CASE president John Lippincott recently asked alumni relations professionals for their thoughts on "common mistakes in alumni relations." His upcoming column on this topic will be a welcome follow-up to his pieces on common mistakes in advancement communications and fundraising.
I sent along my own thoughts, but they may not be among those published in CURRENTS Magazine. So, in the spirit of John's request, here are seven commonly missed opportunities in alumni relations.
In no particular order:
Failing to balance institutional needs with alumni needs
Your institution needs engaged, loyal, generous alumni. Your alumni need a supportive, communicative, responsive alumni organization.
Ignoring the academic side of the institution
Guest blogger Scott Mory wrote about this for Alumni Futures, and his article remains one of the more visited ones on the site. I like to ask alumni directors, "When you walk across campus, do the professors you pass know you're the alumni executive? If they do, do they know what you do? Would they say you do it well?"
Not partnering with other administrative units
Career services, admissions, the libraries, academic departments (or schools and colleges), athletics, student life, tech transfer, public events...the list is endless. These are all potential partners for your programs and services to alumni and to the campus.
Not engaging students early enough
Many alumni organizations, it seems, still wait until students are in their final year before they pay any attention to undergraduates at all. You have to build awareness from day one. They'll be students for a few years, but alumni forever.
Wasting valuable volunteer resources
Your board, committees, and regional volunteers are a formidable force for work and change. Don't just let them show up, get a free dinner, and leave without harnessing their affinity, experience, and energy on behalf of alumni and the school. This goes for "virtual volunteers" too – the alumni who help manage your Facebook content, reunion class pages, and LinkedIn Groups.
Not seeing oneself as part of the fundraising team
Some alumni professionals still cling to the idea that something called "friendraising" exists independently of fundraising. It doesn't. Any successful fundraiser is a "friendraiser" too, whatever that might mean. Alumni relations, executed successfully, enhances front line gift officers' ability to raise the financial support your institution needs. Alumni relations is part of fundraising – an important part, if done right.
Not seeking true innovation
Many alumni offices define "innovation" as "implementing something that has already worked elsewhere." Sure, it's new to your institution, but it's not a new idea. There are limitless opportunities to experiment with programs and services that nobody has tried before.
What would you add to the list? Do you disagree with anything above?