This month’s news roundup reflects the ongoing juxtaposition of tradition and innovation in alumni engagement. We’re seeing reunions integrate rich, new programming with long-standing offerings, associations adapt their membership programs, and the addition of a philanthropy component to one of the biggest alumni parties of the year. Read on!
In a time when alumni associations are being “folded in” to university development offices (UConn, for a recent example), Iowa State has just endowed its association’s President and CEO position, the first non-academic endowed position of any kind at ISU.
The MSU Alumni Association joins other alumni organizations like those at Ohio State, Illinois, and the University at Buffalo in dropping its dues-based membership program. “As of July 1, 2016 the MSU Alumni Association will eliminate the dues requirement for membership in recognition of what many alumni have been telling us for a long time – dues are a distraction,” wrote Scott Westerman, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations.
The University of Pennsylvania’s alumni weekend drew a record number of alumni back to campus for a weekend packed with educational programs, an All-Alumni Party, parade, picnic, the Taste of Penn Spectrum (celebrating Penn’s cultural diversity), a screening of Pitch-Perfect 2 (which features a Penn a cappella group), and the Perelman School of Medicine’s black-tie gala featuring Harry Connick, Jr.
In addition, the school’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships links alumni with volunteer opportunities, following a request from alumni who “wanted another reason to exist besides to plan a party every five years.”
Up to 5,000 alumni will attend the University of Delaware’s annual Dela-bration, an open-air dance party with such high energy it required a city noise waiver. This well-attended event will include a VIP area near the stage, exclusively for alum that donate at least $1,000 per year.
CASE Study Reveals Growing Pains at Community College Alumni Relations Programs
A recent CASE survey found that community colleges are likely to see an increase in giving when they track and engage their alumni. However, data indicate that two-year institutions have made minimal investments in staffing and resources to develop alumni relations programs. Other findings from the study include:
- Many community college employees who work in alumni relations have relatively little experience in their current roles. Nearly half of chief alumni relations officers had been in their position two years or less.
- Less than 60 percent of survey respondents indicated that their community colleges maintain a dedicated annual operating budget for alumni relations. Among those institutions that specified the amount of their alumni relations budgets, the average annual amount was $23,611.
- Three approaches to defining alumni appear to be used with frequency in community colleges. More than two-fifths of the responding institutions defined alumni as anyone who has ever taken one or more classes. Nearly 40 percent defined alumni as degree or certificate holders, while 30 percent said an alumnus is anyone who has completed a certain number of hours or units.
- Many community colleges do not have updated contact information for a large number of their alumni, although successful record-keeping appears to facilitate giving from alumni. Responding institutions tracked mailing addresses for 48 percent and email addresses for 12 percent of their alumni population on average.
- Financial support from alumni is an active segment of total giving, but there is room for growth at most community colleges. The average amount for total private giving from alumni was $50,846, which represents 6.5 percent of the average figure for total dollar amount giving from all sources.
Alumni Advocacy Plays an Increasing Role in Higher Ed Strategy
Higher education institutions are mobilizing their alumni to be advocates, speaking with local, state, and federal representatives about issues that impact their alma mater. Read how the University of Minnesota, the University of Rhode Island and The Ohio State University have used alumni advocacy to not only engage alumni but achieve major gains for their institutions.
Houston Alumni Association Affiliates with University
The University of Houston Alumni Association is affiliating with the University in an effort to double the number of alumni it engages annually and strengthen relationships with alumni, students and the school. The association will retain its nonprofit status and independent board of directors, but staff will focus more on programming than fundraising or securing annual memberships.
Dartmouth Attracts 500 Alumni to Celebration of 40th Anniversary of Coeducation
Dartmouth hosted a weekend of events to mark the 40th anniversary of coeducation and celebrated inclusivity and alumnae achievements. About 500 alumni attended the weekend of events featuring Dartmouth Trustee Laurel Richie ’81, president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and actor and comedian Rachel Dratch ’88, a former cast member of Saturday Night Live.
Alumni Family Pledges $13.5 Million to The Ohio State University
Three generations of a Columbus area family pledged a gift of $13.5 million to establish the largest and most comprehensive sports medicine facility in the country and fund early childhood and foreign language education.
Community service events unite alumni around a common cause and provide a platform for alumni as goodwill ambassadors for the university. But, they can easily become just another task for your organization if they aren’t well conceived and effectively administered.
Here are our top tips for creating quality events that add value to your organization and local communities.
- Know what you want to accomplish. In hosting community service events, what are you hoping to achieve? Are you fostering relationships among your alumni body? Trying to increase visibility for the university? Providing a volunteer base for a worthwhile, designated charity? Whatever your goal, ensure that it stems from a strategic objective.
- Plan well in advance. Many alumni organizations host multi-city or month long service events, and coordinating these takes 3-4 months of planning to do them well. More ambitious projects may take a year of planning. Consider timelines for working with designers, communications staff, purchasing departments, and partner organizations.
- Recruit volunteers to lead the charge and take ownership of the activities. Volunteers are the backbone of any successful event, so engage them early and often in the planning process, and identify a lead-volunteer to serve as the point person on the day of the event.
- Mobilize a team of staff to assist with the effort. Appoint a team leader to provide overall direction, but designate individuals to communicate with volunteers, send email reminders, oversee event registration (if applicable), or disseminate supplies. Don’t let the responsibility for planning and executing your service events rest on one person’s shoulders.
- Have fun! Remember the spirit of the service you’re doing and enjoy the camaraderie of serving others alongside your alumni and staff.
- Communicate your results and say thanks. Report your accomplishments to your alumni body, partners, staff, and volunteers, and celebrate your successes!
Here are a few examples of community service events and programs from alumni organizations around the country.
- Princeton combines community service with its class reunion program, with various classes hosting their own special projects.
- Iowa State’s “Cy’s Days of Service” runs for the month of April. A photo gallery captures their alumni’s 1,500 hours of service across the globe. They also do a great job of communicating their results.
- The University of Michigan promotes spirit and pride by hosting its “Alumni Community Service Day” on graduation day.
- The Pacifica University Alumni Association launched its first community service project in 2012 in conjunction with the Alternatives to Violence Project.
- Oregon State University hosted a multi-city day of service at 43 sites in 2102, including one in Ethiopia.
- Santa Clara’s “Alumni for Others” service program allows alumni to initiate projects year-round and provides tips for planning a service project.
Whether you’re looking for new ideas for engaging your alumni or want to catch up on alumni-related news, you’ll find some interesting stories in the sources below.
Coming soon, we’ll be wrapping up our Board Development series with a video interview with Bob Stein, former Executive Director of the American Bar Association and chief volunteer of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Bob will share his insights on how alumni staff can effectively engage their top volunteer leaders. Don’t miss it!