It's not unusual for Alumni Relations and Annual Fund offices to work together, but not many are fully integrated. Nova Southeastern University is one of those exceptions.
We asked Jason Lyons, Associate Director of the Annual Fund, and Rachel M. Mojica, Associate Director of Alumni Relations, to tell us about their CASE District 3 presentation, "Excite, Engage, Evaluate! Alumni Relations and Annual Fund Collaboration." They explained why NSU decided to integrate its Annual Fund and Alumni Relations offices and how that change is paying off.
Alumni Relations and Annual Funds are traditionally separate operations. How has NSU integrated the two, and why did you decide to do so?
Alumni Relations and Annual Fund are integrated by collaborative communications, alumni segmentation, and messaging.
We decided to integrate because we are reaching out to the same audience, and it is imperative that we use the same message when communicating to the same constituency (i.e. an alum doesn’t see “Alumni Relations” or “Annual Fund,” they see Nova Southeastern University).
For us, it only made sense to work together and combine resources, especially since we have a “lean” team.
How do your teams at NSU benchmark and report your engagement and fundraising data?
We report to deans, department heads, and the president on a quarterly basis throughout the year. We report fundraising data by taking the number of alumni donors and dividing it by our solicitable alumni base.
We recently started reporting using the alumni engagement index. This is determined by adding alumni donors, volunteers and event attendees and dividing it by the solicitable alumni base. (If an alum is a donor, volunteer AND event attendee, they only get counted once). This is information is reported for the university as a whole and by individual colleges for the deans.
How can those of us looking to replicate your work court and convince stakeholders to work together?
Benchmarking other institutions and presenting the benefits of such integration to your institutions administration, board of trustees, etc.
As cliché as it sounds, communication is key in this transition. In the past, there wasn’t a lot of communication across campus, which in turn caused confusion, and a lot of duplication in efforts. Meeting consistently (once a month) over breakfast or lunch with key stakeholders has been an integral part in getting everyone on the same page. It allows everyone to have input, share ideas, and take ownership in what we’re trying to accomplish.
And what mistakes should we avoid making?
Since our teams are relatively new, we are still benchmarking ourselves on a yearly basis as to ensure our budget, time, and resources are allocated in the most efficient manner.
However, make sure you have all the information you need before making a big decision or purchase to ensure you're being efficient.
Change is a gradual process. It’s never easy for people to change how they’ve always done things. Initially, people thought we were trying to take their jobs, and transition them out. Not exactly a good thing to build morale. After many conversations and sharing the vision of what we were trying to do, it all worked out.
Want more on the overlap between Advancement and Alumni Relations? Get our free CASE 2016 Recap whitepaper for 60 pages of Q&As like this one.