Take a peek at Yale’s alumni relations successes from the past year, and learn some interesting trends and approaches. Among them: Reunions today are more vibrant than ever, setting new records in 2015 for overall attendance. More than 7,000 graduates, family, and friends returned for Yale College reunions in the spring of 2015.
The Guardian’s Higher Education Network offers this great article on communicating with alumni. The bottom line: “You’re up against Twitter, text messages and diminishing attention spans, so make it snappy (and not about strategic plans).”
The University of Missouri’s alumni association has re-instituted its Black Alumni Network in response to numerous requests made in the weeks after racial tensions exploded on the school’s campus.
Corporate Insights recently reported that although nearly eight in ten alumni “feel positively” about their alma mater, only 22% have donated to their college or university in the last year. The report explored characteristics of donors vs. non-donors, and a key finding was that eighty percent of alumni donors indicated they have benefitted from their association with their alma mater. Among others, this finding underscores the new framework for alumni engagement: providing lifelong value for lifelong loyalty.
Why Alumni Salaries Matter and Why Some Colleges Wish They Didn’t
Lydia Frank, editorial director at PayScale.com, shares in a Huffington Post blog why alumni salaries are a useful metric. “As long as attending college costs money (and a lot of money, in many cases, even after financial aid is considered), students have a right to expect their school to prepare them to earn a decent living in their chosen field,” she writes.
Europe: Tapping the Potential of Graduate Ties
With little history of alumni engagement, universities in Europe are starting from scratch. “Before, alumni relations might have been seen as a nice thing to have…Now, universities are fundamentally rethinking their relationships with students and alumni.”
Michigan Defends Legacy Admissions Practices After Affirmative Action Arguments at Supreme Court
The University of Michigan defended its practice of giving preference in admissions to the children of alumni after the state’s solicitor general told the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday that eliminating the tradition would improve the university’s diversity.
Indiana University’s GLBT Alumni Association Launches $1Million Campaign for Student Scholarships
The IU Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni Association launched what is believed to be the nation’s first-ever university-based scholarship campaign devoted to assisting GLBT students and promoting leadership on GLBT concerns. Bolstered by an anonymous $500,000 challenge gift, the campaign kicked off with more than $200,000 in cash and pledges.
Officers, Board Members Resign from Baylor Alumni Association
Finding new leaders has been added to the to-do list of the Baylor Alumni Association, which is in the process of charting its direction since the university announced plans last month to formally sever the group’s rights to serve as Baylor’s official alumni organization.
Western Michigan University Alumni Board Commits $1Million for New Alumni Center
All 22 members of the Western Michigan University Alumni Association board have made a personal financial commitment to the renovation of East Hall as an alumni center. The board also has approved another $1 million in association funds for the work.
BWF helps colleges and universities build and grow successful alumni relations programs. For more on BWF’s alumni engagement services, click here.
Consider Penn State’s Sandusky scandal (2011), Virginia Tech’s campus shooting (2007), or the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors governance crisis (2012). The alumni associations at these institutions responded, and at the recent CASE Summit, their leaders shared how they navigated the crises. This article from Diverse: Issues in Higher Education summarizes their key tips.
Most striking about what they shared is how basic their advice was. There was no reference to elaborate PR strategies. Rather, transparency, teamwork and trust were the guiding principles.
- Roger Williams, executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association, emphasized the need to be straightforward with alumni. “Give them the honest scoop. If your trust and credibility go up in smoke, then it’s ‘Game over.'” His comments echoed what he shared with BWF in a video interview after the initial crisis had subsided.
- Tom Tillar, vice president for alumni relations at Virginia Tech, recalled that the association “didn’t wait for instructions” in responding to the shooting. “We just acted on our own, but we also had an enormous sense of trust with colleagues.” The alumni center became the hub for media activity, which allowed privacy for families of students in other parts of campus.
- Tom Faulders, president and CEO of the UVa Alumni Association, noted the tension between their obligation to both the alumni and the university amidst the university president’s resignation. “Lots of people wanted us to pick a side, but we didn’t. We went down the middle because that was where we decided we needed to be.”
It may sound like simple advice, but if our organizations don’t have these day-to-day basics down, we will falter when we are most needed.
Here are a few questions to ponder before a crisis hits:
- Does your alumni association or alumni relations program have the courage and leadership to speak out when crisis issues arise?
- What can you do today to strengthen the relationships with your institution’s leadership so that your organization is a trusted partner or leader in the response?
- How would your institution’s leadership respond if you carried an alumni voice to an issue?
- How effective are your alumni communication channels? Are they trusted information sources?
In our last post,we shared some of the winning alumni programs and services from The Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s (CASE) recent district conferences. Here’s part 2 of our two-part sampling.
