10. Perfect Union – We will continue to see legal mergers – in some form or another – between separate/independent Alumni Associations and University Foundations. This is inevitable. The University of Wisconsin led this charge, Oregon State University went on to take this route last year, and there are many other examples. Expect more to come in 2019.
11. Bye-Bye-By-laws – Alumni Board by-laws will fade out and simple operating guidelines will take their place. Too many alumni volunteers and far too much time has been spent on struggling with unnecessary by-laws and Robert’s Rules of Order. Yes, they have their place, but the VAST majority of alumni boards out there are advisory bodies with zero fiduciary responsibility and don’t need this level of bureaucracy. Keep it simple and make the volunteer experience enjoyable!
12. Volunteer Pipeline – Just like a pipeline for your donors, institutions will continue thinking about the management of alumni volunteers in a more strategic and professional manner. They will also sometimes assign dedicated staffing to manage key volunteers on their journey from admissions volunteer to bigger and broader leadership roles.
13. Meaningful Measurement – Alumni engagement metrics will be taken seriously, the eye rolling will finally stop, and the results will become eye popping. We don’t have a choice. We may have senior leaders who understand the long-term value of alumni engagement but we still need to demonstrate to all key stakeholders (think Boards of Trustees) that what we do actually has a measurable impact.
14. Non-Spoiler Alert – In a surprise to absolutely no one in the advancement industry, annual giving rates will continue to drop, actual donor numbers will hold steady, and total dollars raised will creep slightly upward. Generally speaking of course, there will always be exceptions to this but the majority of institutions are seeing this trend. This reality will make it more important than ever for our industry to demonstrate impact in all areas – including fundraising – but also recruitment, retention, and placement.
15. How Many and How Much – More and more institutions will announce capital campaigns with both an alumni engagement goal along with a fundraising goal. The average alumnus/a doesn’t see themselves in a billion-dollar campaign… but they do understand the importance of taking action and being counted.
16. Step Up the Game – Our workforce is changing, new types of jobs are being created every day, and many students are going to look outside of traditional four-year degree programs for the skills they need to succeed in this changing world (think community colleges and trade organizations). Along with this changing reality, the advancement shops at these institutions will need to step up their games and help establish a career community among their vast network.
17. Living together in perfect harmony – alumni, student and prospect databases, CRM systems, third party software, event and volunteer management systems – all will- FINALLY start “talking to each other”! (A guy can dream, right?!)
18. Outsourcing may be the answer – Standard or basic Alumni Relations business functions will increasingly be outsourced to companies outside of universities. Think FAQ’s, administrative functions, event planning, and much more NOT living in your shop. AR programs will then use their resources for the most impactful and high touch forms of engagement.
*** Again, purists will cringe at this notion but I think we will see this grow in the next year. Many schools are already using services like these!
19. Value in the Virtual – Digital engagement will take its appropriate place as a legitimate approach to alumni engagement. Online event attendance, virtual volunteers, social media supporters, and digital donors are becoming the new normal. How we track and measure the impact of this activity will be the key to our future success.
Bonus prediction for 2019 and ahead:
Rankings Reform – US News and World Report will STOP using the “average alumni giving rate” (the two-year rolling average of the percentage of undergraduate alumni who made a gift to their alma mater) as a proxy for alumni loyalty. Our industry will finally convince the publishers to move to a basic alumni engagement score based on CASE standards.
*** OK… this will take longer than just 2019 but I predict they’ll start thinking about this!
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you see coming down the road and/or issues that you are currently wrestling with in your program. Let me know whether you agree, or disagree, with my thoughts. Let’s talk about where we are headed this year!