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What’s all the fuss about Employment Data? Strategies to Boost Engagement & Fundraising

We believe that no Higher Education institution – no matter how big or small – should ever have to struggle with engaging alumni or generating donations… and during our 15-year history of working with Higher Education fundraising and development teams, we’ve seen how employment data can be the key to ending that struggle.

However, the truth is that in spite of the undeniable value of employment data, it has often been overlooked when it comes to fundraising and development strategies. Why? Partly due to difficulties in capturing it accurately and partly due to a simple misunderstanding of how to actually use it. But if you can overcome those issues and you’ll find that this data is extremely valuable and forms a crucial part of the fundraising process.


Table of Contents

  1. What is Employment Data?

  2. Better Data & Better Strategies Boost Your Alumni Engagement

  3. Who Else Does Employment Data Help? How?

  4. Capturing Accurate Employment Data Can Be Tricky

  5. Alumni Directories are Not the Answer: A Simple Experiment

  6. The Solution

  7. Employment Data: Proven Strategies & Successful Use Cases

  8. Use Case: Location, Location, Location!

  9. Emory College

  10. Howard Payne University

  11. Finding The One – Identifying Donors & Donor-Prospects

  12. New Donors are Still Out There!

  13. Use Case: Expanding Your Search for Prospects

  14. Iowa State University

  15. California State University, San Bernardino

  16. Careers & Institutional Research Teams Can Get In on the Act too

  17. Matching Gifts – The Gift That Gives Double

  18. Increase Engagement through Knowledge

  19. Don’t Just Focus on Established Alumni

  20. Advancement is Key

  21. Use Case: Keep Your Database Up-To-Date

  22. University of Georgia

  23. The Final Piece: Respecting Alumni Privacy

  24. Explore LiveAlumni Employment Data


What is Employment Data?

You might think that employment data simply provides information about an individual’s current employer and title but in reality, it’s so much more than that. The best employment data includes a wealth of employer, education, board, and nonprofit data – both current and historical. When utilized correctly, it can be an invaluable tool to engage your alumni and donor-prospects.

In the last few years, there have been some particularly great examples that showcase how employment data in higher education fundraising can be successfully deployed in a multitude of different ways to achieve a wide variety of goals.

While employment data on alumni is often associated with database managers & alumni relations, its value goes far beyond these two departments. In fact, the most successful deployments usually involve several teams – including Advancement, Prospect Research, Alumni, Database and Careers teams – all using the same data to achieve their individual or collaborative goals.

Better Data & Better Strategies Boost Your Alumni Engagement

Detailed employment data gives institutions the opportunity to take the lead in fundraising and alumni engagement. But what is the best way to capture accurate employment data? Where does it come from?

Employment data can be collected in a variety of different ways – however, a non-intrusive method that respects an alum’s privacy involves capturing records that are already public e.g SEC – government filings, press releases, and biographies.

The most useful employment data includes information on current and past employment, job titles, non-profit board positions, philanthropic interests, education and degrees, industries, as well as location.

Understanding how to use this data can be an art. Developing, a strong, strategic implementation plan can help ensure that the information is properly utilized to maximize the ROI for alumni engagement, annual outcomes, finding prospective donors and more.

Certain pioneering fundraising teams have managed to look into the detailed nuances of this data in order to take full advantage of it. Their use cases speak volumes of the power of empowering employment information to its fullest potential – allowing institutions to dig farther and dive deeper.

When you have more detailed information about your alumni, you can begin to tailor your communications accordingly. Targeted communications lead to significantly higher rates of alumni engagement and increased donations for your institution.

Who Does Employment Data Help and How?

As a result of successful campaigns run by some Higher Education teams, there has been a notable increase in the number of colleges and universities that are now on the hunt for employment data. Why? – to better connect with their alumni. Higher education institutions who fail to connect properly with their alumni run the risk of not engaging those alumni, which then leads to a lack of support and donations, low participation in events, fewer mentors and insufficient data for outcome reports.

