Publications & Products
Volume 3, Issue 5

Planning for Alumni Relations Success

Leaders of community college alumni programs should develop their own strategic plans to identify priorities for future growth, say two CASE faculty members.

Jody Donaldson, scholarship and alumni officer at the Kirkwood Foundation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and John Fellas, director of alumni relations at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., recently helped craft and implement strategic plans specifically for the alumni relations efforts at their institutions. Both say plans that clearly identify goals and outline approaches to reach them are essential in building a case for their work to institutional leaders and boards. In addition, both say that alumni strategic plans keep their programs on track and accountable.

Donaldson and Fellas, however, took different approaches in creating their alumni strategic plans—approaches that stemmed from their understanding of the way in which alumni relations was perceived by others on campus.

Donaldson first convened an internal team of individuals from different areas of the college—from admissions, student life and marketing to institutional research, career services and faculty—to determine how all areas of the institution could benefit from reconnecting with alumni and gather ideas for how it should do so. She says this helped build support for future engagement efforts from the alumni office.

Alumni were then surveyed to determine what they thought of the college and how they would like to engage with and support it. The combined viewpoints of internal and external constituencies were brought together in a strategic plan that outlines Kirkwood's priorities for its alumni program—some of which include improving communication outreach with existing alumni and brand recognition among students.

By contrast, the alumni strategic plan at Westchester was initiated by alumni themselves. Fellas says he felt as if he had to build support among alumni to spur program growth at his institution. He solicited feedback from alumni on what they wanted from the college post-graduation and what would bring them back to or make them better engage with the institution. With this information, Fellas convened a board of alumni that not only formalized the by-laws of a new alumni association but also outlined its many strategic goals for its first few years in existence.

Some of the goals include creating a communication plan and offering benefits for membership in the association. After sharing these goals with internal constituencies at the college, Fellas says various academic departments and the career office, among other divisions, have contacted him to find out how they can be more involved with the alumni association.

Donaldson and Fellas will further discuss the merits of an alumni strategic plan at the Community College Alumni Relations virtual conference on March 25-26. 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.