Being an alumni chapter leader can be an incredibly rewarding opportunity but it can be a lot of work. Most universities have staff in their alumni offices who are dedicated to helping chapter leaders manage the load. Here are some ways that you can enlist the help of your university’s alumni chapter resources.
Usually the prime directive of the university club coordinators is to provide local chapters with administrative support. Universities understand that chapter leadership is a volunteer position so they allocate a few staff members to help guide the clubs. Their services may include things like:
- helping new chapter leaders start or reactivate a local club,
- providing a list of alumni in your area,
- helping to plan and promote chapter events and activities,
- training new and current leaders on chapter policies and procedures,
- setting up registration pages that can capture event RSVPs and collect money (Pro tip: having the university collect money can save the chapter a lot in online transaction fees!),
- providing the chapter with any 501(c)(3) documentation in order to make purchases for your non-profit club and
- providing other kinds of financial services, such as setting up a chapter bank account, starting a scholarship fund, or making payment to your event vendor.
Alumni Engagement Tools and Training
There are many ways that universities are reaching out to their alumni these days. Emails, mailing and social media are just a few of those ways. A number of universities are going the extra mile and providing their local chapters with access to dedicated websites and other online resources to keep their alumni engaged. These universities will setup the tools for the chapters and deliver training to help the club volunteers administer those tools.
Alumni Email or Mailing Services
I mentioned above that your alumni office may provide you with a list of alumni in your area. Many times, your university already has a regular broadcast email that goes out to alumni nationwide and/or specifically in your location. It’s worth it to ask the office if you can use the same method to send emails to your local alumni. This can not only ensure that the email will go to the alumni who’ve opted in to that list but it can save you from having to do the work of creating and grooming your email list and tool.
If you’re not scared of setting up your own local email list then check out my post on Starting Your Alumni Email List.
Are you planning a really swanky event and need invitations? Do you have an older alumni base that may not be reachable by emails? Your alumni office may be able to provide you with mail services. Check to see if they can design, print and mail your special delivery on behalf of the chapter. This can be a great savings for the club (usually the university will absorb the cost of designing and printing) for the price of just the postage involved.
University Connections and Introductions
Sometimes it’s nice to have some inside connections at your university. Many times the alumni office can make those introductions for you. This can be useful when:
- you would like to bring a speaker from the university to your town for an event or fundraiser
- you need a contact in a different department at the university such as the boosters club, admissions, or ticket office
- you want to reach out to another chapter leader to swap stories or collaborate on an event
In addition to connecting with you people at the university, many times the alumni office can help you make connections to alumni that live in your community. This can be helpful when you want to connect with a specific alumni or alumni-owned business.
University Swag and Merchandise
We run our club on a dime so the alumni chapter staff have been a great resource over the years for providing us with swag we can use at events. Fun, free items such as buttons, stickers, and pom-poms, can be great giveaways that your alumni will love. Many times the chapter coordinators have a stock pile in their office and will happily will clear the shelves by shipping it to you!
The alumni office may also have relationships with university-approved vendors in their area who can provide you with services or merchandise at discounted prices. For example, my university has worked out a deal with a school merchandise shop that provides chapters with a discount code to be used on items we purchase before football season. We’ve also had great luck with a print shop located near our university. They’ve not only helped us design a club t-shirt but they helped us navigate the university’s strict copyright laws (check out an upcoming post on that!) while pricing it in such a way that we could build a fundraiser around it.
Alumni in your town will love the ability to have swag or merchandise at your events. Check with your alumni office to see if they have (or could establish) similar relationships with university-friendly merchants.
A Shoulder to Lean (or Cry) On
Even our best laid plans sometimes don’t play out as we hope. Never fear. Your alumni chapter staff members have your back! My club coordinators are on speed dial (and text). Pro tip: they should be in your contact list too! In a pinch, I can reach out to them on the spot for ideas, help or just a “how do I do this better next time?” They’ve seen it all and know a lot so let them help you. AND the sooner you can let them know about an issue, the more time they have to work their magic.
Many times we believe as volunteer leaders that we have to make things happen on our own but that’s just not true. Your alumni office has a host of resources to pull from. This post only scratches the surface. If your alumni office doesn’t give you a list of all the things they can – ASK! You’d be surprised at the strings that they can pull for you.