Powell BuildingOffice of the President

What's your opinion?
Alumni respond in high numbers to survey

We believed that most Elon alumni were proud of their degrees and remained connected with the university. But to gather some solid data and more accurately gauge alumni opinions, we conducted a comprehensive Elon alumni opinion survey in May using e-mail addresses we have for about 11,500 alums, half the total number of alumni. The response rate was remarkable –– about 2,900 filled out our online questionnaire, about three times the usual number for this type of survey. The input we received was invaluable and will be used to understand alumni attitudes and shape our programs for years to come.

An impressive 98 percent of alumni say their experiences as Elon students were excellent or good, and the same percentage continue to have a high opinion of the university today.

“Keep on moving up … my degree increases in value every day,” wrote one alum. Another said, “It’s been nearly 40 years, but a day doesn’t go by without memories of experiences that I had, friends I made (and) faculty and staff who made impressions on me.”

In reflecting on the specific benefits of their Elon educations, alumni gave high marks across the board.

Other important findings:

  • Elon alumni are active in their communities, with 94 percent helping others in need, 82 percent volunteering service, 80 percent voting or participating in politics and 78 percent holding leadership positions.
  • About 25 percent of alumni say they feel “very connected” to Elon, with another 66 percent feeling “somewhat connected.” Alumni say they are often prevented from participating in alumni events because of time conflicts and distance from campus. It is our goal to move more alumni from the “somewhat” to the “very” connected category.
  • Among the most popular alumni activities are receptions, chapter events and reunions in cities around the country, Phoenix athletics events, and opportunities to recruit Elon students and mentor students or other alumni in developing their careers.
  • Concerning communications from Elon, alumni say the amount of e-mail, mailings and personal contacts is “about right.” About 95 percent say The Magazine of Elon is excellent or good, and 84 percent give similar marks to Elon’s Web site.
  • About two-thirds of alumni say they have made gifts to Elon in the past and plan to continue their support. Another 25 percent say they may make gifts in the future. Alumni are most interested in financially supporting scholarships, engaged learning programs, annual operations, specific academic programs and athletics.
  • In thinking about strategic plans for the future, alumni say Elon should concentrate on supporting faculty work with students, the Elon Experiences (study abroad, volunteer service, internships, leadership and undergraduate research) and expanding scholarships.
The survey gave alumni the opportunity to submit comments, and many wrote about faculty and staff who had an impact on their lives. “My time at Elon was amazing. The thing I valued the most was my connection with my professors. They worked hard to get to know us personally and on an educational level,” wrote one alum.

Some alumni also took the opportunity to let us know about particular things they are unhappy about. Phonathon fund-raising calls irritate some, while others are disappointed that the university has become more selective in admissions. While many alumni say they are thrilled with the university’s growing national stature, others are not happy about changes and growth. “The Elon College I knew and loved is gone,” wrote one alum. Another said, “I am concerned that Elon will become so big that the charm will be lost.”

Therein lies one of the greatest challenges that is revealed by the survey –– developing alumni programs that appeal to graduates of all ages. Many people are surprised to learn that about 26 percent of living alumni have graduated since 2000 and more than half have graduated since 1990. To meet the special needs of alumni who are in their 20s and early 30s, we are adding a position in the alumni office to develop young alumni programs.

At the same time, we must not lose sight of the importance of the loyal alumni who graduated prior to 1990. They are often our most active supporters who have a deep appreciation of Elon’s heritage and historic values.

Our goal is to provide opportunities that allow all alumni to remain vital partners and enjoy lifelong relationships with their alma mater. Elon graduates are a tremendous resource who are advancing the university by making a positive impact in their professions and communities.

Many alumni thanked us for conducting the survey, and one understood our motives quite well, writing, “Thank you for this survey! I really enjoyed doing this and feel that it has shown me as an alumnus that you are truly valuing our opinion to continue the positive growth of Elon.”

For full details of the survey results, go to: www.elon.edu/2006alumnisurvey. A special thanks to all who participated in this important effort.