HAA Alumni List/Data Strategy Tips

HAA Data Insights & Strategic Marketing (DISM) Committee Findings

  • Suggested Best Practices on use of  fields supplied in HAA Annual Alumni Lists download as word doc
  • Alumni Data: Surveys, Other Data Collection Tactics, Emerging Opportunities download as word doc
  • HAA Data Insights & Strategic Marketing Committee: “Strategic Marketing” Matrix download as word doc

Suggested Best Practices on use of  fields supplied in HAA Annual Alumni Lists (download as word doc)

Design E-MAIL BLASTS that go to:

  • Entire contact list
  • Members only
  • Sub-groups of alumni and students
  • ‘school-specific’ lists of alums

Design E-MAIL BLASTS for the purpose of:

  • Targeted outreach for events and programs
  • Invitations to local and regional events
  • Contact potential members once or twice a year
  • Regular newsletters with other Club/SIG information
  • Surveys about events/programs (planned and just-occurred)


  • Segments of alums by:
    • School / Degree / Year of Degree (last 15 years /’90’s / ‘80’s / 70’s / etc.
        • Given to Board Member from that school / with that Degree / from that year
        • To spearhead recruitment
    • Field of Concentration/Major
    • Student Activities
    • Post-graduate programs attended
    • Other schools attended
    • Geography
    • Recent graduates / New names to list
      • To offer them free membership
      • To determine if cost of snail mail to entire list can be offset by revenue from those who join/renew dues
    • Lapsed members to call/contact for renewals
    • Sustaining members / Patron members / Book Award donors / other donors
    • Names of those to thank in newsletters
    • Potential sponsors and hosts
    • Potential speakers / experts
    • Potential volunteer leaders based on expertise in listed profession/industry
    • Industry-specific lists
      •  To target a Company per Industry as sponsors (ex. Consulting; Banking; Law)


  • Zipcode maps for variety of high-level analyses or informal uses (see reverse for more)
    • Ex.  proximity of members/potential members to planned event sites
    • Ex.  for potluck dinners for alums in proximity to each other
  • Generate labels for snail mail newsletters
  • Set up sub-groups (ex. Board members)
  • Research about members/other alums who claim they are not receiving email distribution or other communications
  • Research about where to start ‘chapters’ within Club/SIG
  • Verify proper alumni status of all members
  • Set up RSVP reports or compare members vs. total list to assess variance in level of engagement across schools/decades/etc.
  • Curate new vs. prior information as not always accurate

Curated list provided by the HAA Data Insights & Strategic Marketing (DISM) Committee.

Alumni Data: Surveys, Other Data Collection Tactics, Emerging Opportunities (download as Word doc)

  • Some Clubs and SIGs have attempted to collect additional data on members and their broader constituency to help advance Club/SIG objectives, although results have been mixed. Surveys have been the primary vehicle, yet not all surveys have produced value. Among the Clubs/SIGs that have produced productive surveys, the benefits appear to cluster in four categories:
    1. Planning:  Shaping annual goals for the Club/SIG; collecting membership pricing feedback
    2. Events:  Helping uncover or filter event ideas/organizers/venues; prompting event collaboration with other university alumni clubs
    3. Communications:  Determining frequency of newsletter; helping remind newsletter recipients whether or not they are members
    4. Member engagement:  Prompting people who’ve never been engaged with the Club to start engaging; creating renewed engagement with previously moribund clubs
  • For Clubs/SIGs that want to collect additional information, here are some types of information that some Clubs/SIGs mentioned that they have applied in their planning:
    • Interests:  Events, volunteer activities
    • Demographics:  Occupation/industry, gender, race/ethnicity, home/work location, affiliation with Harvard or other universities
    • Timing:  Preferred timing for events, frequency of newsletter
    • Active engagement:  Willingness to help organize an event, provide a venue for an event, volunteer, or share knowledge with other Club/SIG members
  • But there are a couple of big catches when it comes to surveys. The first is that the only surveys that worked were short surveys. As a result, it’s best to ask only about information that a Club/SIG would actually act upon. The second is that response rates for online surveys are plummeting. For the two Clubs that saw a strong response rate compared to most online surveys (both around 9%), their survey invitations were crafted carefully to emphasize that the surveys were short and would actually matter. Without nailing the survey invitation, email blast and survey content effectively, it’s hard to get even a 5% response in today’s environment.


