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Alumni Program Strategic Plan

A Plan for Westminster College Alumni
2008-2013

 

THE PLANNING PROCESS

Westminster College has been changing lives since 1875. Known as a caring community, Westminster is a place where the faculty and staff have always had an unusually strong dedication to students and their learning. Generations of graduates report that they have been touched profoundly by the Westminster experience. However, the low rates of alumni engagement and alumni giving from the more than 15,000 Westminster alumni around the nation reflect a significant discordance with the student experience.

Trustee Committee on Alumni Participation
To address these issues, in 2006 Westminster College began a process of information gathering and study through a Trustee Committee on Alumni Participation. This committee sought to identify, evaluate, and recommend ideas that the Alumni Board and Administration might consider to better connect alumni with the College, improve alumni relations, and to build a broader and stronger financial participation among alumni. The Committee interviewed Westminster Alumni program-related people, conducted a review of peer college alumni programs, and considered the College’s alumni demographics. Their report outlined the alumni relations challenges for the College. These include building alumni pride; strengthening volunteer opportunities; creating regional clubs and travel programs; recognizing alumni; and appropriately staffing the office of advancement and the alumni program.

Alumni Satisfaction Survey
In the summer of 2007, a comprehensive three-phased research study of Westminster Alumni was conducted by Lighthouse Research to understand what Westminster alumni need and want from Westminster College and their alumni program. Survey results are based on 1500 responses from alumni gathered through telephone interviews, focus groups, and an online survey.

The recommendations and key findings from the research were:
• To develop and promote a clear vision of the alumni program outlining its contributions to the College and its benefits to the alumni and students
• To develop and promote a clearly-defined and well-described package of benefits for Westminster alumni that alumni perceive to be valuable and useful
• To implement a comprehensive alumni communication system based on the delivery and content preferences of alumni
• To modify activities and events provided to alumni based on the expressed preferences in the research results
• To set up and facilitate ongoing volunteer opportunities for alumni by providing clear information and consistent follow-up
• To develop a promotional campaign to increase the number of financial donations from alumni
• To develop and implement a formal alumni referral system to assist in new student recruitment and college promotion

Alumni Program
With the recommendations from the Trustee Committee on Alumni Participation, the data collected from the Alumni Satisfaction Survey, and the direction set forth by the College’s Strategic Plan, the Alumni Office with the Alumni Board sought to create a shared vision and clear direction for the Westminster College Alumni Program for the next five years. In July 2007, a year-long evaluation and planning process was launched by the Alumni Office and the Alumni Board to improve the content, effectiveness, and value of Westminster College’s program for alumni.

Five goals resulted from the planning process addressing the areas of communication, events, benefits, career development and connections, and financial resources and alumni giving. Objectives and strategies were developed as well as target dates for implementation for each goal. Progress in achieving each of the goals of the strategic plan will be reviewed by the Alumni Office with the Alumni Board and reported to both the College and the alumni population on an annual basis. Specifically, the plan will be assessed in terms of growth in the alumni participation rate, alumni engagement, and awareness of the purpose of Westminster’s Alumni Program.

AT OUR CORE

VISION
To promote an active community of engaged life-long learners.

PURPOSE
The Westminster College Alumni Program shall provide, encourage and communicate opportunities for alumni to interact, learn, give and be recognized, thereby supporting the strategic vision of the College and the Alumni Program.

WHO WE SERVE
The Alumni Program primarily serves the Alumni of Westminster College. Secondarily, the Alumni Program serves current students, prospective students, and Westminster College.*

Alumni desire the following opportunities to give service to the Westminster College community:
• Mentoring Westminster students
• Interaction with prospective students, current students and their families throughout their Westminster experience
• Guest lecturing opportunities
• Recruitment of prospective students
• Financial contributions

Alumni desire the following benefits from the Alumni Program:
• Effective communication of the purpose of the program, benefits of being alumni, and the service opportunities available to alumni
• Ongoing, unique educational opportunities
• Attractive opportunities whereby alumni may interact, socialize, and participate together within the Westminster community
• Opportunities for contact with the faculty of the College
• Recognition of distinguished and honorary alumni and active marketing of alumni, both locally and nationally

*Note: This plan addresses the needs of Westminster College Alumni. Goals, objectives and strategies for secondary audiences will be addressed in coming years and appended to the plan.

