What members are thinking and sharing

Graphic by Jeff Koterba



Connecting After Heartache

Q: In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, how have institutions handled alumni and donor outreach? We pulled our constituents in affected areas from our phonathon, email, and mailing lists. When is it appropriate to begin soliciting people in these areas again?

—Beth Hunsinger, director of annual giving, University of Mary Washington, Virginia

A: Academic institutions are increasingly responding to crises, from the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. You were right to suspend gift solicitations to individuals directly affected. Here are other steps advancement professionals can take:

  • Have a crisis response team in place with representatives from key institutional stakeholder groups who can quickly gather to develop an action plan.
  • Communicate with constituents, offering comfort and support.
  • Include a call to action, providing resources for those who wish to help.
  • Deciding when to resume gift solicitations requires sensitivity and common sense. Ultimately, rely on your institutional values and mission to guide your action.

—Gary Olsen, principal, eAdvancement

A: My university is located in one of Harvey's hardest-hit areas. We didn't alter our outreach other than to adjust the messaging to emphasize our response to the storm. The university's arena served as a shelter, and we launched an emergency fund to help students who suffered losses. We also are offering three free credit hours to students engaging in community service.

Our development officers are still doing visits throughout Houston and southeast Texas, and our annual giving schedule remains intact. Several visits were rescheduled, but no one refused to meet. The emergency fund raised more than $100,000 in its first two weeks, and we believe our constituents remain committed. If you handle your outreach with discretion, you should be able to stay pretty much with "business as usual."

—Jeff Spoeri, associate vice president for university advancement, Lamar University, Texas

Title Gems

Need inspiration as you brainstorm display copy for your alumni magazine's next issue? Editors shared their favorite headlines with Currents.

"Frost in Space," for a story on UAB engineers who design freezers for the International Space Station —Charles Buchanan, editor, UAB Magazine, University of Alabama at Birmingham

"Inside Voices," for a story on a student- and faculty-run drama program at a prison —Jeff Hagan, editor, Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Oberlin College, Ohio

"Sisters in Law," for a story in the Law Quadrangle, the University of Michigan Law School's magazine, about two sisters who were both groundbreaking judges —Katie Vloet, editor, Medicine at Michigan, University of Michigan

"Something Wicket This Way Comes,"
for a news item about the croquet team at Carleton College in Minnesota —Erin Peterson, owner, Capstone Communications, Minneapolis

"Belayed Reaction," for a story in CM,
Boston's Commonwealth School's magazine, about two alumni who hardly talked to each other as students but then fell in love over their shared passion for rock climbing —Tristan Davies, assistant director, administration and communications, George and Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, University of Rhode Island

"Schooled by Fish," for an article about a fish-inspired power generator —Gabe Cherry, senior writer and assistant magazine editor, The Michigan Engineer, Office of Communications and Marketing, University of Michigan College of Engineering

Title Gems