Publications & Products
Volume 2, Issue 5

Rebuilding an Alumni Program

Morrisville State College, a predominately two-year institution in rural upstate New York, recently rebooted its alumni program and outreach philosophy on campus, garnering more than 300 new donors in a year.

Kelly Gardner, coordinator of alumni relations, will share how her two-person fundraising staff optimized their limited resources and reenergized the institution's alumni relations efforts in an upcoming CASE webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 11—for which registration is currently open.

She admits there are difficulties for those tasked with revitalizing an alumni relations effort, such as reconciling disparate records and winning over faculty and staff members who weren't as engaged with prior outreach. Still, she offers several key strategies that alumni relations professionals should adopt to boost support from former students. They include:

  • Identify the unique characteristics of your alumni base. "It's very important to know what sets your institution and students apart from others. Not everyone is going to fit into the same mold," Gardner says. This information should guide a comprehensive communications plan. For example, she notes that Morrisville has several degrees unique to its area in the state and many of its alumni are first-generation college graduates. "Once we knew who they were, we were able to create a consistent marketing plan," she adds.
  • Work with other groups on campus to solidify relations. "Keep your eyes and ears open" to inform people about the institution's alumni relations efforts, she says. "If you see something else that alumni are interested in, you need to capitalize on that." For example, she notes that she's worked with a group of soccer-playing alumni from the 1980s that won a national championship and frequently reunite on campus. "There are plenty of self-motivated groups on your campus like that," she adds. "You need to build that pipeline of individuals" for an alumni program to grow. 
  • Reach out to faculty to reincorporate their engagement efforts into the alumni program. Gardner says faculty members sometimes lament giving control of alumni-related activities they may have managed in the absence of an alumni program. She notes that alumni relations professionals should work with them, showing examples of why this can help improve relationships with former students and collectively help the institution.

"We're not a service, but a resource center," Gardner says of her institution's alumni program. "Your alumni office needs to become a rock on campus. You need to tell everyone else how you can help them achieve their goals."

Please share your questions and comments with Marc Westenburg via email at or +1 202 478 5570.

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This article is from the November 2012 issue of the Community College Advancement News.


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Small Shop, Big Results: Rebuilding Your Community College Alumni Program
Dec. 11, 2012

Dates Just Confirmed!
Conference for Community College Advancement
Oct. 2 - 4, 2013
San Diego, Calif.

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