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Volume 5, Issue 1

The Great Alumni Hunt

By challenging teams of volunteers to a friendly competition, a California community college foundation reconnected with more than 1,100 alumni in just a month.

In October 2014, the Victor Valley College Foundation in Victorville, California, launched "The Great Alumni Hunt," a month-long outreach campaign to reconnect with college alumni. The foundation assembled 20 teams of volunteers—each consisting of a foundation student intern, a community member and a college faculty or staff member.

Two student interns meet a local radio personality and Victor Valley College alumnus.
Two student interns meet a local radio personality and Victor Valley College alumnus. (Courtesy: Victor Valley College Foundation)

The teams were challenged with locating as many alumni as they could in a month. The teams earned points for various tasks completed, such as having someone provide their contact information, fill out a questionnaire about their time at the college or share a photograph. In addition, there were different challenges each week worth extra points, such as finding the graduate who lived furthest away or graduates who were former athletes.

At the end of the contest, the team with the most points won a $2,500 scholarship for its student intern and the five runners-up won $500 scholarships for its interns. Ultimately, The Great Alumni Hunt teams found 1,157 alumni—about 90 percent of whom weren't already in foundation donor records.

The idea for the contest—the brainchild of Ginger Ontiveros and Catherine Abbott, executive and assistant directors of the foundation—came while attending the 2014 CASE Conference for Community College Advancement. The Great Alumni Hunt was formally launched only weeks later.

Ontiveros and Abbot still express surprise at its success. The contest reached more than double the number of alumni they had expected. In addition, the foundation was honored with a Gold 2015 CASE Circle of Excellence Award for Innovative Alumni Programs.

"It was so much fun," Ontiveros says of The Great Alumni Hunt. "After we got through with all of the set-up, it kind of took on a life of its own."

Not only were the community and faculty/staff volunteers inspired by the prospect of helping their student interns win scholarships, but they also learned a lot about of the work of college advancement staff by meeting and getting to know alumni.

"The volunteers have told us this was transformational," Ontiveros says. "If they weren't donors before, they became donors after. They were just so inspired by those stories that they heard from alumni. That really kept them going."

Abbott says the foundation plans to use the alumni information gathered to improve future outreach and solicitation efforts. In the meantime, she says the challenge has further bolstered pride among alumni in the community. One way the foundation promoted The Great Alumni Hunt was by placing ads in the local paper listing those found.

"I'm out in the community talking to people at networking events, and I can't tell you how many people come up to me and say, ‘I love VCC,'" Abbott says. "People were excited to be contacted."

Ontiveros and Abbott will talk further about The Great Alumni Hunt, sharing details about how others can replicate the challenge at their institutions, at the 2015 CASE Conference for Community College Advancement, Oct. 1-3, in Anaheim, California.

If other past attendees of the CASE Conference for Community College Advancement have similar stories of success, please share them with Paul Heaton, director for the Center for Community College Advancement, at Please include:

  • Conference takeaways or "aha" moments
  • Implementation of any ideas or practices gleaned from the conference
  • The results, whether anecdotal or quantifiable

This article is from the July 2015 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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