Employment data is valuable to any department in higher education. There is the obvious instance of individual departments using employment data to work with their alumni, i.e – Alumni Relations, Alumni Engagement, and Events. However, its value goes far beyond that. Many departments completely fail to recognize how employment data could make their day-to-day jobs easier and significantly benefit their institution.

So who does employment data help and how are different teams and departments using it?

Advancement Services

  1. Data integrity

  2. Enrich alumni data

  3. Identify successful alumni with senior-level titles

Prospect Research

  1. Identify potential major gift donors

  2. Identify nonprofit & corporate board members

  3. Find companies that offer matching gifts

Alumni Office

  1. Identify rising stars

  2. Organize industry-specific events

  3. Engage alumni based on interest

  4. Identify top employers

Corporate Foundations & Relations

  1. Identify companies based on size and industry.

  2. Identify top employers

Career Services

  1. Alumni internship programs

  2. Find alumni mentors

Institutional Research

  1. Recent graduate outcomes

  2. Employment outcome and graduate outcome reports.

Annual Giving

  1. Find companies that offer matching gifts.


  1. Relationship mapping

  2. Identify alumni who are C-level executives

  3. Identify successful alumni in top cities.

Capturing Accurate Employment Data Can Be Tricky

Ok, so once you’ve decided that you want employment data, what next? Where can you obtain this data? And how can you ensure that it’s good quality?

There are several hurdles.

First of all, employment data can be extremely hard to capture.

Secondly, the average person changes jobs every 2-5 years (young alumni do this even more frequently) meaning that it can easily become out of date.

Finally, on average less than 10% of alumni routinely notify their institution of any changes to their address or employment, so even when changes are less frequent, you are unlikely to be notified of them.

Traditionally, Higher Education institutions have attempted to track alumni employment data using surveys via phone and mail, alumni directories, or by hiring interns or students to scrape the data one by one. These methods of data collection can be time-consuming and demanding, particularly as it is becoming more common for alumni to move further away and make more frequent changes in their careers.

Accurately capturing data and getting a good ROI is difficult with such manual efforts.

Alumni Directories Are Not the Answer: A Simple Experiment

Many institutions believe that they do have accurate, complete employment data in their alumni directories. However, this is most often not the case.

In fact, after providing the details of their first graduate job, it’s very likely that your alumni have never updated their employment information. It’s even less likely that you have inaccurate information on their location.

Don’t think this applies to you? Here is a simple experiment to gain some further insight into the quality of your alumni data.

Step 1: Randomly select any three alumni from your database

Step 2: Review their social profile, such as LinkedIn

Step 3: Look for their location and employment

Step 4: Does it match what you have in your records?

The answer is most likely no. Inaccurate information on your alumni makes it difficult to track them and identify prospective donors.

The Solution

The existence of alumni directories indicates that employment data has always been sought-after has been challenging and time-consuming to capture and maintain. However, as technology has advanced, so has the ability to obtain accurate employment data.

To get the biggest ROI on any employment data strategy, focus on finding:

  1. A solution that captures alumni data in bulk rather than researching individuals one-by-one

  2. A format that allows the data to be imported back into your database

  3. A method of filtering and segmenting the data that will allow you to gain real insight into your alumni

  4. In addition to employer and title, look for key additional info, such as Nonprofit Affiliations, & Matching Gifts

Employment Data: Proven Strategies & Successful Use Cases

In the next part of this article, we’re going to provide some specific real-world examples of how employment data can benefit any institution, allowing you to grow by connecting with your alumni and raising the funds you need.

Employment Data Use Case: Location, Location, Location!

Daniel Ledford, Emory College

Last year, Daniel Ledford of Emory College of Arts and Sciences shared some insights into how he and his colleagues have been using Employment Data to improve their connections with Emory alumni. During the webinar, Daniel discussed how it can be really tough to engage alumni when you don’t know where to find them, especially when you are organizing an event, a trip or simply trying to connect.

