Alumni relations – no pressure, no diamonds?

10 May 2024

Ian Hawkings reflects on the challenges raised by alumni relations professionals at the recent EFMD External Relations conference in Antwerp.


I once had a boss who, when I complained that we didn’t have enough staff to manage increasing workloads, told me ‘there is never a lack of resources, only a lack of resourcefulness!’

At the time I remember thinking that was bunkum, and I suspect that feeling is shared by some number of alumni relations professionals if conversations at the recent EFMD Marcomms, External, and Alumni Relations conference in Antwerp two weeks ago are anything to go by. We might have been in the diamond capital of the world, but alumni relations staff could do without the pressure.

In a programme very much centered on technology and the future, the most striking session I sat in on was a ‘bring your problem’ group where we discussed the pain points in our jobs and offered each other potential solutions. There were several alumni relations people at the same table, and the recurring theme was squeezed budgets, reduced headcounts, and a general difficulty in getting senior school leadership to back the AR function in a way that allowed them to do their jobs as they would like. It’s a familiar refrain...and frankly quite puzzling.

In this year’s Alumni Matters report we found that alumni really want better engagement, they want to be able to continue learning at their alma mater, they want to contribute to recruitment of new students. 49% said they would volunteer at school events, and 47% said they would speak at a student or alumni meeting.

And they are very willing to contribute financially once they are able to do so. 46% said that it seems as though all their alumni function appears interested in is raising funds, yet only 22% said they wouldn’t be interested in making donations - and for the most part, this was because they could not yet afford to. 38% even said they would be interested in working with their school to develop new cases and learning materials, if they were given the opportunity.

So alumni want to engage and contribute, but they expect to be met halfway at least. Not only do they want more opportunities to network and socialise – in person and online, but they also want access to things like ongoing mentorship, personal coaching, and better continuing career support. This all means more investment in the AR function, but given the importance of a strong, engaged , proud (and well-employed) alumni base to the future success and sustainability of a school, it seems more than worthwhile...

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