Are you setting up a new alumni chapter and need some ideas about the kinds of committees to start? This post will give you lots of ideas, how each works and why each is important. It’s not important that your board have a representative for each area. Each local chapter will have its own personality and not every area will be of interest but if you need a starting point for your conversation, look no further than this post for some great ideas!
Types of Committees
First, I need to qualify “committees.” I’m not really meaning big, formal groups of people. I understand that not every chapter will have enough people so really I mean “a person or people on your chapter leadership team with a special area of interest.”
That said, let’s take a look at some of the committees you might consider for your leadership team.
- Social – this committee or role serves as the primary planner for the types of social events the club may have. The person or people in this role will reach out to local venues or organizations to organize events that are meant to give your alumni an opportunity to meet and mingle with other local alumni. This is one of the most standard roles on the chapter leadership team. Being “social” is at the core of every alumni chapter so I recommend starting with this role on your team.
- Service – the Service committee will get your group involved in community events or engage with local charities. I believe that this committee has a special ability to connect with your community in a way that your other committees won’t. Your alumni’s presence at service events can promote your university’s mission locally and can make an impact in the name of that university. My example of this is from back in the 1960s and its not exactly an alumni story but stay with me here. Florida State had (still has) a study abroad campus in Florence, Italy. In 1966 Florence experienced a devastating flood when the Arno overflowed its banks. Water was more than 10 feet high in some places – you can still the water lines around the city. The students from Florida State spent hours volunteering to help the locals recover from the flood. They became known as the “Mud Angels.” There’s now a special place in the hearts of many Florentines for Florida State because of these students. While I can’t promise this will happen to your group, what I can say is that you never know how your chapter’s service will impact your community and the folks in it.
Sports – this committee will be responsible for events around sports. That may mean university sporting events, like getting a block of tickets for a game or holding local game watches, but it could also involve attending local sports events like a minor league baseball or hockey game. If you come from a school known for its sports, this may be important role to fill.
- Enrichment/Lifelong Learning – the focus of this committee is all things arts and education. This group may plan activities at a unique museum exhibits or attend local theater events. They might also work with the university to bring interesting speakers to town for an educational talk.
- Fundraising – if you want fundraising to be a part of your chapter’s mission, I really recommend having a group that will focus on ways to raise money. This may be the only type of committee where I really recommend having several people. Why? First, there’s oversight of the funds and coordination of the scholarships with the university that will be critical to your fundraising. Planning and holding fundraising events is the other reason I recommend having more than one person in this role. It takes multiple people to pull off fundraising events.
- Professional Networking – networking will occur by virtue of the fact that your chapter has regular activities but “professional networking” is something slightly different in my mind. To me this means holding specific types of events that have more of a business theme. Several years ago, our chapter worked with Google Fiber to host a “Cup of Joe & Get to Know” event. This was an opportunity for us to tour their office, learn about Google Fiber and network with other professionals. These types of events will bring out a different set of alumni who may enjoy this type of networking or may be looking to build business contacts.
- Affinity – if you’re in a large town, your university may have affinity clubs such as a business school alumni group. Our town has several of these some of which are quite active. Well, it dawned on us that their alumni were our alumni and we didn’t even know each other existed! What we started to do was reach out to the leaders of those local affinity groups and ask them to participate on our leadership team. We were able to co-market each other’s events which increased participation. We were also able to find opportunities to plan events together which sometimes meant being able to share costs. If you’re just starting a chapter, finding any local affinity alumni groups, can help jump start your efforts.
- Communication/Club Operations – this one is close to my heart. I’m an Ops geek! Many universities require their chapters to use social media and email to engage alumni.These skills are not everyone’s cup of tea so if this sounds like you I recommend finding an energetic volunteer who likes technology. This can be someone who already has these skills or it can be a recent grad looking to build skills in this area (check out my post on that). Either way, having someone oversee operations and communications can take that burden off someone who may not otherwise be able to do it.
- Auxiliary Advisory Committees – this is a relatively recent addition to my own chapter. These are a group of folks who want to participate but are unable to be a permanent fixture. They provide ideas to the board or connect the chapter to people or venues that we might otherwise not know about. This group can also be used as an ambassador corps, helping to promote club activities through their extensive personal and professional networks. We engage them at regular intervals for help and make sure we report back to them so they know how or if we were able to use their recommendations.
The important takeaway here is not to find someone to do each of these things but to find the ones that make the most sense and get those started. As you grow your club or volunteer base, some of these others may be committees to consider.