UC-Davis Cal Aggie Alumni Association, 100th Anniversary Pajamarino
District VII, Silver, Alumni Relations Student Alumni Initiatives
The Cal Aggie Student Alumni Association kicked off Homecoming Weekend at the 100th anniversary of Pajamarino, a family-friendly event in which attendees wear pajamas to celebrate a tradition students began a century ago. Pajamarino traces its roots back to 1912, when students sneaked out of their dorm rooms to meet alumni arriving on the train for Homecoming. Activities included face painting, games, prizes, a pajama relay, and performances from student groups.
Sam Houston State University, Life Member Celebration,
District IV, Gold, Alumni Program, Project or Special Event
Sam Houston’s Life Member program is the foundation of the Alumni Association and welcomed 300 new life members in FY 2012. The Alumni Association hosted a Life Member Celebration that included student entertainment, an address from University leaders, and a commemorative bottle of wine for guests.
Oberlin College, The Oberlin Alumni Magazine
District V, Gold, Best Alumni/Institution Magazine, 2,999 FTE or fewer
Oberlin’s alumni magazine, redesigned in fall 2011, is graphically engaging and full of substantive articles and news items. Oberlin offers an online edition as well as a full page e-version using Adobe Flash.
Kansas State, Multicultural Alumni Council
District VI, Silver, Alumni Relations Diversity Initiatives
The Multicultural Alumni Council serves as a liaison between former and current multicultural students in an effort to maintain the link for life with K-State. Comprised of K-State alumni, students and friends, the council sponsors workshops, receptions and panel discussions in conjunction with ethnic month activities and other on-campus multicultural events.
University of North Texas Alumni Association, Recognition Tassel Program
District IV, Silver, New Alumni Program
This program gives graduating seniors the chance to show off their class spirit and get recognition at commencement. Graduates complete a “GRADitude” form found in their graduation packet. By filling out the form, students sign over a $10 property damage deposit that they paid as part of their tuition during their first semester at UNT. In return, students receive a year of full alumni association membership and benefits and the option to purchase the official Alumni Recognition Tassel to wear at graduation instead of the standard black tassel.
UC-Irvine, Career Building in a Tough Economy – Networking Webinar
District VII, Silver, Alumni Relations New Program Initiatives
Created to aid job seekers and those looking to make a career change, thiswebinar series provided specific tactics to bolster a career search. The series of five, one-hour long sessions was offered as a course through the UC Irvine Extension for $120.
All images sourced from award winners’ websites.
One of the things we love about alumni relations is the opportunity to innovate. Professionals across the country are developing new approaches and refreshing tried and true techniques to engage alumni and reach new audiences. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s (CASE) eight district conferences celebrate such innovation with their alumni relations awards. CASE member institutions submit their best alumni programs, services, publications, and ideas to win the coveted district awards.
We’ve gathered a two-part sampling of the most recent winning programs and services to share with you. Next week, we’ll post the second half of our roundup.
Indiana University Alumni Association, Programs in a Box,
District V Gold, Best Practices in Alumni Relations
Programs in a Box give alumni volunteers everything they need for easy alumni event planning so volunteers can focus on “building relationships, increasing attendance, and creating engaging experiences for IU alumni.”
Brown Alumni Association, Career Webinar Series,
District I Gold, New Alumni Relations Program Initiatives
The monthly webinar series is part of the BAA’s Career Navigator suite of alumni career tools and programs. It provides best practices in the career development process, highlights career field experts, and focuses on the world of entrepreneurship.
MIT Alumni Association, Faculty Forum Online,
District I Silver, New Alumni Relations Program Initiatives
The forum presents compelling interviews with faculty on timely and relevant topics, and last year’s archived editions of these forums had nearly 10,000 views.
University of Virginia Alumni Association, UVA Alumni Website,
District III Award of Excellence, Alumni Website or Microsite
This recently redesigned website is the go-to site for alumni to engage with the University. Its larger than normal images give users the feeling of being back on campus.
University of Nebraska-Omaha, UNO Young Alumni Academy
District VI Gold, Volunteer Engagement and Leadership
The Young Alumni Academy facilitates networking and professional growth among alumni under 40. Participants get an insider’s view into the administration of UNO, with sessions held at unique locations on and off campus addressing topics such as athletics management, student focus and community engagement.
The Fresno State Alumni Association, Grad in a Box
District VII Bronze, Alumni Relations Student Alumni Initiatives
Grad in a Box is a custom-designed keepsake box for graduating students containing such items as a commencement cap, gown and tassel, alumni club membership information, chrome license plate, T-shirt, and discount coupons. Here’s a video promoting the 2013 box.
Marquette University, O Holy Night Video,
District V Silver, Best Video
This video greeting to alumni, faculty and staff, and students featured Christmastime images of campus and Marquette’s Gold ’n Blues a cappella singing group.
All images sourced from award winners’ websites.