How Universities Use Salesforce to Build Lifelong Relationships with Alumni

November 13, 2023
8 min

University alumni play a vital role in educational institutions’ growth and success. They are an institution’s greatest ambassadors and representatives, and when appropriately engaged, they can promote their alma mater, provide career support to students, and raise the institution’s profile.

But how can universities engage with alumni throughout the world quickly and effectively if the communication channels are limited? They need to use a CRM.

Salesforce addresses all issues universities may have and streamlines communications for a more connected experience for all parties involved.

In this article, we’ll explain how Salesforce can help universities build lifelong relationships with alumni and give you reasons for choosing Salesforce as an alumni engagement platform.

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Top Benefits of Salesforce for Universities

Salesforce is considered to be one of the best CRM for higher education for many reasons. Firstly, Salesforce for universities is a constituent relationship management solution built to manage relationships and interactions to improve those relationships.

Secondly, Salesforce for higher ed has several solutions such as:

Salesforce Education Cloud is software for colleges and universities, helping you track all of your constituent relationships, from prospects and students to alumni and donors. Utilizing Salesforce HEDA allows you to understand further the connections your alumni have to each other, the college or university, and even entities outside your institution. Salesforce EDA is an industry-tailored CRM we’ll analyze in detail further.

Benefit #1. Unified, industry-oriented CRM

Higher education CRM solutions by Salesforce offer a unified approach to digitizing and automating critical processes in higher education using a set of tried-and-tested tools that were deeply optimized for on-campus use.

Benefit #2. Effective tool for fundraising

A recent study by Forrester found that Salesforce for higher ed “improved relationships with alumni and enabled record-breaking fundraising” and saved $2.4 million in legacy cost savings.

Salesforce for universities makes it easier to launch multi-channel fundraising and stewardship campaigns at scale.

Innovative colleges and universities, including USC, Stanford, Purdue, Rutgers, Michigan State, UPenn, and Notre Dame, have recently implemented the Salesforce platform. They modernized their fundraising, personalized engagement, and conducted AI-powered research and reporting to inform strategy and measure ROI in a short period of time.

With the transition to Salesforce, the advancement office raised a record $107 million—an eight-fold increase over its levels from 2013 to 2018 and the highest total in Morehouse history. On Giving Tuesday 2020, the new tech platform by Salesforce allowed the advancement team to greatly improve its efficiency and data reporting speed. It saved us 150 hours of human capital time.

- Monique Dozier, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Morehouse

Benefit #3. Customizable to all your needs

Salesforce for higher education has numerous out-of-the-box solutions to offer. With the expert assistance of Salesforce consultants, you can tailor your CRM to your institution’s evolving needs. With pre-configured objects and workflows coupled with the proprietary Education Data Architecture (EDA), Salesforce can address various use cases relevant to the specific needs of any college or university.

Salesforce lets us plan our outreach activities so that we’re approaching fundraising activities in a way that makes sense while still keeping enough irons in the fire to reach our goals.

-Derek Thomas, Advancement Operations Manager at the University of Portsmouth.

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How SF Helps Universities to Maintain Relationships with Alumni

The main goal of implementing Salesforce CRM in higher education is to create a connected campus framework that unlocks a plethora of opportunities for all the participants of university life.

Salesforce as an alumni management platform eliminates a lot of the routine administrative work. For example, it can streamline the management of donations, events, mentoring programs, and more, meaning you can focus on what is truly important—your alumni!

So, how does Salesforce help universities to maintain relationships with alumni?

It Streamlines Operations

Salesforce for universities is an excellent tool for accurate prospect research and reporting. Also, it streamlines gift entry with Gift Entry Manager (GEM), helps measure campaign effectiveness and ROI, and provides access to predictive analysis tools. Having streamlined operations, the University of Michigan Alumni Association reduced membership acquisition costs by 50%.

It Creates Personalized Engagement

Using Salesforce Marketing Cloud, universities access a wide range of communications features to create personalized alumni engagement campaigns across social media channels, virtual communities, etc.

The greatest thing in Marketing Cloud is the ability to create tailored content for highly diverse target alumni groups. For example, the University of Carolina, San Francisco (UCSF) reached niche alumni groups and increased the registrant goal for reunion events 4 times.

It Transforms Alumni Online Engagement

Salesforce for higher ed has a special tool called Community Cloud. It enables universities to engage with alumni in a digital space 24/7. With this tool, universities can transform online engagement in two ways:

  • By sharing approved data and information with alumni on portals;
  • By connecting alumni directly to other alumni and institutions.

How Universities Use Salesforce as Alumni Engagement Platform

Firstly, universities use Salesforce as a constituent relationship management solution to manage and improve relationships and interactions.

Secondly, universities use Salesforce to eliminate a lot of the routine administrative work. For example:

  • donations and fundraising management
  • building of alumni-centric programs
  • updating alumni contact information
  • creating lists of students and alumni
  • creating marketing campaigns for the upcoming Homecoming weekend
  • outreaching lists of alumni to invite them for an upcoming event on campus using advanced searching tools such as Ascendix Search app
  • manage alumni connections with Relationships and Affiliations inside a CRM
  • mentoring volunteer programs
  • building personal relationships with alums
  • engage various faculty and university executive leadership in events and communication processes when appropriate, that also affects the high grades of university students.

Having automated all the listed-above tasks, you let Salesforce set the stage for taking alumni engagement to the next level and beyond.

List of Salesforce AppExchange Applications for Alumni Engagement

Salesforce is a huge ecosystem with numerous apps you can set up to do specific tasks. Such apps are stored in AppExchange- a marketplace for apps built on top of Salesforce, designed to be more plug-and-play for organizations in certain specialized areas.

