by Melanie Norton
My colleague Andy Canada and I had the pleasure of being this year’s speakers for the Independent College Advancement Associate’s annual Spring Drive-In Conference at the beginning of March. This year’s conference drew a variety of representatives from all areas of alumni, development and advancement operations from several independent schools in Ohio and the surrounding states.
Although the topics covered ranged from engaging millennial donors to measuring and quantifying operations, the blurring line that is developing between alumni and development shops seemed to garner a lot of interest. In fact, there were some present who work for institutions where these functions already reside in the same place.
Breaking down silos seems to be an issue for many schools, especially those that are larger. Because the good work of alumni operations – traditionally known as the “friend raising” side of the shop – has been so successful, many organizations are realizing there are some key relationships that can serve as “door openers” to increased financial support. A show of hands demonstrated that approximately ¼ of the participants who worked in the alumni area already have some responsibility for raising funds.
However, it’s not a one-way street! Those responsible for development and advancing the institution need to be a close partner of those in the alumni area. What a great way to build on existing relationships and strengthen the ties to the institution.
Our friends in alumni also tend to be excellent at stewardship and service, additional lessons some can take away from the slightly differing perspectives of these complementary functions.
I believe more closely integrated alumni and development operations will continue to be the trend of the future, but I also believe this needs to be done with sincerity and purpose. We would never want our prospects to feel we are “using” their established relationships with others just to get to their resources.
As you review your own operation, I encourage you to think about the following questions:
Do you plan your year with a comprehensive and intentional advancement plan that includes input from both the development and alumni areas?
- Is working together for a coordinated effort part of the annual goals and performance expectations of your staff?
- Do you earnestly examine all of your annual actions to formulate a plan that provides the greatest return on investment and moves the institution forward?
- Do you mobilize your “alumni army” to work on your behalf in raising friends and funds?
- Are your key alumni staff involved in moves management and donor strategy meetings?
These are just a few things you might consider as your organization plans for the future. The JGA consultants stand ready to assist our clients with the ever-changing climate of institutional advancement!