2020 Cygnus Research Project

The Foundation for Fraternal Excellence has engaged Cygnus Applied Research, to design organize and deploy an Alumni and Donor Engagement Survey. Information gathered will lead to series of strategic recommendations that all fraternities and sororities can use to strengthen their fundraising activities, enhance member engagement and generate greater support for programs and services.


The 2020 Foundation for Fraternal Excellence Alumni & Donor Engagement Survey will explore the attitudes, opinions and expectations of fraternal members, as well as identify those key factors which most greatly influences their decision to contribute philanthropically. Through the responses of your members and donors, the survey will reveal the opportunity that exists to grow both supporter numbers and contributions; identify the messages members and donors find the most compelling; and determine how fraternities and sororities can forge stronger relationships with members at all stages of their lives.

This research will generate an invaluable set of data about our members preferences and desires. It will allow us to see how alumni perceptions and participation have changed over the last five years and, from this, establish a set of national performance benchmarks for fundraising. Each organization participating in this research will receive their own unique set of survey results confidentially compared with national statistics and a full analysis of their fundraising performance over the last five years.

Participation in this project is open to all fraternal organizations so we hope you will consider being part of this important project, which promises to generate a wealth of information for its participants and the fraternal movement as a whole.


We expect that this project will significantly raise our understanding about the motivations, perceptions and intentions of alumni towards their Greek Associations. Collectively, it will help us craft better fundraising appeals, design more effective strategies for alumni engagement, and identify where investment is best placed to increase philanthropic support.

Every fraternity and sorority in the project will receive a series of confidential reports containing the results and findings for their own organization. This includes:

  1. Aggregate data from every survey question asked of their members and, subdivided by meaningful demographic categories (e.g. age, giving history, etc.), as well as comparisons to national figures and a “peer group” of fraternities or sororities.
  2. An Observation and Recommendation Report highlighting key findings from their members and accompanied with conclusions and strategic guidance from the research.
  3. A Performance Benchmark Report revealing fundraising statistics about their own members’ participation in philanthropy, as well as a confidential performance comparison to national figures and their “peer group” of fraternities or sororities.

Participating organizations will also receive invitations to attend future industry events and webinars on implementing the findings from the research.

Yes, you will! We’ve retained the data of those fraternal organizations who participated in 2015 so that we can track how the response of their alumni and donors have changed over the intervening five years. One of the big benefits for returning organizations is that you will be able to see how the opinions and intentions of your alumni have changed over time. So, if your organization has changed its approach to communications, implemented new programs, or even enhanced how it engaged with alumni, we will be able to detect the impact of those efforts in the survey.

In addition, we expect key sections of the survey to be updated to reflect the issues and interests of fraternal organizations today, taking the research in new directions and providing new insights.

It doesn’t matter if your fraternity or sorority was not part of the 2015 study. We would be thrilled if you participated this time. The only difference for new organizations is that we won’t be able to show changes in their survey results between 2015 and 2020. Otherwise you will receive exactly the same reports and have the same experience as all other Greek Associations.

The exact question topics will be developed over the coming months with the participation of the Greek Associations in this research, but we expect topics to include:

  • Fundraising case statements and their impact;
  • Alumni’s attitudes, preferences and philanthropic intentions towards their fraternities and sororities;
  • Expectations for communications and content;
  • Expectations and desire for donor stewardship and other related donor retention strategies;
  • Transitioning alumni to donors;
  • Alumni engagement and volunteerism;
  • Alumni philanthropic capacity, and giving to other organizations;
  • Demographic and attitudinal information from alumni.

No. Cygnus does not use giving records or contact information for any other purpose. Data records are never shared with any third party, and all files are destroyed at the end of the project. Cygnus would be pleased to sign a confidentiality agreement with any fraternity or sorority which desires one.

Reports for each individual fraternity or sorority become their own property at the conclusion of the project. They are confidential and will not be shared with other organizations. National aggregate reports will become the property of the Foundation for Fraternal Excellence who will be responsible for sharing this information among its members.

Each participating organization should appoint a representative who will serve as a contact point for the research. Ideally this individual would have adequate knowledge of current fundraising practices and the ability to extract (or oversee the extraction) of the Foundation’s database records for surveying and analysis purposes. Of course, the representative is free to deputize or appoint other staff members to gather materials and provide feedback, but it is helpful for there to be a single individual through which all communication will take place.

The fraternity or sorority representative will also be the recipient (and guardian) of all project reports at the end of the work; meaning they will receive their organizations confidential results and benchmarks for their organization.

The majority of organizations will just be asked to provide their alumni and giving records. They should allow approximately 3 hours of staff time to complete the extraction (upload times are dependent on the size of your database files and system).

No, Cygnus will be responsible for sending invitation emails to members and donors.

However, fraternal organizations are strongly encouraged to reach out to their alumni and alert them that a survey is coming. Time and time again we have found that those respondents who know about the research in advance have greater trust in the process and produces a higher response rate. Meaning greater and higher quality information for your organization.

All Foundation for Fraternal Excellence member organizations are eligible to participate in the research project.

Each participating fraternity or sorority must be willing to share their database records with Cygnus Applied Research so they can administer the survey to your members. Cygnus will provide each organization with detailed instructions on how to gather and upload database records and has experienced team who can answer almost any question on data transfer. (More information about Cygnus and the security of your data is include above in this document.)

We would ideally like to receive the following from each group:

  • The last five years of member / donor database records. This is so we can calculate performance benchmarks as well as determine who should receive the survey.
  • The current email addresses of alumni and donors so we can invite them into the research. Ideally each fraternity or sorority will have a minimum of 5,000 active emails for its alumni and/or donors. However, the larger the number of emails, the better the outcome.

If your organization has a small number of emails on file, please talk to us as we can always explore other solutions to get alumni into the survey such as through your social media pages.

The fee for participation is $3,500. The Foundation for Fraternal Excellence is offering flexibility for those wishing to split payments throughout the fiscal year and into the following fiscal year. Contact Ashley VanDewark to learn more about payment options.

There are also sponsorship opportunities for those organizations wishing to support the project and receive detailed research findings but choose not to provide alumni and donor records. Please contact Ashley VanDewark to learn more about sponsoring the research.

Load More


Please reach out if you’d like to be part of the project or if you have questions.

Foundation For Fraternal Excellence

Ashley VanDewark
Executive Director

Cygnus Applied Research

Jeff Dubberley
Vice President


Interested in participating but unsure? Read examples from those organizations that have successfully utilized the survey’s results in the past.


  • By Apr 30, 2020: Complete enrollment, which includes: 1) Signing a project agreement with FFE. 2) Submitting full payment or setting up a payment plan with FFE. 3) Conducting database extraction with Cygnus
  • Aug 23-26, 2020, at FFE Seminar: National findings presented
  • By Sept. 30, 2020: Individual organization findings delivered