In conjunction with the Society of Foreign Consuls in New York, the Association of Yale Alumni organized a workshop on How to Manage NYC-Based Alumni Associations of Home-Country Universities. Presented by Mark Dollhopf, Executive Director of the Association of Yale Alumni, the workshop offered insights, strategies and tips on how to cultivate and engage the New York area alumni who are so vital to your work.
Why is it essential for universities to build a strong Alumni community around the world? Is it fundraising? Networking? Branding? Last year in the US, 2 million students studied abroad. The internationalization of education increases competition between institutions looking to attract the best students from all over the world. The students and the alumni are the ambassadors for the institution, enhancing its reputation.
At Yale, 57% of students benefit from financial aid, and if your family’s annual income is under $75,000 USD, your education will be free of charge. For many students abroad, it is less expensive to attend Yale than their universities at home. Yale’s rationale from providing aid is that by having the best students and engaging them throughout their careers, they will become the most valuable ambassadors, attracting promising future students from around the world.
Universities are competing for the best resources, such as notable faculty and talented students. They now understand that Alumni networks are a very powerful and untapped resource. Of course fundraising is a non-negligible part of this. Last year, Yale (that has annual operation budget of 3 billion) raised $600 million through donations. The money donated contribute to growing the endowment of the University that amounts 22 billion. Each year, circa 1.4 million of the endowment is allocated to the annual budget. These numbers show the significance of alumni money in the overall budget of the School
Raising money from Alumni seems consequently essential and part of the business model of these institutions. Naturally, the question is “How”. How is it possible to generate that amount of contribution from Alumni and how to ask them? The starting point is to know who they are, where do they live and how to contact them. European universities differ from the American methods of tracking and contacting Alumni but with the digitalization of data and the increase of social platforms, it is much easier for an institution to keep a track of their Alumni.
Having Alumni in your database is only the beginning; the challenging part is how to get them involved in the Alumni community. The strategic role of Alumni departments is to find and empower leaders able to engage and inspire others alumni in order to encourage collaboration and events. At Yale, there are more than 400 Alumni organizations and nearly 5,000 events globally, sorted in different categories: class, vocation, shared interest group, schools (Business School, Medical School, etc.).
Yale believes in this bottom-up approach. People like to give and share. When contacting their Alumni, they do not ask for money, instead they invite alumni to be a part of the community and to serve a cause. They ask how they would like to get involved, what are their passions, what are they good at. Each alumnus feeds the community and its many interests, contributing to a successful network. It is proven that “empowered” alumni are more willing to donate to the School.
The event gathered over twenty people from different consulates. The interactive presentation provided the consuls insides and tips on the necessity for high education institutes to develop their relationships and network abroad.. The Society of Foreign Consuls in New York represents 113 NYC-based Consulates General and promotes good relations between the NYC Consular Corps and our hosts, New York City and the United States of America. We thank Mark Dollhopf from the Association of Yale Alumni for having shared his experience and knowledge with the audience.
Joanne Bolens, Jennifer Charlton & Nathalie Monnet: swissnex NY Outpost, Consulate General of Switerland in New York