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Talk | Robyn Doughty, University of California, Berkeley

Updated: Oct 13

Robyn Doughty, Director of Data Quality and Management from UC Berkeley leads this Talk. She discusses how UC Berkeley uses alumni data such as updated employment records and alumni interest and group affiliations.


Robyn has been in higher education for over 20 years, mostly in advancement operations and advancement services and has been involved in everything “data” from reporting and analytics, to gift processing and CRM conversions. For this reason, she operates under the philosophy that everyone working in advancement is working to solve more or less the same problems, each with its own unique school flavor.


As with all our LiveAlumni Talks, this is a round table discussion intended to bring the LiveAlumni community together to share knowledge.

The full recording of Robyn's Talk is available to LiveAlumni users inside the Helpdesk!


Highlights of the Talk

  • The problem with managing multiple shadow databases

  • Acknowledge non-degreed alumni who have a self-reported affinity to your institution

  • Capturing data on alumn interests offers a whole new way to engage with your alumni

  • Theme based campaigns

  • Interest related appeals go above and beyond the typical degree-based ones

  • Using social media to track peoples interests

  • Hashtags are indicators that can be related back to your database


Robyn began by addressing three main questions from the attendants today. How does her team leverage LiveAlumni data, how do they use it for data quality, and how do they use it for updating and verifying their data. In short, she explained that they update their data every 6 months. Certain teams update certain sets that they care about on a regular basis. And finally, certain teams focus on segmenting the LiveAlumni data to find alumni interests and different affinity groups to engage.


Robyn has brought in around 267,000 Records from LiveAlumni. Moving forward her team is looking to concentrate on continually importing more records, specifically employment updates and interests. Why? Because it's important to know where her alumni are working and what their titles are, but also what is interesting to them, what they are following on LinkedIn, and what are their nonprofit and for-profit board positions?


Robyn’s Pro tip: Capturing data on alumni interests should be prioritized because it will give insight on a whole new way of speaking to alumni.


Dealing with Shadow platforms

There are different ways to manage the data across different platforms. For instance, Robyn's team loads it into their database of record, which is Advance, where it is used by most of their super-users. However, that data also gets pushed into CAD CRM every two hours which is the main interface for their Fundraisers.


A common problem across schools is when there are multiple tools being managed, it is hard to keep all data simultaneously updated. Robyn says her life's mission is to shut down "shadow databases" as it relates to advancement work, because, "the more that we're all under one system, the better we are talking to our constituents, as one university”. UC Berkeley is working with the bigger schools and colleges to start to consolidate and get everybody into one area.


What to do with data on non-degreed alumni

One frequent problem when it comes to importing alumni data from LinkedIn is what to do with students who are non-degreed alumni or those that attended for a short time. An attendee from Cal State shared that they only import matched data, and since these cases will often be hard to match, they won't get imported at all. But Robyn suggests that a good way to manage them is by creating categories to mark them e.g. non-degreed, attended 6+months, attended 1 year+ etc.


Another attendee added that they do engage alumni based on the self-reported LinkedIn affinity even though they did not graduate from their school because, in the end, the fact that they put your school on their LinkedIn shows to us some sort of affinity. And it's important to acknowledge that.


The Power of Data Related to Volunteering, Board Affiliations and Group Memberships

Several attendees of this Talk shared some of the great ways they are using data on alumni interests captured from their alumni Groups and Non Profit affiliations on LinkedIn.


Alumni Engagement and Communications departments are taking “interests” very seriously because they understand that “how you talk to your alumni” is important. Typically, institutions blast generic emails out to their alumni who in return feel that the institution doesn't know them well at all. So they are focusing now on the message being “we want to know you and we want to meet you where you're at”. The data has to be current because people’s interests change a lot over the years. If you communicate with them based on their current interests, they will be more likely to engage with you.


As a matter of fact, one of LiveAlumni’s South Africa-based clients never sends out mass emails. All of their outreach is 100% targeted and their email open rate is of 30 to 35% .


Cal State also uses volunteer board membership as an employment record. People who have taken the time to serve on boards are great prospects for engagement connections. If someone's a volunteer board member of photographers against cancer, they get coded for both photography and cancer. It is data that helps to round out an understanding of a person. It makes prospecting by focusing the work on the highest value prospects much easier.


This sort of targeted appeal goes over and above a simple degree-based approach to outreach, since thirty years out, a business school graduate may not be interested in business at all.


The ROI on Data Platforms

One attendee mentioned how, as with any investment, she has to prove value to senior leadership based on the ROI of data platforms such as LiveAlumni. How did they do this?


First, they identified a gap in their data so they started with capturing information from LiveAlumni on C-suite and upper-level alumni simply because there is usually more “bang for buck” in that tier. Here, they reaped high returns thanks to the matching gift opportunities from a relationship they developed with a high-level local employer. So they were able to prioritize their outreach based on identifying high-level alumni with allows senior leadership to continue to invest in the platform.


Their three steps to getting a high ROI are to enrich database by importing employment data. Secondly, focus on prospecting, top-down. And finally, finding those unique nuggets that help advance “today’s” campaign or engagement, etc.


Theme based campaigns

Robyn’s Pro Tip: Determining the messaging behind a campaign is more important now than ever.


For example social justice, health, etc. Interests should come into play heavily for creating campaigns because knowing the interests of your prospects makes for easier planning. Determine the campaign theme and then find what alumni interests align with that theme. Or work the other way around by find clusters of interests and then create a theme around those.


New ways to update Peoples Interests in the Database

Several ideas were discussed. One school used a survey to ask people a couple of questions before they leave their website’s events. If you click on an event, you do something we're going to, we're trying to ask you three quick questions. Another school sends out surveys on the back end of Zoom Meetings.


It was agreed that there is a lot of value in tracking alumni activity on social media platforms. Social Media is a great place to see what one’s alumni are actively interested and engaged in. This is where younger alumni are living, so it’s a space worth exploring.


Robyn’s Pro Tip: Hashtags are interest indicators that can be related back to the database.


Want to watch more LiveAlumni Talks?


Robyn is just one of many inspiring members of the LiveAlumni community who have been sharing their strategies. If you’d like to learn more you can (1) register to attend one of our future Talks or (2) watch recordings of past Talks.


For more LiveAlumni Talks, click here.