Alumni Survey Provides Insights

The results of a recent online survey of nearly 10,000 Vanderbilt alumni revealed valuable information regarding alumni perceptions, involvement, and how the university can better serve and communicate with its graduates.

The Office of Alumni Relations and the Vanderbilt Alumni Association Board of Directors commissioned the survey, which was conducted in May by Wallace & Washburn Associates of Wellesley, Mass. Among those individuals who responded, 48 percent attended Vanderbilt before 1990, and 52 percent attended between 1990 and 2009. Undergraduate alumni represented 69 percent of the respondents, and alumni who pursued graduate degrees represented 31 percent.

CHART 1 — Value of the Vanderbilt Experience

Among those who responded to the survey:

99% Are proud to be Vanderbilt graduates
97% Say Vanderbilt’s name is respected nationally
96% Love being a Vanderbilt alumnus
90% Give Vanderbilt significant credit for their success
76% Still feel “connected” to Vanderbilt
51% Will probably give to Vanderbilt this year
32% May include Vanderbilt in their wills

In ranking the overall value of their Vanderbilt experience, alumni reported high levels of satisfaction (see Chart 1). In fact, a researcher with Wallace & Washburn reported that many of Vanderbilt’s positive ratings by alumni were among the highest the firm has ever seen.

Overall, alumni ranked e-mails from the university and Vanderbilt Magazine as the university’s top two communication vehicles, while Facebook ranked last (although it ranked higher among young alumni). Keeping in touch with friends from Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Magazine and campus visits ranked as the top ways in which alumni remain involved with the university (see Chart 2).

Notably, more than one in 10 graduates actively volunteers for the university—as admissions interviewers, as college fair representatives, for Reunion, for events of their various colleges and schools, for Greek organizations, for their local Vanderbilt chapters, and for student/alumni programs. The most popular Alumni Relations-sponsored programs are Reunion (69 percent), athletic events (50 percent), school/college events (31 percent), and alumni chapter events (31 percent).

In terms of popular programs and benefits that could be offered by the Alumni Association, continuing education opportunities topped the list (77 percent), followed by hotel/car discounts (44 percent), discounts on test-prep courses (34 percent), and short-term medical insurance (18 percent).

CHART 2 — Ways in Which Alumni Remain Involved with VU

Among those who responded to the survey:

80% Keep in touch with Vanderbilt friends
80% Read Vanderbilt Magazine
63% Visited campus in the last three years
37% Made a gift to the Vanderbilt Fund
23% Attended a local Vanderbilt event
12% Volunteered for Vanderbilt
7% Purchased athletics season tickets

Among 16 possible reasons for alumni to give financially to Vanderbilt, those cited most often included support to hire and retain the best faculty (94 percent), support of specific departments or programs (91 percent), funding of student scholarships (88 percent), and support of athletic programs (49 percent). Nearly all respondents (95 percent) rated their overall “excellent academic experience” as an important factor in their giving decisions.

Because of the large sample of respondents involved, the survey results are considered 98 percent reliable. These findings are being evaluated for strategic planning purposes by the Vanderbilt Alumni Association and soon will be available in their entirety on the association’s Web site. Want to weigh in? Send comments to


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