Whether you’re looking for an app that provides event management and payment processing, creates checklists of event planning and execution tasks, or a mobile app with features like attendee lists and QR code check-in, visit AppExchange.

To simplify your searching process, we created a list of Salesforce AppExchange applications that extend the power of Salesforce in your alumni engagement efforts.

#1. Ascendix Search – tool for searching & filtering your Salesforce data

With Ascendix Search, any user can create lists views of alumni, students, accounts, cases, or any other objects fast and without external help

Compared with standard filter criteria in Salesforce, Ascendix Search includes many custom filters you can apply to your search and offers advanced functionality to build lists of students and alumni, run database analysis, and keep your data clean. Ascendix Search allows you to:

  • Use custom search operations & filters. Apply these filters to make multi-criteria and multi-object selection of your Alumni / Students Accounts/, and build lists of alumni to use in your campaigns.
search for alumni Salesforce

Search for Contacts in Ascendix Search

  • Export your searches to Excel with one click
  • Mass update and mass edit records from a list view. Mass update tasks, mass transfer contacts. Use mass actions to save notes, events, log calls in bulk. Send mass emails to your alumni
  • Search for Contacts within a specific area from your university to invite to your events. Search your Salesforce records with maps and charts. Create geometric shapes or a polygon over a map, use radius search, measure distances between points, filter to create a query that displays a list view and with pins on the map.
radius search for Contacts within 5 miles from selected company

Radius search for Contacts within 5 miles from a selected company (Ascendix Search)

#2. Blackthorn Events – in-person and online event management & registration app

Blackthorn Events is a Salesforce-native event registration and event management tool for universities.
It includes:

  • Native Event Registration & Management
  • Online, Virtual & Hybrid Events
  • Campus Events
  • Member Events
  • Conferences & Sessions
  • Mobile Check-In App
  • Badge Printing
  • Payments & Invoices

#3. Caseview – donor & donation management for EDA

Causeview Advancement platform transforms Salesforce EDA platform into a complete gift processing and donor management system.
Causeview allows you to:

  • Build, grow and manage relationships with constituents or alumni
  • Create donation pages and forms for your existing website
  • Send automated emails and receipts
  • Plan the details for your events and campaigns
  • Study your results with built-in & custom reports and dashboards.

#4. Byner – platform for end-to-end talent and customer engagement

Byner is a solution for Staffing, Recruitment & Consulting business built on Salesforce.
The app offers an end-to-end platform to boost synergy between Marketing, Sales, Recruitment department within your university. It is fully integrated with finance and payroll systems.

#5. Signal Vine – AI-based platform for blended messaging

Signal Vine Sync allows to sync prospect, applicant, student, and alumni data between your Salesforce account and Signal Vine.

Also, Signal Vine Sync allows you to:

  • map data from Salesforce to your Signal Vine fields
  • update data in Salesforce that you collect in Signal Vine
  • pull message history in for your shared contacts
  • push records from Salesforce to Signal Vine.

Engage with Alumni Using Ascendix Search

Request a demo to explore how Ascendix Search can increase alumni engagement and help you in granular searching.

Possible Issues with SF Implementation

Salesforce implementation is a step-by-step process. If something goes wrong, the CRM implementation may fail. Some of the most common pitfalls are a lack of project planning, absence of a clear and planned implementation strategy, and neglecting possible risks.

A complete list of issues that can result in failure looks like this:

  • No clear CRM implementation plan and risk management strategy
  • Lack of understanding of your university needs
  • No definite vision of how to manage relationships with alumni
  • Hidden costs associated with CRM Implementation
  • Poor salesforce consultant’s choice
  • Lack of transparency and clear communication
  • Lack of technology integration and CRM testing
  • Poor or no user training
  • Poor CRM adoption

One of the key solutions to avoid the listed issues is to hire higher education Salesforce implementation partner.

Why Ascendix as a Higher Education Salesforce Implementation Partner

According to a successful experience of Salesforce implementation, Indiana University increased the conversion ratio by 7%, whereas Morehouse College uses Salesforce higher education CRM solutions to transform its fundraising. And they succeeded.

However, to achieve significant results, Salesforce for universities should be fully tuned. Therefore, we advise engaging with a Salesforce consulting partner.

CRM consultants will:

  • Analyze your current sales and business processes
  • Recommend the best Salesforce implementation and optimization strategies
  • Advise you on the most suitable Salesforce editions and Clouds
  • Train your team on how to set and configure basic features
  • Consult on the best user adoption plans to ensure that your employees are comfortable with using their Salesforce software.

If you have difficulties with CRM implementation or just want to make sure that you are on the right track, our expert team of Salesforce implementation consultants will be happy to assist you with all Salesforce implementation services like:

  • Salesforce implementation from scratch
  • Re-implementation, optimization, or adoption of Salesforce CRM after years of usage
  • Migration to Salesforce Lightning.

Why Ascendix as a higher education Salesforce implementation partner?

  • We have 20+ years of solid expertise in Salesforce CRM consulting, deployment, and customization
  • We prioritize the client experience above all
  • We helped more than 200+ clients to implement Salesforce and get the most of it
  • We cater to the needs of each and every educational institution striving to achieve new levels of operational effectiveness
  • We have expertise in various industries guarantees, including higher education, so we understand the CRM requirements of this niche
  • We will offer your project our complete set of technical skills confirmed by internationally recognized certification.
  • Our global delivery capacity will ensure competitive cost structures with blended or offshore staffing models.



What Higher Education CRM Solutions Offers Ascendix?

We make Salesforce for universities more accessible!
If you are representing a college or university, we’ll do our best to create the best alumni engagement platform for your institution. Contact us to get started.

What is the Best CRM for Higher Education?

Salesforce, for sure. More than 1,500 institutions in 77 countries use Salesforce for various purposes and gained impressive results after implementation.


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