So why was it so difficult to know where their alumni were? Simply because the Emory College CRM, like many others, only allows the Alumni office to update geographic information with a physical mailing address.

Alumni often list their parents’ home as this physical mailing address, as this tends to be more stable. Recent graduates frequently change their jobs and locations to advance their careers. When an alumni list their parents address as their location, it is difficult for institutions to identify where their alumni really are living, allowing for missed opportunities and connections.

Daniel and his team realized they needed to use their employment data platform independently of their primary alumni database. Here, they were able to pull real-time lists of alumni in specific areas who had recently moved or who hadn’t officially updated their address with the College – allowing them to identify key information such as alumni who are bi-coastal or who live in one city and work in another.

RESULT: Daniel was able to identify a higher proportion of the Emory College community living in different locations to those on record.

If you’d like more details, Daniel has hosted a webinar providing excellent insight into several use cases that have added value to the connections that the Emory College Advancement team has been able to make with Emory alumni.

Employment Data in LiveAlumni has saved the College time in identification and research and allows them to share information with other offices at the College, such as the Development office and Career Services.

Learn more about Daniel’s webinar here.

Howard Payne University

Howard Payne University experienced a similar situation to Emory College.

An alumnus previously thought to be living at their parents’ address, astonishingly, was found to actually be an incredibly successful individual who had moved away from home and started 2 companies, with more than 200 employees in each.

RESULT: Howard Payne identified a new donor who had both the capacity and inclination to give to his alma mater. This donor would most likely have been missed if the team had focused their research within their own database.

Finding the One – Identifying Donors & Donor-Prospects

Accurate employment data is crucial to identify key alumni who will help bring in the pledges you need. Over more than a decade working with Higher Education fundraising, we have noticed that, while in many cases there are fewer donors than there used to be, those donors tend to pledge more. For prospect researchers this can be a difficult task as there are less fish in the sea, so to speak…

Let’s say your VP comes to you and says find me all my successful alumni. First, you must decide what defines successful alumni. Next, what are the key indicators to enable you to identify them?

Clients have reported to us that alumni who are CEOs or have C-suite Titles, owners of mid to large size companies, senior executives of public companies, managing directors of venture capital firms and angel investors are all great people to be prospecting. We recommend using these employment indicators as a reliable method of defining successful alumni.

Once you’ve defined who you want to look for, the next very important question is – How do you find them? Traditional ways to find successful alumni can be through forms, surveys, or even looking people up individually. However, as a broader strategic initiative, these methods are not efficient and cannot produce large-scale results.

Capturing employment data in bulk, however, allows you to find these alumni quickly and analyze the data for other needs using simple online platforms. To find successful alumni, look at segmenting your employment data by building lists around key info such as employment title, company size, and industry.

The results are often amazing! Many institutions have seen large donations coming in from their CEO alumni. These gifts enable schools to recruit and maintain top faculty, build state of the art facilities, and make education accessible to many students through scholarships who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of college.

Additionally, there’s often a domino effect that follows these record-breaking gifts. Other alumni and philanthropists are motivated to make larger gifts when they learn that the college has received such a transformational donation. One large gift often spurs several other gifts that might not have been donated otherwise.

Want to read more about how CEO’s are giving back in big ways? Click here.

New Donors are still out there!

Due to the shrinking number of donors, Colleges and Universities tend prospect previous donors, but you don’t have to limit yourself to the pool of people who have donated in the past to find donors.

It is possible to find new donors. It can be as easy as searching for people who hold an MBA, MD, Ph.D. or JD, not only from your institution but for those who went on to other institutions to further their education. Alumni who hold these qualifications tend to hold high-level employment roles.

The focus could also be on prospecting alumni who belong to certain lucrative industries like, pharma, finance, and law. Alumni who are partners in mid to large size law firms, or who work as hedge fund managers, investment bankers, and financial advisors are undoubtedly fantastic prospects.

Prospecting alumni based abroad in places such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and mainland China has also proven to be successful.