OUR PLAN: An Overview of the Goals

To realize our vision of promoting an active community of life-long learners, we will work toward five overriding goals in: communication; programs; benefits; career development and connections; and alumni giving and allocation of financial resources.

Goal 1
We will focus our efforts on innovative, integrated and comprehensive communication to engage Westminster alumni and to enhance the awareness, understanding of and engagement in the alumni program.

Goal 2
We will add value to the alumni program by continuously engaging alumni with each other and the College community through the development of relevant and streamlined programs.

Goal 3
We will develop a comprehensive benefits package that responds to alumni preferences and adds value to the alumni population.

Goal 4
We will strengthen and promote career development, service opportunities, and the connections between the alumni and the College community.

Goal 5
We will encourage financial efficiency and effectiveness in order to support significant growth of alumni engagement and the improvement of the alumni giving rate.

The accomplishment of these goals requires collaboration between the Alumni and Advancement staff, the College Administration, the Faculty, the Alumni Board, Regional Clubs, Student Services, and Admissions.

We will assess the overall effectiveness of the plan by measuring awareness of the Westminster Alumni Program, growth of the alumni participation rate, alumni engagement.

GOALS-OBJECTIVES-STRATEGIES

To implement and accomplish the goals of this plan, we developed dynamic objectives and strategies for each goal. Timing and progress indicators are found in the appendices of this document. 

Goal 1

We will focus our efforts on innovative, integrated and comprehensive communication to engage Westminster alumni and to enhance the awareness, understanding of and engagement
in the alumni program.


Create alumni brand and key messaging for the alumni program.

          Develop an alumni identity consistent with the College’s brand to be used in all information for alumni.

          Develop and communicate the purpose of the Alumni Program and the benefits of participation.

Leverage and improve existing databases to increase communication effectiveness.

          Standardize procedures for database queries, data usage, and integration of data in communications with     alumni.

          Create a data utilization and integration model so that communication becomes data driven, personalized, and relevant.

          Improve alumni data integrity and collection including increasing coding rates.

Create a comprehensive and integrated communication strategy.

          Create an intelligent and integrated communication model that calculates and moves alumni up an engagement escalator from unengaged, to interested, to engaged, to annual donor.

          Improve the planning and production of communication materials to increase effectiveness of message and decrease cost through a communication calendar that integrates print and electronic media.

Evaluate and improve traditional communication to increase effectiveness.

          Use research results, brand and messaging hierarchy, and database information in the development of print communications.

          Increase alumni focus and content in the Westminster Review.

Improve overall use of online communications.

          Define purpose and establish guidelines for alumni website.

          Restructure alumni website content and navigation.

          Structure online communication around research results using majors, careers and/or personal interests.

          Integrate online community with database.

Goal 2

We will add value to the alumni program by continuously engaging alumni with each other and the College community through the development of relevant and streamlined programs. 

Develop and execute a Reunion Weekend while moving Homecoming from the responsibility of the Alumni Program to the College.

          Host Alumni Reunion Weekend in a season different from that of the College’s Homecoming Week.

          Streamline the events during Reunion Weekend to offer focused and relevant events that fit the purpose of the weekend and reflect results of the alumni survey.

          Integrate Class Agents into the Reunion Weekend and set schedules one year in advance.

Offer a strategic series of signature events.

          Develop a signature events series that offers four annual events each year around the following areas of focus: faculty-themed, arts & humanities, career/networking, family oriented, and golf tournament. In year one, we will begin by offering one event per year and adding an additional event yearly until all four events of the series are set.

          Implement a suggestion system to encourage alumni input on which programming should be offered and when.

          Offer events that reflect growing interest through evaluation in order to be continued.

          Create an annual calendar of events a year in advance.

Support participation of regional alumni clubs and other organized alumni groups in Reunion Weekend and integrate these events nationally.

          Offer one satellite and one on-campus event per year. 

          Establish satellite event first; integrate this group into Reunion Weekend the following year.

Goal 3

We will develop a comprehensive benefits package that responds to alumni preferences and adds value to the alumni population.

Continue offering all of the current benefits available to alumni.

Build value-added benefits and opportunities specifically for legacies.

          Define feasibility and scope of legacy benefits.

          Partner with College on drafting, implementing, and promoting this package.

