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Alumni Associations: Getting Involved After Graduation

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An alumni association is an organization of graduates (alumni) or former students. These associations provide numerous services to current students and alumni. They provide a forum to form new friendships and business relationships with people of similar backgrounds. At the very least, you will want to use the alumni association to let others know about the direction your life has taken since graduation.

These associations often organize social events and class reunions, publish newsletters or magazines, and raise funds for the organization. Many offer ongoing professional development programs and almost all offer networking opportunities through clubs and regional chapters.

Alumni gatherings take place all over the world. You do not have to be near your alma mater to participate. There are a vast number of volunteer opportunities everywhere. Your alumni group can help you connect with people who share your interest. As you enjoy the camaraderie of the alumni from your school, you will also be helping to build a strong and diverse university community.

There are often sub-groups in alumni associations. You will often find alumni groups catering to special populations. Some of these special populations may be based on ethnicity. Some alumni associations promote the interests of Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, and African Americans. These alumni groups not only facilitate social and networking opportunities, but weigh in on the recruitment, retention, and advancement of the ethnicity they are representing. Other special populations that may be represented include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) alumni or women in general.

Alumni volunteers are a driving force behind the successful planning and execution of class reunions and alumni events. Alumni leadership groups often promote alumni activities such as homecoming and reunions. Alumni activities don’t come together overnight. Class leadership is key to the planning and execution of a successful reunion celebration. While leadership is a strong component of planning an event, it is the participation of you and your classmates that will make it truly memorable and meaningful. You can help create memorable events by joining a planning committee.

The scope of most alumni associations is world-wide. Wherever you are, you will probably be able to locate alumni to connect with. From Chicago to Hong Kong, you will be able to find year-round intellectual, cultural, social and networking events. This is a great resource if you find yourself in a location where you know very few people. By being involved with the alumni association, you have a built-in set of friends wherever you go.

You can also get involved in the governance of the alumni association. Membership in a governing body may be by invitation only. If it is something you are interested in, make sure your interest is known. Opportunities include involvement in the council of representatives, board of directors, or the executive committee.

Many academic departments have their own alumni associations. These organizations generally promote the interests of the department and the profession. Opportunities include social and networking contacts and career development. Mentoring programs are common.

Some alumni associations offer sports and recreational opportunities. At some schools, the department of recreation offers intramural sports, open recreation, adult recreation classes, sport clubs, fitness programs, and special interest programs.

Alumni associations often contribute to the governance of the university and college. Participants serve as a vital channel of communication with the Board of Trustees. This appointment is usually by invitation only.

Community service is a large part of the alumni experience. This is a great opportunity for your school to remain visible to the public in a favorable manner. Community service opportunities fall under many areas – education, civic engagement and leadership, and social advocacy.

If you want to directly affect the students at your alma mater, consider volunteering as a mentor. You can be a resource to help students learn about your career field, your college experience, and what you did with your degree. If you are willing to go to your campus, you can even speak to students about your career field or an area of expertise. This is invaluable to current students.

With the competitive marketplace of higher education, college and university alumni are increasingly called on to support their institutions in multiple ways. One major area where alumni are essential is charitable giving.

Colleges try to keep alumni plugged in to their alma mater. Technology has allowed schools to deliver communications regardless where the alumni are located. Universities think that by providing information about academic matters, careers, and extracurricular activities, they can connect with their alumni. The deeper the connection, the deeper the pocket.

According to the annual report released by the Council for Aid to Education, alumni and other individual donors gave more than half of the total amount raised at universities and colleges. The country’s colleges and universities raised an estimated $28 billion in private donations in the 2006 fiscal year. This is $2.4 billion, or 9.4 percent, more than in 2005. This significant jump was a direct result of larger donations from alumni and other individual donors.

Alumni giving affects more than just current students and alumni. It also has an effect on potential students. The annual U.S. News and World Report uses alumni giving as one of its measures when ranking institutions of higher learning. The more money they raise, the better they are ranked. There are well-documented examples of institutions that have solicited nominal donations from alumni to boost their percentage of giving.

It is logical to give to worthy causes that get results. Alumni who give to their alma mater generally believe that their donations will make a difference, meet an institutional need, and be used in an effective manner. Alumni, who are satisfied with their educational experiences or feel a positive emotional attachment to the institution, will be more likely to contribute.

Giving is influenced by the quality of alumni relations and communications, the messages conveyed in solicitations, and the methods used and resources invested fundraising. Economic conditions affect giving. Tax policies, recessions, unemployment rates, stock market crashes, and market confidence affect giving. A positive economic environment is associated with higher alumni participation rates and levels of giving.

Recently, a few colleges are exploring a financial concept that seems almost too good to be true – collecting hundreds of millions of dollars by taking out life-insurance policies on wealthy alumni. The idea started with Oklahoma State University. It has secured some $270 million for its athletics program by setting up life-insurance policies on 27 boosters. The university borrowed $20 million to pay for the policies and is the sole beneficiary of the plans after the donors die. Some college officials see life-insurance policies as a foolproof way to preserve the long-term financial health of their institutions. As long as they own the plans themselves, they will receive the full benefits when their donors die. Some insurance experts worry that agents’ commissions, investment uncertainties, and longer life spans could cut into the money colleges ultimately receive from these policies. State insurance commissioners have warned schools to proceed with caution.

Alumni associations request your donations to support services. Where this money goes varies between alumni associations. The following are some common things that alumni associations fund:

  • Scholarship money for incoming/current students
  • Graduate fellowships
  • Support of specific departments or programs
  • New/updated academic buildings
  • New/updated dormitories
  • Upgraded equipment
  • Library books and materials
  • Alumni reunions and events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Association mailings

At some schools, you can specify what area you would like your donation to support. Many individuals take comfort in knowing that their contribution is going directly to help the students or a favorite cause.

Alumni associations welcome whatever amount you can afford to give. A great deal of money is raised from small donations. Some businesses will also match contributions. Check with your employer to see if they offer a matching gift program.

If you can’t afford to donate money but still want to help out your alma mater, you can offer your time. Check with your school’s alumni association to see how you can volunteer. Involvement in your college’s alumni association not only helps you, it helps current and future students as well.


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B.McSweeney almost 7 years ago B.McSweeney


Very interesting..... these are great ideas...though some seem a bit morbid, but for certain!! What other ways do you suggest cultivating, and getting alums motivated to give; and, what do you suggest about.... how do you ask folk if you can take out a life policy with the Univ as the sole benificiery.... do you think allowing a portion of the proceeds to benefit a member of their family to attend the Univ...for an arranged tuition.... thanks.