Employment Data Use Case: Expanding Your Search for Prospects

Tessa Fjelland, Iowa State University

The ISUF Team, directed by Associate Director of Research Strategies Tessa Fjelland, captured employment data on over 1,200 international alumni – information that helped their Advancement Team get started on solid prospecting leads and engaging their international alumni.

Using knowledge about the geographic regions that have the highest population of Iowa State alumni, and how much time a Development Officer could spend making visits to those regions, Tessa’s team are working to ensure is that they aren’t creating a one-size-fits-all approach to international fundraising.

RESULT: Now that ISUF has the data, they are in a good position to determine how much time, personnel and investment they can and should allocate toward international fundraising.

Want to learn more about launching and enhancing international development & fundraising strategies? Read about what Iowa State did here.

Discovering alumni who work or volunteer for a foundation is also key. Alumni who sit on boards, volunteer, or work for foundations are statistically more likely to give to your institution because they know the true value of giving.

Engaging alumni who hold these roles can help your institution to get their foot in the door with a major company, getting corporations and foundations to donate to your institution.

Corporate Foundations and Relations are actively capturing and obtaining employment data to help them identify alumni working in this area to help fund grants. Even finding the right hand to a CEO can be beneficial because this alumnus is the person that can get your institution the meeting they need.

Over the years, as government funding has decreased, donations have become an important source of revenue for higher education institutions. A complete database of accurate, up-to-date, detailed data on current and past employment, location education, nonprofit affiliations etc. is fundamental to acquiring new donors.

Michael Regan, Cal State San Bernardino

Michael Regan, Senior Director of Prospect Strategy at Cal State San Bernardino hosted a webinar last March that was absolutely fascinating.

15 years ago, Cal State San Bernardino, like many schools, did not rely on fundraising.

But here is what enriching their database with employment data enabled Michael and his team to do:

Increased their College of Education’s Prospect Pool – A gift officer from their College of Education was discouraged by the lack of donations. Most of their alumni didn’t have the means to become major donors. But then he used decided to shift his focus – creating a prospecting list that focused on alumni who didn’t necessarily study Education at the college but were working in the education industry. That list generated many new senior-level titles to add to their prospecting pool.

Mapped Connections for New Prospects – By searching for alumni based on their volunteering roles at nonprofits, Michael mapped out useful connections. For example, looking at the nonprofit United Way, he compiled a list of all alumni involved there. He used engaged alumni to connect with other alumni volunteering at the same organization, in the hope that they could be donors or volunteers for the school.

Mapped Out Successful Travel Plans – Michael’s team was able to pursue many international initiatives in Asian countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand. Using this strategy, they were able to find the best possible prospects in a specific location, in a format that was useful for the team. Their biggest success – an alumni event in Thailand that hosted over 100 alumni!

RESULT: Over the past 15 years, Cal State San Bernadino has developed a successful fundraising strategy expanded their international presence by enriching their database with up-to-date employment data.

Read more about Michael’s notes and recommendations here.

Careers & Institutional Research Teams Can Get In on the Act too!

The advantage of having verified employment data is not limited just to Prospect Research and Development teams. Career Services and Institutional Research, teams that often work together, can also benefit greatly.

Career Services can start with the most obvious strategy – building relationships with employers. Interestingly enough, they may find that the best companies to build relationships with are not necessarily the biggest, but the ones who already employ a lot of alums and who will likely continue to open up powerful opportunities to recent graduates.

For example, if your institution finds a company where 50% of its employees are your alumni, that employer is a lot more likely to sponsor opportunities like career fairs and open up internship programs. Career Services can also use employment data to develop mentorship programs. An alumnus who is either a current or previous board member is more likely to offer mentorship as they know the power in giving time and money. Finding alumni in human resource positions can open direct communication with particular employers, helping to build relationships and making it more likely that they will send over internships and job opportunities to their alma mater.

