Publications & Products
Volume 3, Issue 5

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Community colleges leaders should recognize the importance of using different engagement and cultivation strategies to reach and garner donations from different generations of alumni, says a leading alumni relations practitioner.

"To encourage alumni to give, we have to find them, we have to understand them and we have to cultivate them in a careful way," says Richard Morley, executive director of the Irvine Valley College Foundation in Irvine, Calif.

He says that three critical characteristics of alumni that should be evaluated before considering the best method of engagement: his or her age, proximity to the institution and personal wealth. For example, he notes that baby boomers and other older alumni may still enjoy alumni association events like reunions or receiving printed newsletters while Generation X and millennial alumni may be more likely to hold their own alumni events and make use of social media to connect with one another.

Morley says community colleges should invest more in prospect research to know the preferences and wealth of their alumni. At his previous institution, Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., he pioneered the use of data to reach out to its alumni base of nearly 1 million individuals for the first time. In part as a result of his efforts, the college's endowment doubled and its scholarships quadrupled.

"Every campus is different," Morley says. "The college's age, perception by the community, location, the wealth of the surrounding community—all of these affect decisions about how to engage people and raise money."

He notes that Irvine Valley College, for example, is relatively young—only becoming an independent institution in 1985—and most of its older alumni are only around 50 years old. Therefore, he says that his institution is focusing some of its engagement efforts on these individuals as they consider major gifts—given that research indicates this is a time when donors consider these opportunities most.

"That's a sweet spot for creating good will," Morley says. "We ought to be in front of them talking about bequests and wills and the like."

Morley and Susan Stewart-Kelley, vice president of sales at Harris Connect, will discuss how to create a data-driven alumni program and how to reach alumni with greater success and more engagement in a CASE webinar on Dec. 10, 2013.

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 2013 issue of the Community College Advancement News.