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Engaging Alumni/ae Association Leaders

Note: This article was originally published in June, 2015. Kim Krawshuk currently serves as a trustee at The Winsor School; Mark Mulligan is a member of the Board of Fellows at Stonehill College, and Jim Rhodes is now Deputy County Administrator for Camden County NJ.

As we continue our series on “engaging leaders,” we are pleased that three alumni leaders shared their perspectives with us: Kim Krawshuk, Mark Mulligan, and Jim Rhodes. We asked Kim, Mark, and Jim to provide their perspectives on the role of the board at their alma mater, and for specific examples of the interrelationships among board, staff and alumni/ae.

Staying Connected

Kim Krawshuk states that at The Winsor School, it is the “central mission of the Alumnae Association to foster connections to Winsor and to each other.” We learned that their board “advances the school by being well educated on school developments so that we can be effective ambassadors for other alumnae and the community at large.” She continues, “The president serves as an ex-officio position on the Board of Trustees during her two-year tenure.” The Alumnae Board advances the school with their active participation in the school’s Alumnae Giving. Every year, she tells us, they strive for “100% participation.”

Activities include inviting alumnae of all ages back to campus to learn about the school today from the school’s leadership. Additionally, the Alumnae Association holds events off campus that combine a social and educational purpose and appeal to a broad range of alumnae.

Kim tells us that alumnae can attend their board meetings and that most all of “the Alumnae Board committees such as outreach, education, networking, and young alumnae are open to all alumnae, thereby providing opportunities for engaging alumnae.” Events are open to all alumnae, including reunions. “Our Reunion/Alumnae Weekend is the ultimate combination of learning about Winsor today and reconnecting with each other,” she lets us know. Finally, Kim says that it is the school’s “robust communications program that keeps the whole alumnae community updated and connected.”

From Mark Mulligan, we learn that the Alumni Council at Stonehill College “serves as liaison between the college and alumnae, as well as serves as a forum for alumnae to communicate with the college.” We learned that there are several committees of the Alumni Board who work directly with the college such as an academic committee, career services committee, and similar committees that align with the college. He explains that board committees provide multiple opportunities for all alumni to participate in the college through long and short-term programs. For example, “we have an alumni auction that raises money for our alumni scholarships for students; and we have a community affairs committee that supplies back packs to local communities, with hands on participation from alumni.” Alumni attend campus lectures held by faculty on contemporary topics such as health care and special education for children. The Alumni Council engages alumni through social, academic, and travel programs. “To attempt to engage alumni with young families, we held an Easter egg hunt, which was very successful.”

At Rutgers University, the formation of their Alumni Association (RUAA) began anew in 2008 with the creation of a central alumni organization representing the various campuses, alumni organizations, and the universities range of schools. According to Jim Rhodes, the 21-member RUAA board of directors includes the Vice President of Alumni Relations and is “a true partnership with the university.” Moreover, “the association represents the alumni to and with the university leadership at the highest level.” Currently, there are 106 chartered organizations of alumni under the umbrella of the RUAA that are organized by geography and affinity groups. This provides, according to Rhodes, “an open, inviting and inclusive way in which we engage our alumni.” He indicates that the RUAA brings over 400,000 alumni to the table.

The RUAA states as its mission “Advancing Rutgers University by Engaging All Alumni.” At their yearly meetings, the president of the university and members of his cabinet participate in alumni meetings, conferences and other venues where discussions occur with and between the alumni and the leadership of the university. In the new RUAA organization, Rhodes states, “the vice president of alumni relations sits with the president’s cabinet as well as the university’s foundation leadership.” According to Rhodes, this is best demonstrated through a highly effective communications program that combines the university’s magazine, electronic communications, Twitter, Facebook…all ways through which the university stays connected with alumni.”

Philanthropic Support

“One of the most important ways in which the Alumni Board participates is through their own gifts to the Annual Fund,” states Jim Rhodes. Beyond personal gifts, members of the Alumni Board participate in the university’s fundraising efforts at RU events. In the university’s current billion-dollar campaign, one of the priorities is Alumni Centers on each of Rutgers three campuses. Alumni Centers are available for use by alumni and other campus constituents, and are a “testament to the university’s high regard for alumni.” We learn from Rhodes that “presidential support for the university’s alumni is unwavering” and that the president has led a “transformation of undergraduate education as well as aligning the alumni in support,” Rhodes states proudly. He talks enthusiastically about the “emotional and financial investment of the university in its alumni.”

Mark Mulligan reports that the Stonehill Alumni Council annually holds an auction that benefits their scholarship fund. He stated that, “council members find that meeting worthy students and providing them with financial assistance is one of the most fulfilling experiences.” He further told us, “that while fundraising is not our focus, we have 100% participation by council members in the College’s annual fund.”

At The Winsor School, Kim Krawshuk tells us “traditionally it is not our role to do any direct fundraising. We are involved with fostering an alumna’s relationship with the school, which in turn leads to an increase in giving, or fostering a philanthropic environment in which alumnae feel good about giving.” There is one exception: Alumnae Board members are expected to contribute to the Annual Giving every year.

The emphasis on communication among administration, faculty, and alumni/ae is critical to engaging all the alumni/ae. Kim contends that the Alumnae Board takes the role of ambassadors very seriously in terms of fundraising. This will be key as fundraising for a major capital campaign gets underway. To ensure that Board members stay highly engaged and have the tools with which to speak with other alumnae in support of the school’s direction and initiatives, board members get regular updates from development leaders at Winsor. “We’ve appointed an Alumnae Board member as a campaign liaison to our Board,” explains Kim. Though she holds no official position in the campaign itself, this alumna reaches out to campaign leaders before each meeting and then reports back to the Alumnae Board. “We hope,” Kim says, “the Alumnae Board members will be great cheerleaders for this campaign.”

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