So you’re interested in starting an Alumni Association? The purpose of an association is to foster a spirit of loyalty and to promote the general welfare of your organization. Alumni associations exist to support the parent organization’s goals, and to strengthen the ties between alumni, the community, and the parent organization.
What are the Initial Requirements to starting an Alumni Association?
The two initial requirements to start or re-activate an alumni association are:
- The enthusiasm and willingness of several individuals who are willing to take on the organizational initiative and sustain it.
- The interest of a reasonable nucleus of alumni and friends of the organization to participate in the association’s activities.
Who Should Take on the Leadership Role of an Alumni Association?
In addition to being an alumnus/ae of the organization (or an employee), the leader of an alumni association should also have the following characteristics:
- Willingness to work with the University
- Willingness to contribute time
- Ability to motivate and engage alumni
When necessary, and if available, the Development and Alumni Relations office can help with the selection of a leader. (The leader could be one person, or a committee — size can vary by organization.)
Formal or Informal Alumni Association?
An association can be a formal organization with officers, a set of objectives, subscriptions, a newsletter, and perhaps — though not necessarily — a constitution. There is no standard constitution for associations. Indeed, many operate very effectively without one. In some countries, however, there are legal requirements to register a constitution, the form and content of which are decided by the association itself.
In areas where alumni concentrations are relatively small, an informal association nominally led by one or two individuals might gather socially from time to time. Whether or not the association is formally structured, the key to success is the ability of its leaders to motivate others to join in.
Besides associations (formal or informal), some people choose to serve simply as a Contact Point for alumni or prospective students who wish to learn more about the organization and to hear from someone’s personal experience.
Proposed Organizational Structure for Alumni Associations
Informal: One person should be designated the association’s key point of contact and a few people willing to help with the organization of the association need to be identified. The contact would be in regular communication with the parent organization and would be responsible for circulating the details of events and other significant organization news to the alumni via e-mail lists or at meetings.
Formal: Download a PDF of Proposed Organizational Structure for Formal Associations.
Steps to Creating an Alumni Association
Step 1 - Form an Interest Group
- Meet informally with alums to obtain names
- Use the existing alumni organization
- Obtain a geographic listing of members from your headquarters office
- Telephone and personally meet with alums
- Directly ask for their participation in starting the association
Step 2 – 1st Communication
- A letter should be mailed (or a message sent) to all alumni, introducing them to the leader, requesting them to update their contact information, and inquiring if there are any interested volunteers for the committee
- Write a letter to the alumni who make up your interest group
Step 3 – Getting Organized
A meeting should be convened of interested alumni to agree upon the association’s objectives and form a committee. A sample agenda might include:
- Call to order
- Review general concepts and goals of the Alumni/Alumnae Association
- Outline Alumni/Alumnae Association functions
- A. Communication (newsletters, mailings, directories, etc.)
- B. Activities
- C. Fund raising
- D. Scholarships and fellowships
- E. Assistance in Alumni/Alumnae coordinator programming
- Identify short and long term needs
- Establish projected expenditures and dues structure
- Solicit areas of interest and capabilities
- Nomination and election of Alumni/Alumnae Association officers
- Appointment of a committee to draw up the by-laws or organizational outline
- Appointment of other committees and delegation of responsibilities (communications, recognition, events, recruiting, etc.)
- Set date, time and location for follow-up meeting
Step 4 - Prepare By-Laws
Have a committee prepare by-laws for adoption at the next meeting. The adopted by-laws need to be sent to the fraternity/sorority headquarters for the chapter-alumni/alumnae files.
Sample Outline of Alumni/Alumnae Association By-Laws:
- Officers; duties and powers of officers
- Regular committees; duties and functions of committees
- Meetings and programs; general timing of meetings
- Dues; members to association, control of funds
- Scholarship and fellowship funds, control and operation
- Communication - regular; content and timing of newsletters
- Major activities and work projects; chapter assistance, social functions, traditionally-sponsored events
Step 5 - The Follow-Up Meeting or Event
A launch event should be organized with broad appeal to attract as many alumni as possible, preferably when a senior administrator of the organization is available to attend.
- This meeting is crucial. If the alumni can see results, they will continue to serve on the Alumni Association.
- Other alums and new contacts who could not attend the first meeting should receive invitations through the mail.
- The Association by-laws should be adopted at this meeting as well. It is also important that the chapter officers attend this meeting.
- The meeting should serve to orientate first-time alumni attendees.
Step 6 – Financing an Alumni/Alumnae Association
The question of financing can be a major obstacle for a new Alumni/Alumnae Association.
Generally, finances for an Alumni/Alumnae Association can be provided in three different ways:
- By an annual dues program for Association members
- By contributions received by alums for a specific Association program
- By a combination of the above methods
Other financial considerations:
- Capital Fund Raising Campaigns
- Association-Sponsored Scholarships
And Don’t Forget . . .
- Postcards/Flyers (to promote special events – ballgames, golf outings, etc.)
- Association Directory
- Web: online alumni community, social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), e-mail blasting
- Keep accurate records
- Maintain a database of alumni names, addresses, contact details, and more
- Take photos of key events and milestones
- Association Meetings
- Monthly Luncheons/Dinners
- Special occasions (Homecoming, Founders Day, etc.)
- Other outings (chapter work day, philanthropies, holiday receptions, etc.)
- “I used to be a _______.” (membership doesn’t expire when you graduate - it’s designed to last a lifetime)
- “I don’t have time.” (we’re all volunteers)
- “I won’t know anybody.” (members from other eras can help by welcoming newcomers)
- “All they want is my money.” (the main effort needs to show that money’s not the primary concern)
Content adapted from Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, and Boston University Office of International Alumni Programs