  • There are other opportunities to collect additional data on members. For Clubs/SIGs that handle membership and renewals online, there’s no better opportunity to collect member information than during that process since that’s the one point where you have most of your members somewhat captive. To do so, however, requires membership registration software that either accommodates survey questions, or connects registrants to a survey page, or triggers a confirmation email that includes a survey invitation. In any case, a small incentive such as a drawing for something such as free upgraded membership or event tickets would likely help lift response a bit. The big challenges with this process, however, are that for Clubs/SIGs with rolling memberships (i.e., not based on a calendar or fiscal year), the feedback would roll in slowly, and responses would come only from paid members.
  • For Clubs and SIGs that don’t field online surveys, there’s another possible channel for member data collection: Paper surveys at the better-attended events. The challenges with this process are that it requires aggressive collection, and those only come from event attendees.
  • LinkedIn is another resource that a few startup Clubs/SIGs have used to identify potential members. For example, some regional Clubs and religion-based SIGs have searched both “Harvard” and other identifying characteristics found on LinkedIn to build their contact lists.


  • Following the HAA’s move to the Alumni Magnet online platform, some new opportunities have opened up for Clubs/SIGs to mine alumni data for better planning. At this point, it requires previous knowledge to export and analyze the data for the most ambitious Clubs/SIGs, although some Clubs/SIGs may have someone with those capabilities. But over time, those barriers are almost certain to drop, ushering in a new era of data mining for Clubs/SIGs to plan more effectively.
  • There’s also some experimentation with mining information from reunion Red Books (College Class Reports) to identify potential Club/SIG members. While a Red Book search tool is not readily available yet, if your Club/SIG sees potential for a Red Book search query to identify potential members, it may be worth asking the Harvard Alumni Association if there’s an easy path to help your Club/SIG pull that information, and over time, Red Book searches are likely to become more readily available to Clubs/SIGs.

Curated list provided by the HAA Data Insights & Strategic Marketing (DISM) Committee.

HAA Data Insights & Strategic Marketing Committee “Strategic Marketing” Matrix (download as Word doc)







-Women demonstrate an uneven participation rate by age, and overall participation rate is lower than for men

-Women 35-44 have lowest participation rate

-Joint events/initiatives with other alumni focusing on fields and industry

-GSAS alumni (outside of HMS) are least connected to Harvard


-Redefine engagement to encompass low time-commitment activities (e.g., reading a newsletter) as opposed to just in-person events

- Recruit for leadership positions and demonstrate they are the ‘face’ of the Club/SIG

-Get an understanding of needs of this cohort and develop offerings/events to meet them

-Personal invitation to projects/initiatives where a member’s experience and qualifications are essential

-Examine if activities/events based on industry may appeal to GSAS or PhD alumni; consider how pricing might impact attendance

-Examine if SIGs or reps from graduate schools may have role to connect with GSAS alumni of respective school around common interest/professional focus


-You can be an engaged member and benefit from membership without a significant time commitment

-Your Club/SIG offers engagement opportunities that fit your lifestyle and needs

-Your Club/SIG is a great resource for building friendships and getting to know people in other lines of work

-”One Harvard” means that graduates of all schools are welcome at Clubs and SIGs

- Your local Club is your ‘connection to Harvard’. A way to feel “back at Harvard” (ties to university/locale; not school, as attachment)


-Email, snail mail, video, social

-Personal letter from President once per year

-Word of mouth from alumni of the same school

-Email, snail mail, video, social

-Personal letter from President once per year

-Word of mouth from alumni of the same school

-Email, events from relevant graduate school reps or SIGs with related industry focus/expertise

-Word of mouth from alumni of the same school

* Note that your Club/SIG might find it useful to combine Gender and Age into a new segment such as Life Situation
Curated list provided by the HAA Data Insights & Strategic Marketing (DISM) Committee.