Institutional Research departments need to report gainful employment and outcomes on their alumni every year. What exactly does this mean? Gainful employment means that an alumnus is working in a field related to the degree they received.

Take your recent marketing graduate -are they working in Starbucks as a barista or are they working at Amazon in the digital marketing team? Gainful employment does not only mean that alums are finding successful jobs in their area of study, but that they have entered the workforce well-prepared.

Having employment data on your recent graduates and alumni can be extremely useful. It helps to fill in the blanks where there are gray areas. Accessing employment data can be expensive, time-consuming and doesn’t always return the results that you need. Looking up individuals one by one is incredibly labor-intensive and could potentially take years. Imagine if your institution has over 100,000 alumni has to search for each one individually! Capturing your employment data in bulk helps you fill in the gaps that you have and allows you to calculate your outcomes using accurate, real-time data.

Matching Gifts – The Gift That Gives Double

With the U.S Government providing less and less support to educational institutions, fundraising is more important than ever in higher education. Matching gifts are essentially a gold mine for any institution, that can increase your donations by identifying which employers will donate if one of your alumni makes a donation to their alma mater.

However, an estimated $4-$7 billion in matching gift funds get left behind each year! That is an incredible amount of money that is not being taken advantage of – and the primary reason for matching gift funds going unclaimed every year is a lack of donor awareness.

Even though companies want to support philanthropy through their programs, nonprofits want to take advantage of the additional funds, and donors want to support the causes they care about – the donors can’t participate in programs if they don’t know about them.

Most colleges and universities go about matching gifts backward, by first identifying alumni to donate to their institution and then seeing if their employer offers matching gifts.

We have seen far greater success achieved by teams who take a more proactive approach. These teams begin by first identifying the companies that offer matching gifts, then targeting alumni working at these companies, knowing that if those alums donate, their gift will be worth twice as much when it’s matched by their employer.

To take this approach to matching gifts, you need reliable and up to data matching gift data. Learn more about doubling your alumni donations with matching gifts click here.

Engagement through Knowledge

Whether they work for a company with a matching gifts program or not, you’ll struggle to get your alumni to donate if you don’t know anything about them.

Colleges and Universities can engage alumni through programs and philanthropic causes of interest that the alumni truly care about. Once you have this information, it becomes much easier to approach them about topics which you know they will be invested in. This builds a stronger relationship, which in return can lead to larger donations.

Higher Education Institutions take a much more comprehensive role when it comes to organizing alumni events. Although every institution organizes their alumni initiatives a bit differently, Alumni Relations can encompass fundraising, advocacy, recruitment, student mentoring and more.

It is much more effective for institutions to specifically target certain groups of alumni when organizing alumni events. Non-traditional, creative events that are focused on an alumni interests help to foster an engaged alumni community, which is essential for success.

For example, it’s important to organize events around the industries that are relevant to your alumni. Traditionally, fundraisers tend to classify alumni industries by degree studies. However, this approach lacks relevance. Engaging alumni through the person or company industry listed on the LinkedIn profile is a much more reliable option.

For example, let’s say you decide to organize an event related to economics. Previously, you might just have invited all alumni who studied Economics at your institution. These individuals may have gone on to study a Master’s degree in a completely different field and are no longer working in economics, making them unlikely to attend this event.

However, we recommend a strategy to identify alumni working in the economics field by checking their:

1. Further education

2. Current and Past Employment

3. The industry that they have personally chosen to list on their profile

This targeted approach can help you to identify more alumni in the field, and people who are much more likely to respond to your invite.

Alumni are much more likely to want to hear from you if your communications are targeted to their current situation. For example, up to date employment data can help you identify career changes on your alumni, allowing you to send a message of congratulations to someone who just received a new job or promotion. Personal notes such as these help alumni to feel valued by their alma mater and can be helpful in strengthening the relationship ties with the institution. In future, if you’re asking that alumnus for a donation, the pre-existing relationship means they are far more likely to look upon your request favorably.

