Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Defining Alumni Engagement

A colleague was kind enough to write yesterday and ask if I had a definition of “alumni engagement” that could be shared with a campus task force looking into that issue.  Here’s what I offered:

Alumni Engagement -- the totality of means by which a school, college or university seeks to engage strategically the time and talents of its most conscientious and capable alumni for the purposes of:

•Fostering a greater sense of shared purposes around the mission, vision and direction of the institution;
•Extending the benefits of community (to be welcomed into, valued by, and made to feel an integral part of it) beyond those boundaries of campus to all those who share, support and live out the ideals of institution;
•Reviewing and refining institutional priorities to ensure core values remain intact as adjustments are made to preserve and enhance institutional relevance; and
•Creating "a more perfect institution," one that seeks to make an ever greater and more lasting impact on the lives of those it educates and on the society is serves in the most creative, foresighted, and cost-effective manner possible.

Please note some critical word choices:  Schools, colleges and universities should be more assiduous in seeking out and engaging their most conscientious alumni, those who exemplify their highest ideals. Developing shared purposes among critical constituents creates a “we the people” impetus and dynamism – one of the greatest social constructs and forces for good in human history. Striving to create a true sense of community and making exemplary alumni feel welcomed, valued and integral to it is of greater importance than ever before given the steady decline in alumni support over the past 18 years.  Reestablishing the relevance of an institution’s core values from one generation to the next is the key to lasting impact. And, the pursuit of more perfect unions is what has driven American ideals and American philanthropy from our very beginnings. And, finally, we will not win back alumni or broaden substantially our bases of support if we insist all of this is about more – more people, more programs, more buildings, more endowment and, therefore, more money.  We must seek to perfect more cost-effective models of delivering quality to those we serve.

P.S.  My monograph, “Fundraising for Presidents: A Guide,” is available on the Academic Impressions we