A Century of Alumni Engagement

As our profession unofficially turns 100 (we look pretty good for reaching the century mark), CASE is throwing a year-long celebration to mark this milestone. We’ve come a long way in the past one hundred years, and the future holds limitless potential for this profession. Recently, I’ve been remarking that alumni relations is going through a renaissance of sorts–manifested through an increased attention to engaging alumni by many strategy-minded institutions and alumni associations.

As public dollars towards higher education wane, colleges and universities need to look to alumni and friends as critical revenue sources. Cultivating, maintaining and increasing this kind of private support can not only fall to the university president or development officers. Alumni professionals can, and should, play a increased role in engaging donors and increasing dollars into the institution.

I personally find it promising that institutions and advancement professionals are abandoning the stale “we have always done it this way” mentality and challenging themselves to adapt to a more progressive stance–one that better relates to their constituency and their challenges. For example, alumni have less time and money than ever before. We are asked to provide them with more personal interaction and more personalized engagement. You can also throw out the idea that if you create an event, alumni will flock to attend it. It’s no longer enough to bring a football coach to a local bar and get 100 people in attendance. Events need to be layered and multifaceted, giving guests many ways to get informed and engaged.

Whenever I need a good reminder of where we are going, I refer to this nifty CASE article that really illustrates the power and the promise of our profession.