is succeeding in getting them interested enough in attending the institution to visit the institution’s website. However, the effectiveness of advancement communications also can be evaluated in this way. Any page or set of pages on a website can track visits and allow for comparisons. Thus, an institution can track visits to its alumni news page or giving page and compare results across months and years.
Class Notes Submission Rate. For many years now, alumni have been submitting their accomplishments and news, and law schools have been sharing them with the alumni community, typically organized by the year they graduated. Submitting notes has become much easier as law schools have developed online notes submission tools. Consequently, it is much more possible for institutions to track and measure meaningful data; in other words, engaged alumni want to report their career and life milestones to their classmates and law school. Thus, the percentage of alumni who submit class notes is a meaningful metric, calculated by dividing the number of alumni who submit class notes by the total number of alumni and then multiplying by 100 to get to a percentage. This metric only becomes meaningful in comparison to prior years’ outcomes.
Production Results. For each of the social media tools, an institution can report a counting metric, the production, and sharing of new social media posts, stories, and videos for each of the social media tools used by the law school. (Of course, an aggregation of all such postings is also possible.) This data can be compared month-over-month and year-over-year. In addition, production data for competitor institutions is available for Twitter (X), Facebook, and Instagram, allowing for evaluation of outcomes.
Amplification Rate. The amplification rate is a measure of the effectiveness of social media posts, allowing an institution to assess the effectiveness of those posts by looking at the most significant way in which subscribers respond to social media posts by resharing/reposting them. Amplification refers to the idea that a social media post succeeds if it reaches the networks, family, friends, colleagues, links, etc. of the users already in the institution’s network. It is typically calculated on a per post basis to allow evaluation of and comparisons of types of posts. The formula is the number of amplifications (reshares, reposts) divided by the number of followers of that social media account multiplied by 100 to get to a percentage. An institution also can calculate an annual amplification rate across a time frame (e.g., a month or a year) and compare that rate to peer institution rates and to historical rates. The formula is similar to the post-based formula; it is calculated by dividing the number of amplifications of all posts by the number of followers on the relevant forms of social media and then, of course, multiplying by 100 to get to a percentage.
Applause Rate. Finally, the applause rate measures the degree to which alumni respond positively to a social media post by liking it, loving it, commenting on it positively, or otherwise communicating approval. It is typically calculated on a per post basis to allow evaluation of and comparisons of types of posts. The formula is the number of applause instances (likes, loves, positive comments) divided by the number of followers of that social media account and then multiplied by 100 to get to a percentage. An institution also can calculate an annual applause rate across a time frame (e.g., a month or a year) and compare that rate to peer institution rates and to historical rates. The formula is similar to the post-based formula; it is calculated by dividing the number of applause instances of all posts by the number of followers on the relevant forms of social media and then, of course, multiplying by 100 to get to a percentage.
As was true for the production rate, communication data regarding engagement (the aggregation of amplification and applause) for competitor institutions is available for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, allowing for the evaluation of outcomes.