Voices: Let it Go
“Our Northcentral Technical College Foundation used to have two face-to-face donor and scholar events annually to showcase donors and celebrate scholars. COVID challenged us to find other ways to create personal touches.
We transitioned to sending signs to our donors and scholars with which to take photos. The donor signs are motivational—‘We believe in you’ is a popular one. The student signs show gratitude—‘I appreciate you’ is popular. Donors and scholars then send their photos to us, and we pass them along to the respective donor or scholar. We also use these photos for donor board PowerPoint collages, in campaigns, and on our website.
Donors and scholars appreciate these personal visual connections. We also learned that donors who lived too far away to attend our in-person events and students who could not attend in-person events due to family, work, or school schedules appreciated the opportunity to participate in acknowledging one another. We have found some great stories to include in potential donor conversations and newsletters.
Even though in-person events can occur again, use of technology has increased our return on investment since we don’t have to spend time coordinating the events—[including] mailing invitations, collecting and matching RSVPs, setting and cleaning up, coordinating and paying for refreshments, finding volunteers, or writing scripts, etc. Our donations continue to be strong, so students can still be served and benefit from donor generosity.”
— Vicki S. Jeppesen, Director of Resource Development and Executive Director, Northcentral Technical College Foundation, Wausau, Wisconsin, U.S.
“We used to host a 50th reunion each year but we began to see attendance decreasing. We decided to move forward with hosting the 50th class reunion every two years starting in 2024.
A trial run for this came in 2022, when we had to combine three class years due to the pandemic. We hosted the joint 50th class celebration for the Classes of 1970, 1971, and 1972 in April 2022. These class years were very close with one another, so it was meaningful for them to reconnect at this long-awaited celebration. Some alumni expressed concern about the joint reunion because they wanted to make sure alumni felt recognized for their class year. There were many moments in which each class was called out and honored individually, and each graduate was called by name to receive an anniversary pin and shake the chancellor’s hand.
The positive feedback of celebrating alumni who were on campus at the same time encouraged us to make the decision to continue hosting the 50th class every other year. We are excited to see what this upcoming year holds for the Classes of 1973 and 1974.”
— Margie Brining Berenato, Program Coordinator, Campus Relations-Camden, Rutgers University–Camden, New Jersey, U.S.
“At Northwestern, we decided to discontinue our longstanding Homecoming parade in 2018 after long discussion and consideration with stakeholders across the university. Though it was hard to make the decision to discontinue a tradition that had deep roots, we made the decision based on waning interest from students.
The student-run Homecoming Committee led the decision to launch a new program called the Wildcat Warm-Up, featuring student group performances preceding our annual pep rally. Students had consistently led the charge in changing and updating traditions on campus—notably, they shifted our Homecoming royalty from crowning a king and queen to selecting Homecoming Wildcats. We seek to reflect the needs of our current student body as we continue to honor campus traditions—keeping them relevant for current students keeps them alive for future generations, even if they don’t look exactly like what they may have when alumni themselves were students.
It has enabled us to reallocate funding to events with larger impact on the whole community while maximizing staff and student leader efforts, ensuring the most meaningful experience possible. The Wildcat Warm-Up was much easier to implement than the parade and accomplished many of the same goals: inspiring school spirit and giving alumni returning to campus a small glimpse into student life today.”
— Bobby Dunlap, Director of Alumni Engagement, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, U.S.
“We had had an annual donor gala for 26 years when I joined the college seven years ago. We started looking at expenses in relation to the gala’s outcomes and waning attendance, not to mention the months of staff time devoted to planning the event. The metrics clearly showed the return on investment wasn’t there. I took that [information] to the foundation board of directors and the decision to discontinue was made based on the data.
We replaced the gala with a smaller, more low-key event that engages the community—donors, foundation and governing board members, and other champions of the college—by allowing students themselves to tell the stories of how Palomar College changes lives. At one such breakfast, students from the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning program made it snow. At another, students from the drone technology program provided a drone flight demonstration.”
— Stacy Rungaitis, Executive Director, Palomar College Foundation, San Marcos, California, U.S.
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