The Critical Role of Data in Determining Strategy

min read

CASE President and CEO Sue Cunningham discusses the increasing importance of data in long-term decision-making.

To hear the full conversation, listen to the podcast "Alumni Engagement Goes Digital."

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Sue Cunningham
President and CEO

John O'Brien
President & CEO

John O'Brien: I'm excited to be here today with Sue Cunningham. She's the president and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, or CASE. CASE is a global nonprofit focused and dedicated to the advancement of educational professionals literally around the world. Sue, it'd be great to hear you talk a little bit about CASE in your own words as well.

Sue Cunningham: Well, John, thank you so much for welcoming me here. It's great to be with you. And a little bit about CASE, well, CASE, as you expressed is the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. We're going to be 50 years old next year. We have about 3,000 members around the world and our members are schools, and colleges, and universities in about 80 countries. And each of our member institutions gives us a roster of the people they want to engage with CASE. We have, we're approaching 100,000 in total who want to engage in some shape or form with CASE, and we focus on advancing education to transform lives in society. So our members work within advancement, which we categorize as communications, marketing, fundraising, alumni relations, advancement services, sometimes enrollment management. So it's the whole piece that is about external engagement for institutions, and we all know how critical that is to advance education here and in many other parts of the world.

John O'Brien: So it seems to me that this work that CASE is involved in with philanthropic work and alumni engagement that within our careers has transitioned from an art to a science. And I'd love to hear the role that CASE plays in sort of evolving and maturing this data and research practice.

Sue Cunningham: Data is critical in determining strategy. We have a number of surveys around the world measuring philanthropic engagement, but we also developed, four or five years ago, alumni engagement metrics, which mean now there are metrics for alumni engagement. Which historically the only engagement for alumni metrics was the donor participation, which as we know is an incredibly blunt metric because the denominator gets bigger every year and alumni engagement can manifest and benefit institutions in myriad ways of which philanthropy is an important but only one. So I think that's a critical piece. The other thing I just reflect on in terms of data in the community of advancement professionals who are focused on this area is growing immensely, and CASE took on a conference a number of years ago, our DRIVE conference, which happens every spring in the Northern Hemisphere where we have over 455 people signed up already for this conference who are really coming together to focus on how critical data is in our work and how it is driving so much decision making now.