Computer programs that assess alums’ likelihood to contribute during fundraising campaigns are commonplace in higher education. But most of those programs, McAlexander said, assign potential donors a “wealth score” that indicates how much that person is able to give.

OSU’s technology instead measures how much an alum might approve or disapprove of their former school. The tool has proven valuable to the university’s fundraising officials.

“The BCI score tells me whether someone has high affinity towards the university rather than lukewarm affinity, so we can really prioritize those individuals that we want to reach out to first,” said Mark Koenig, senior director of advancement services for the OSU Foundation, which organizes fundraising projects.

Koenig said the BCI formula allows OSU to tell if a former student enjoyed a certain professor or degree program, but disliked the school’s sports program. That person, Koenig said, would not be solicited for a donation to a new basketball stadium.

“We were able to not only find out how well alumni liked their experience at OSU, but what their priorities are,” he said.

More targeted fundraising strategies could be timely for campuses, because alumni giving has fallen since the U.S. economy began its downturn in 2008.

Since then, colleges large and small have turned to social media outlets – primarily Twitter and Facebook – to connect with former students, rather than spending thousands on mass mailings, open houses, and traveling to meet with wealthy donors across the country.

Charitable giving dipped to never-before-seen lows in 2009, according to a report from the Council for Aid to Education (CAE), an organization that tracks educational donations nationwide.

Contributions to colleges and universities fell by 11.9 percent in 2009, according to CAE, with alumni giving dropping sharply.

Add your opinion to the discussion.