This project set out some very clear aims. I intended to identify the critical components of a successfully digitally-transformed alumni relations programme.

In addition, I intended to elicit the best practices for undertaking and managing such a transition, implementing innovation, and investigate areas for investment. I intended to produce a clear set of recommendations for UK institutions, and hopefully some that could apply to the wider world.


To study this material, I planned travel from Boston down the East Coast to Washington DC, and from LA up the West Coast as far as Vancouver, Canada. I set off in February 2017, with a substantial interview list and a fairly monstrous itinerary.

It was the trip of a lifetime. It’s a rare opportunity to combine a passion, a subject area you care about and are relatively expert in, and the joys of travel.

In the end, I visited Boston, Worcester, Hartford, Stamford, Fairfield, Hamden, New York, Baltimore, Washington DC, Arlington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. I made friends. I collected memories. And I learned about what I needed to write.


I undertook around 30 in person interviews, a further 5-6 over the phone, and also successfully surveyed another 35 institutions.

Following this, I filled in the gaps to correlate the responses to the varying degrees of success. I took a fairly hard look at the assumptions I had gone into the project with – which are covered in the following section.


Several things have become very clear from my research. The first is a codification of the implications of digital as a medium, and the manners in which it can be successfully used, covered fairly extensively in the Context sections of this report. This was an unexpected outcome. When I approached the research initially, I had assumed that not only was there going to be a substantial and common methodology, but that there were going to be implementation patterns which were seeing it be more successful in some places than others.

It turned out that those I studied were more concentrated on the journey towards embracing digital – rather than basking in the reflected glory of the opportunities within it. This led me to study more closely the environmental factors in institutions that led to the adoption and development of digital programmes, with a view to helping more along their way.

As a result, I have also produced a set of collated Recommendations – in particular for UK institutions, but likely with wider applicability. My sole hope in all this research is that these are useful.

Read on for Assumptions.