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CASE Guidelines for Alumni Relations Professionals on Establishing Vendor Relationships

In an effort to support member institutions' relationships with vendors whom they engage to provide alumni programs and services, the CASE Commission on Alumni Relations offers the following guidelines, approved by the commission in April 2008.


It is incumbent upon the alumni relations professional to be aware of and adhere to their own institution's conflict of interest guidelines and policies and how these affect relationships with vendors.

It is also suggested that alumni relations professionals and vendors read and agree to comply with the CASE Statement of Ethics.

Suggested Steps for Evaluating Vendor Relationships

Vendor relationships fall into two main categories:

  • Vendors to whom the institution pays fees for service and/or products
  • Vendors with whom the institution contracts to provide services and/or products for which there is no fee paid by the institution. This includes contracts in which the institution earns a royalty.

The Product/Service

As an underlying principle, alumni relations professionals should strive to offer only high quality products and services that benefit both alumni and the institution. It is expected that corporate providers of these products and services will meet the institution's and/or alumni association's standards of integrity, value, and customer service.

Role of Alumni Relations Professionals
  • Thoroughly research every vendor opportunity, including its proposed program, customer service reputation, financial viability, and experience with other client institutions.
  • Evaluate the cost/benefit relationship of the program.
  • Allow an adequate timeframe to launch the program and evaluate results
  • Suggest multi-year relationship with option to exit with reasonable notice for any reason.
  • Consider licensing guidelines and issues where appropriate.
  • Safeguard privacy of alumni data.
  • Clarify by all parties the ownership of materials provided and produced, including data, marketing materials, website and logos.
  • Expect reasonable guaranteed royalties, benefits, and signing bonuses where applicable.
  • Develop service level agreements with clear consequences for failure to meet commitments.
  • Conduct a transparent, fair, and equitable proposal process with multiple vendors when possible.
  • Seek legal counsel to conduct a full review and provide alumni relations professionals an opinion on any written agreements.
  • Address contractual issues
    • Ensure that all terms of the contract are clearly defined.
    • Ensure that the obligations of the institution and/or association and the vendor are clearly defined.
    • Specify the contract's length and plan for termination of the contract with and without cause with reasonable lead times.
    • Ensure that the institution and/or the association is compensated fairly and that the schedule for compensation is clearly delineated.
    • Define the logos to be used and the ways in which those logos may be used, and establish ownership and rights to use any marks.
    • Develop a general marketing plan for the product/service and ensure the institution and/or association's role in the approval process of all marketing materials and collateral materials.
    • Define the service obligations of the corporation with respect to the program.
    • Address any and all other legal protections, including but not limited to assignment, warranty, representation, force majeure, severability, state and federal law.
  • Educate the vendor of the institution's passive role and the implications of the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) where applicable.
  • Ensure that institution's and/or association's role in the process of marketing the program, service, or product is understood and that the earnings generated are classified according to IRS guidelines.
  • Be open and transparent by offering a statement of disclosure about any programs which result in funds being paid to the institution and/or association.
  • Ensure that the marketing program for the product or service clarifies the institution’s benefits to alumni.

Expectations of Vendors
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the mission and goals of the institution.
  • Provide a thorough program proposal that details the advantages of program to alumni and institution, outlines a marketing program, describes implementation and customer service plans, and discusses royalties and/or fees where applicable.
  • Provide contact information for current clients for reference.
  • Ensure transparency in marketing by including a statement about any benefits provided to or earned by the institution/association in each marketing effort.
  • Provide adequate financial disclosure.