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Posted by Mr. Nathan Slovin on Mar 25th, 2016 10:21am

Nathan Slovin, Director of Client Excellence Programs at Advanced Solutions International (ASI) & iMIS Business Excellence Forum (iBEF); nslovin@advsol.com

I was having lunch with Emily Collins from the alumni association at my alma mater, The George Washington University, when I asked her, “What is the biggest challenge for the Alumni Association?”

She told me that engaging alumni was the chief challenge.  Surprising, no?

She then asked me, “How would you engage the alumni of our school?  What would you do to increase engagement?”

I told her that I would focus on the little things.  Inasmuch as we are right in the middle of my favorite time of the year, the NCAA college basketball tournaments (both the Men’s and Women’s team from our school are involved.  Woo!) a quote from John Wooden, the late coach of the UCLA Bruins, seemed appropriate: 

“It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

So I told her that I would focus on the little things and control the things that can be controlled (and do those things really well):

  • Incremental gains with alumni who are currently engaged.  How do you make the experience most meaningful for these people right now?  I subscribe to the theory that “If you can’t be with the one you love then love the one you’re with.”
  • Who’s next?  Create a hot list of alumni who are almost engaged, people who are in a target market (like the West Coast or people are following a specific career path) or people who have engaged a little and might engage more if encouraged, but cast a ‘net’ that is focused and intentional.  This will make it easier to address the needs and wants of these people. 
  • Grow slowly, but with quality in mind, not quantity.  Don’t be afraid of building slowly, but grow with the goal being “how do we create the next volunteer leaders of the alumni association?”  Think of it as building a team of leaders.
  • Continually improve and create offerings based on the needs and wants of the alumni standing right in front of you.  Why?  Chances are that if you provide high-level service to those who are engaged right now you’ll create a culture that will serve many of the others who are not currently engaged.  This falls into the category of “If you are always ready, you ain’t got to get ready.”  And of course this does not address how to serve people who have not or are not going to engage.  I suspect that people engage with their alumni association at their own pace, speed, on their own timeline and when they need something.  How to get them to engage is a topic for another conversation.

Creating efficiencies:  In addition, inasmuch as it is difficult to force people to be engaged or want to be engaged there is probably a fair amount of waiting at the alumni association. 

During that time I would focus on creating efficiencies, looking at the data to create more efficient, cost effective and targeted communications.  By doing so increasing the chances that the communications that are sent are more impactful, have a greater chance of hitting the mark and attracting more people to the association.

Human touch:  I think Springsteen got it right when he sang, “Do you think what I'm askin's too much?  I just want something to hold on to, And a little of that human touch.” 

And certainly, while waiting for the alumni to engage I would use this time to focus on personal touch initiatives. 

After all what good is the technology we have if it does not enable us to be more connected, more engaged; augmenting what the speed, depth and breadth of the communications that the technology enables us to achieve with specific, intentional and targeted personal touch moments.    

With lunch almost finished and probably having gotten much more than she asked for Emily asked me one final question, “What do you need and want from the alumni association?”

Well, Emily, you just gave me what I want and need.  I wanted to be asked.  But she knew that already.  I suspect that is why she asked me to lunch.  Thank you Emily.  Let’s Go Colonials!

[To be continued]



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