The trick to engaging all our alumni is realizing that we probably can't—at least not all at once. We have to develop tailored approaches for different alumni populations in order to find the messages and offerings that matter to them most.
Fresno State won a CASE District VII award this year for doing just that with its Rainbow Alumni and Allies Club. Through the RAAC, Fresno maintains relationships with its alumni, connects alumni with students on campus, and does social good all at the same time.
We reached out to Fresno State's Director of Development Peter Robertson to find out more about the program.
Why did the Fresno State Alumni Association decide to create the Rainbow Alumni and Allies Club?
We wanted to reach out to this special constituency group—LGBTQ+ alumni and allies—in a positive and respectful manner. There was already a LGBTQ+ student group in place with a 27-year history, so we knew there were LGBTQ+ alumni and allies already out there. The research had shown that alumni were successfully connecting outside of their academic disciplines with groups that they were involved with as students, but groups that they did not get degrees in—such as marching band, bowling team, cheerleading squad and debate team.
What were your goals?
To create a welcoming environment for alumni and allies to re-connect and re-engage with Fresno State, as well as to provide LGBTQ+ alumni and allies the opportunity to mentor and support current LGBTQ+ students.
Why are groups like the RAAC important?
Groups such as the Rainbow Alumni and Allies Club respect and remember LGBTQ+ history and challenges, celebrate and showcase LGBTQ+ successes, and provide hope for the future.
How did you make the launch of the Rainbow Alumni and Allies Club a success?
We researched and found nearly 700 LGBTQ+ alumni and allies from past LGBTQ+ student club records, annual LGBTQ+ parade programs, annual LGBTQ+ film festival sponsorships, and such. We established a leadership team, created colorful and attractive invitations, and provided a free reception with free parking. We also invited students, plus faculty and staff. Sixty people attended; and our Facebook group has grown to more than 850.
How will you continue to grow the Club in the future?
Through outreach at various LGBTQ+ community events, especially the annual LGBTQ+ Graduation Recognition Ceremonies.
How do/will you integrate it into your existing efforts?
The RAAC is looking at becoming a sponsor for both the community’s annual LGBTQ+ parade programs and annual LGBTQ+ film festival as way to support our community on a greater scale, but also have the community-wide platform for outreach and promotions.
What have you learned from the creation of the RAAC that you—and the rest of us—can apply to other alumni groups?
Plan your work and work your plan. Promote the group and its events via mail, via email, via Facebook. Find positive leaders in the community to champion the cause.
At the get-go, the RAAC decided to actively support the LGBTQ+ student group by building it a new booth for the campus quad area. Immediately supporting students won us over with LGBTQ+ alumni and allies.
To date, we’ve raised nearly $5,000 for RAAC and special projects—and we have noticed that nearly 30% of our donors are first-time donors to Fresno State. We’ll be able to capitalize on these first gifts in the future with additional opportunities that are LGBTQ+ related.
Want more strategies for engaging special constituency groups?
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