Shifting to Digital-First Strategy

It was fun to work with Jon Horowitz on this Q&A for

Having a digital-first focus doesn’t mean everything you do is entirely digital, but it helps highlight the importance of digital engagement.  As advancement shops build teams, they should consider putting communications and digital engagement officers at the center of their staffing strategies.

Read the full article here.




GW Alumni Relations Hiring Key Positions

professors_gate_-_gwuThe George Washington University is accepting applications for two important alumni relations positions. These director-level positions will focus on two strategic priorities: volunteer engagement and career programs/industry networks.

It’s an exciting time to join the Office of Alumni Relations (OAR) at GW, which is in the midst of the $1 billion Making History campaign. The university’s location offers job seekers an opportunity to be a part of the thriving Washington, DC culture and work only steps away from the White House and National Mall. Additionally, OAR is in the process of finalizing a long-term plan that will serve as a road map into the bicentennial of the university (2021).

The GW alumni community comprises more than 275,000 alumni living in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and 150 countries around the world. GW’s diverse graduates have many ways to connect with GW through more than 70 domestic and international networks, cross-disciplinary and industry-based professional networks, and student-alumni mentorship and career programs.

The opportunities and application information can be found in the links below. Please consider sharing this information with others who may be qualified and interested.

The Office of Alumni Relations leads the university’s efforts to strengthen and promote an invested alumni community that inspires lifelong loyalty and advances GW.

Micro-Volunteering and Digital Engagement

I stumbled on this thought-provoking post online today.  As Alumni Associations grapple with busier members, the concept of “micro-volunteering” seems like a rational direction for the future.  The technique reminds of what volunteers do during a crowdfunding campaign, but can also be adapted to non-philanthropic activities.

The Engagement Super Bowl

For football and non-football fans alike, the Super Bowl is an exciting, annual tumblr_mrjusy8wcM1s5tlmxo1_1280phenomenon.  For football fans, it’s a must-watch even if your favorite team isn’t playing.  For folks who don’t really like football, there are plenty of other options to partake in.  The Super Bowl is a great model for institutions that are looking for direction when it comes to planning Homecoming.

Homecomings take on different forms throughout the United States.  Many are yearly activities that are centered around a sporting event, others incorporate reunions for specific years (or for all alumni), others are some sort of hybrid combining these elements.  Regardless of the format and timing, for the purpose of this post, consider any event housed on-campus where boatloads of alumni reconvene at alma mater to reconnect.

What makes the Super Bowl one of the most watched television programs is its diversity.  First and foremost, you have THE GAME which is a winner-take-all battle between two teams, the only professional sport with this format.  Football fans of all stripes wouldn’t dream of missing it.  Then, you have the COMMERCIALS.  You know, those edgy, trendy, classic and expensive commercials that disallow you from leaving the room to refresh your beer during breaks in the action.  Companies pay big money to advertise during the game due to the number of viewers.  At halftime, you get the SHOW.  It might be a famous classic rock group, a popular starlet, or someone you never heard of.  In any event, it’s a free concert and anything might happen (see Jackson, Janet).  These three elements occur if you don’t change the channel, but there are more things going on if you do.  Have you ever heard of the Puppy Bowl or the Lingerie Bowl?  Although they couldn’t be more different, they are very popular halftime alternatives.

Besides these annual elements, there are contests, television teasers and additional new programming that are unveiled during THE GAME.  You are driven to your smartphone or iPad to see the ending of the Go Daddy commercial or to vote on which potato chip will be launched in the next month.  The Super Bowl is an interactive and personal event.

Now, you may be asking yourself how does this translate into alumni relations programming…it’s a fair inquiry.

