So you’ve been thinking about getting involved with your university’s local alumni chapter and you’ve discovered there currently isn’t one. Well, YOU, yes you, could be the spark that lights that fire locally. But, wait, is that a lot of work? What do would you need to do? Who do you talk to? So. Many. Questions. I’ll try to answer some of those for you so you can begin this journey.
Reach Out To Your University’s Alumni Office
First, let someone at your university know that you are interested in starting a chapter. You can do this by reaching out to someone in the alumni office. These offices go by many names but all you need to do is go to your university’s page and find the Alumni link. Somewhere there may be a link that will either take you to your alumni association president’s contact info OR there may even be more information on how to start a club. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the president. He or she will be happy to hear from you (this is kinda her job) and will point you to the right person in the office who can help you. And while that person is helping you with the paperwork, you can begin looking locally for help.
Start With What And Who You Know
Are you already aware of local alumni? Is there an existing group of alumni that gets together regularly for a happy hour or service event? Or maybe there’s an “official” place in town where alumni like to meet to watch a game. Start there. Reach out to that group to let them know you are going to start a chapter. Don’t forget to collect their contact info so you can email them with more details. And don’t forget to find out who might be interested in helping to build a local chapter or volunteer to help coordinate events.
Reach Out To Your Alumni
Now let’s say you are truly starting from a blank slate. Enlist the help of your university’s chapter coordinator to get a list of local alumni including their email and mailing addresses. I recommend sending out an introduction letter or a quick survey. This can let local alumni know that you’re getting started. The survey portion can give them an opportunity to let you know what they’re interested in doing or if they’re interested in participating.
Want to find out other ways that your university’s chapter coordinator can help? Look for that post coming up next week!
Is There Already Interest in an Area?
You may already know of alumni in your area who are interested in participating in an alumni chapter because they have a special interest. Reach out to them as a starting point and include them in what you are building. I also recommend asking them who else they might like to participate.
What’s Your City’s Personality?
I’ve been a chapter leader in 2 very different towns: one a big, slightly blue-collar city in Florida and the other a big banking hub in the South East. The personalities of the cities and our alumni in each locale could not have been more different! This made understanding how to build a leadership team important.
The Florida chapter was laid back and very social. Their alumni were interested in events that would get them together to socialize no matter what kind of activity planned – service, social or other. And this crowd LOVED our school’s sports and wanted to take road trips if our school was anywhere in the state (more socializing on the bus!). The leadership team here focused its efforts on sports and social activities with one service event each year. Sports and social events were always totally tricked out – decorations, raffles, and tons of spirit.
The personality of the leadership team and alumni in the big banking hub is just that – “all business.” The group loves social and networking events, they want family friendly activities and while they love sports, unless it’s a local sports team, they are more likely to drive over to our university (it’s an easy trip) to see the games live. The leadership team here is made up of committees focusing on service, social, fundraising and enrichment. We’ve started a sports committee but it’s not very formal. We look for every opportunity to make our events family friendly (and sometimes even pet friendly). We are a group run by finance and real estate professionals (and me – the liberal arts girl) and so we focus on money and metrics each year.
Take some time to learn your chapter’s personality to capture the spirit of your local alumni. This will guide you in finding the right kinds of committees and activities for your group.