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.


Cygnus Applied Research continues to monitor the situation and projects closely. So far there is no indication that the response to COVID-19 is negatively impacting participation rates in the survey. For those groups that are involved in this project as of March 15, Cygnus representatives are remaining in touch individually.


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.

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.

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.

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Foundation For Fraternal Excellence

Ashley VanDewark
Executive Director

Cygnus Applied Research

Jeff Dubberley
Vice President


Examples from those organizations that have successfully utilized the survey’s results in the past.


  • Summer 2020: Project work continues.
  • Aug. 24-26, 2020, at FFE Seminar: National findings presented
  • By Sept. 30, 2020: Individual organization findings delivered