Successful homecomings need to have the same characteristics of the big game.  The event needs to appeal to a large audience, but needs to be personal to those in attendance.  It has to contain diverse programs while addressing a multi-generational crowd.  Here are some examples of how to do this:

  • Although not essential to your success, hosting a sporting event gives you the chance to cater to a large number of alumni who are attending the event and the pre-game tailgating that takes place.
  • Consider providing alumni with academic programming, particularly for those who may not be enamored with a sporting event.  While you may not want to compete with “the big game,” these academic events can take place prior to the game.
  • How about a concert?  You don’t have to contract U2 to play on campus, and hosting a post-game concert is a fun way to keep guests on campus after the game and avoiding traffic heading to the gates at halftime of a blowout.  Although classical or jazz groups may not be the best picks for a stadium concert, there are student and alumni cover bands that will fit the bill.  If your budget can handle it, a fireworks show can punctuate the end of the performance with a bang (no pun intended).
  • That classical or jazz band I mentioned above?  You can host a concert for them during Homecoming as well.  It’s a great way to showcase the student talent you have on campus.
  • If you are looking to market a new program, an upcoming activity or contest, consider advertising those activities on campus through banners, announcements, giveaways, handouts, or QR codes.  Happy attendees are more likely to attend future events.
  • Provide alumni with tours of campus, visits to your campus’ art gallery, cultural centers and residence halls.  These are ideal ways to have your graduates engage with students while reminiscing about the good ol’ days.
  • Wine tastings, cocktail parties and luncheons are also fun ways for your campus to showcase your catering department’s accomplishments.  Chefs can take this opportunity to prepare items that aren’t the usual campus fare, an opportunity that is usually well-received.
  • Have activities for children.  A bouncy castle, petting zoo, rides, and appropriate learning opportunities are important elements to a successful homecoming and encourages alumni with children and grandchildren to attend.

This listing is not meant to be exhaustive, but only a start.  The bottom line is that you’ll engage a large and diverse group of alumni if you have many reasons for them to attend your big event.  And, once your graduates enjoy their experience, they’re more likely to attend the following year and will bring more attendees.  For many, your homecoming may become their annual visit back to campus….for your alumni Super Bowl.

Young Alumni Coming Home

homesweethomeYoung college graduates moving back home with mom and dad might be a sign of the times, but it has a lot of significance to alumni professionals.

A new study from Pew Research finds that 36 percent of Millennials – young adults ages 18 to 31 – are living at their parents’ homes, the highest number in four decades. A record 21.6 million young adults were still living at home last year.

This new report might cause some ripples in the advancement field.  Here are only a few:

1. Because many of these young alumni are heading home for financial reasons, one could surmise that their financial contributions to alma mater will probably suffer as they try to save enough money to leave “the nest.”

2. From a programmatic standpoint, if these alumni are looking for a job, alumni associations might want to think about networking/job hunting programs that cater to this age group.

3. Just a hunch, but these Millennials are probably not updating their new addresses with their alumni offices.  Traditionally, it is very difficult to track these young graduates down after graduation, and if the alumni office did have a post-graduation address on file, it is probably no longer accurate (h/t to my astute colleague, Jeremy, on this one).

4. How does this affect their parents?  Now that Junior is back under their roof, there will certainly be new costs associated with his presence, potentially curtailing their own charitable giving.

There is a great deal of uncertainly regarding how this phenomenon will affect these graduates and the academy in the long term.  Will this return home cause greater financial austerity for these Millennials, impacting their interest in philanthropic activities permanently or is this merely a blimp on the radar screen?  Although it may be too soon to tell, it is certainly a trend that bears attention since so many Americans are being affected by this shift.

The Essentials of Alumni Magazines


I started drafting a post about what an effective alumni magazine “looks” like.  Having seen a ton of magazines over the years, I have a lot of opinions about what makes a magazine successful–from images used, alumni profiles and cover stories.  However, after finding this great blog about alumni magazines, I didn’t feel as compelled to complete my post, so instead, I offer a selected smattering of what makes a magazine a must-read:
– A cover that urges the reader to open it.  With so much mail reaching readers on a daily basis, your magazine needs to be unique, thought-provoking and interesting (perhaps all three).
-Diverse stories and features.  A good magazine can be picked up and enjoyed by alumni, donors, future alumni, employees and prospective students.  Although it needs to maintain a consistent overall tone, it needs to have multiple voices.
– Crisp, professional photos/graphics.  Clip art and stock images have no business being used on a cover or feature article.  They are accent images, and should be treated as such.
– Readable stories.  No need to have stories that rival War and Peace in length–keep it direct and simple.
There are plenty more suggestions on what makes magazines successful, and I’m glad to see that Umagazinology is out there monitoring this topic.