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Alumni Relations Budgets: We Can’t Afford It. Really?

Alumni Relations Budgets: We Can’t Afford It. Really?

Running an Alumni Association or Alumni Relations Department is all about making tough choices – where do you invest your limited resources to have the biggest impact?  In essence, your Alumni Relations budgets.

But to answer that question, you also need to be able to evaluate all resources at your disposal, including your people.

I recently asked two friends who are Alumni Relations Directors, one at a leading University and one at a leading K-12 School to share their annual budgets with me so I could better understand their budget situation.

What I discovered was two things.

Firstly – alumni software and technology made up at most 5 to 10% of the annual alumni relations budget they gave me.

Secondly, both institutions showed me their operational budgets excluding their people costs.  i.e. when they looked at their annual budgets and where to allocate their limited resources, they were not taking into consideration their human resources.

If you included the budgets spent on their alumni relations teams, technology expenditure was below 1% per year.

So, this begs the question, how do you balance your spend in technology versus people, in alumni relations?

The approach of almost discounting your annual investment in your team may in my opinion lead to counter-intuitive outcomes.

For example, I heard of a school this week needing to save budget, so it cut its externally provided software support costs, and got a more expensive member of their team to do this work instead.

Another example is building software yourself rather than buying from an alumni software expert.

Both these examples occur because schools are not making those tough choices by evaluating all their spend.

Prioritizing your resources requires a clear idea of your goals and the ability to measure and track your success.  It also requires you knowing the impact of each line of your budget including your people.

I am not advocating the mass reduction of alumni relations teams.

I am however advocating that we have an honest discussion about how best to spend our alumni relations budgets in its entirety.

Professionalizing our approach to alumni relations requires us to objectively re-assess where we invest our resources and yes, to potentially make some difficult choices.

I would welcome your thoughts.


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