Promote use of existing alumni discounts for facilities.

          Develop and roll out a Retail Discount Program.

          Explore retail discount packages offered at peer institutions and look to build a local and national retail discount program over the next five years.

Implement an annual Travel Experience with a faculty and alumni host component.

          Offer a travel experience once a year.

          Incorporate alumni and faculty host element.

Explore the establishment of a continuing education program.

          Investigate continuing education programs at peer institutions.

          Partner with the College to evaluate feasibility and economic opportunities in offering a curriculum for credit or certificate-based programs to alumni and the College community.

Goal 4

We will strengthen and promote career development, service opportunities, and the connections between alumni and the College community.

Strategically expand the Alumni Mentoring Program.

          Develop departmental AMP programs in business, science, communications, entrepreneurship, etc.

          Create an AMP model that includes recruiting methods and training modules for facilitators and mentors and promotional templates for the program.

Develop less intensive opportunities for networking and career assistance.

          Implement career networking opportunities: alumnus to alumnus; alumnus to student.

          Facilitate an alumni guest lecture series for career panels and class visits.

Develop a formal career opportunity network to connect alumni who are seeking and providing jobs.

          Collaborate with the Career Resource Center to develop an “alumni hiring alumni” program.

          Create a networking database that allows alumni and students to identify and contact one another based on current or past professional positions and professional interests.

Centralize career-related activities for all Westminster groups.

          Create a formalized system to collect, communicate, and distribute all Westminster career-related events, discussions, and participatory information.

Develop, promote, and enhance networking opportunities.

          Develop a signature networking event which facilitates alumni networking.

          Create and fund an annual regional networking event.

Establish career development responsibility in the Alumni Office.

          Collaborate with the Career Resource Center to incorporate and coordinate enhanced career development  (specifically mentoring programs and networking events).

Goal 5

We will encourage financial efficiency and effectiveness in order to support significant growth of alumni engagement and improvement of the alumni giving rate.

Develop a set of meaningful financial benchmarks and continuously update and evaluate financial resources against them.

          Prepare a list of peer institutions, develop a questionnaire, and summarize results in a standardized benchmark template.

Use alumni survey results, benchmark analysis, and the five-year strategic plan to analyze current allocation of financial resources.

          Develop a quantitative and qualitative evaluation process for current financial resources.

          Develop a gap analysis using the five year plan to evaluate needs in context of resources.

Develop and implement an annual financial performance process that evaluates spending in relation to performance.

          Create a template that summarizes spending to performance in each of the following areas: events and benefits (spending vs. participation); communication (spending vs. response rate and awareness); career connections (spending vs. participation and number of alumni using services); associated boards (spending vs. engagement level and goals completed).

Assure adequate financial resources to support the alumni program.

          Develop an annual budget consistent with benchmark data, competitive with peer institutions, and supportive of alumni strategy.

          Advocate funding needed for career services portion of the strategic plan.

Support growth of the alumni participation rate.

          We will focus first on increasing and tracking engagement. Then, we will develop a plan and strengthen our collaboration with the College in order to increase alumni giving.

          We will work to better understand the connection between engagement and financial participation by gathering benchmark participation data from peer institutions while also tracking the College’s own participation rate.

PROGRESS INDICATORS

We will assess our progress in achieving each of the goals of our plan for the next five years annually. While the plan outlines various means of measurements, we will assess the overall effectiveness of the plan in three main areas.

Program Awareness
The Alumni Program will capture the level of its current Alumni Program awareness and establish a baseline in Year 1 of the plan by using the results of the survey. During Year 1, the Alumni Program will design a process for assessing awareness of the purpose of the Alumni Program and the benefits and opportunities offered to the alumni population. Additionally, we will use the results of assessment to adjust implementation and maximize program awareness.

Engagement Rate
In Year 1, the Alumni Program will design a method to measure engagement of alumni with the College. Such technique should capture all means of communication, interaction, and responses between the College and alumni and process them into key indicators that can be used to assess and measure “engagement” of alumni over the next five years.

Participation (Financial) Rate
The Alumni Program will use the participation rate as the overall key indicator that will reflect the effectiveness of the strategic plan. While the participation rate will be assessed annually, the Alumni Program expects a favorable impact on the participation rate beginning in Year 3 of the strategic plan.