Focusing Only on Established Alumni is a Mistake

There’s no doubt that alumni who are successful and established in their careers should be a part of your engagement strategy, but it would be a mistake to focus just on them.

Rising stars amongst your alumni are often overlooked. However, it’s important to follow your alumni throughout their careers.

Approaching a CEO of a company for the first time late in their career is not nearly as successful as it would have been had you been following their career and supporting them along the way. Use your knowledge of an alumnus’ employment history to cheer them on from the sidelines throughout their professional development and develop an organic, symbiotic relationship.

Help your alumni to grow and flourish in their careers and they are much more likely to want to be your next great prospective donor. They could also open doors to the companies they work for – you might be able to enlist their help in finding mentorships or internships, their company may have a matching gifts program and they may even be willing to get involved in your school’s philanthropic events.

Alumni Relation departments often engage alumni by inviting them to speak at an event or participate on a panel. Capturing real-time employment data in bulk expands your opportunities to create a diverse group of people to meet the needs of any event.

Don’t simply invite the same people over and over again. Instead, broaden your initiatives and invite new experts, and leaders in specific fields and industries to empower your event.

Advancement is Key

Bulk-import alumni data into your existing database to boost results.

Colleges and University Advancement Team’s have a daunting task of keeping their alumni database up to date. Updating your institution’s Blackbaud, Ellucian, Jenzabar, Raiser’s Edge, etc. can be costly in terms of time and personnel. When employment data is delivered in bulk, different departments can work together to help each other benefit from having up to date data.

Since many departments do not share budgets, they often do not realize that employment data is helpful to other teams. If possible, data should be shared across the institution to help a range of departments with their individual goals because this can significantly increase the ROI on an employment data purchase.

Employment Data Use Case: Keeping Your Database Up-to-Date

Derek Clark, University of Georgia

Whilst he was a Senior Director of Advancement Services at the University of Georgia, Derek Clark did an awesome job of sharing access with his career services team, development officers and other departments, in exchange for weekly notifications on their alumni who have changed careers.


Here are some of the benefits UGA has seen over the past few years:

  1. 844,731 active constituents in their database. Up from 480,000 four years ago.

  2. 160,658 employee relationships. This has more than doubled from 2016, which also means a significant increase in matching gifts donations from alumni employers.

  3. 123,641 constituents have job titles.

  4. 34.7% of graduates have known employee relationships.

  5. 121,361 LinkedIn URLs

  6. 43,316 organizations, doubled from two years ago.

In short, institutions that collaborate can advance together as a whole.

Effort and intention are the basics. Creativity and understanding are fundamental, but accurate and verified employment data is the first step. An institution cannot prosper without alumni engagement, and there is no better strategic way to engage your alumni than by actively capturing and obtaining employment data.

In fact, in today’s billion-dollar data industry, employment information is rapidly becoming the most valuable data point for Higher Education teams.

Real-time data is the gold standard because it allows you to accurately target alumni, build stronger connections and advance your institution.

The Final Piece: Respecting Alumni Privacy

In the modern world, data is collected on almost everything we do, from our internet history to our social media. It has been around since before magazine subscriptions but has continued to evolve and become more vital.

Alumni employment data is essential for colleges and universities to boost campaigns, engagement, data outcomes, fundraising and more. Collecting accurate employment data is absolutely the undeniable bottleneck for the growth of any higher education institution.

However, it is critically important to continue to consider and respect your alumni’s privacy. Whether you’re capturing employment data internally or with the help of a partner, you must ensure that you use non-intrusive methods.

LiveAlumni’s policy is to only collect employment data that is publicly available and has been expressly published for the purpose of career advancement.

Explore How LiveAlumni Can Help You

LiveAlumni offers a unique solution to any College or University searching for alumni employment data. We can help you build and maintain strong relationships with your alumni by delivering accurate employment, contact, and philanthropic data. We also provide help, training and strategy sessions to ensure that you can fully utilize your employment data to reach your goals and get the results you need.

Learn more by getting in touch today.

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