Friday, May 15, 2009

Higher Learning

George Watt, recently arriving Executive Vice President, Institutional Advancement, College of Charleston raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the Naval Academy. He arrived in Charleston to take the helm of the fundraising effort at the College just before the recent economic unpleasantness. Across the nation giving to academic institutions is down double digits. Moreover, social media tools like Facebook and MySpace weaken the traditional ties of alumni to Alumni Offices.  What's a leader to do?  

Here is what George Watt suggests:

Offer alumni permanent email addresses like (of course) but take it one step further by having laptops available during class reunions to help returning alumni set up accounts with technical assistance offered by current students.

Deepen the life-long ties of alumni by offering job placement services of the traditional alumni office, but offer those services to alumni for life (not just for recent graduates). You will immediately win some friends in this economy.

Recognize that those complaining about the push to the web and social media are not going to be your core constituency much longer. Online service delivery reduces fundraising costs faster than you might expect, unless you expect immediate gains. It takes a couple of years of struggle to get the benefits, but once they kick in the savings are huge.

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