Alumni Engagement: Who Is Your True Alma Mater?
The words, ‘ Alma Mater ‘, are commonly used to refer to the school that an individual attended.
Yet have you ever wondered why the plural version, ‘Almae Matres’, is rarely used?
Many of us have a number of educational institutions that could be designated our alma mater including our high school, university or professional school.
Which begs the question, is there room for these institutions to co-exist and have separate but meaningful relationships with the same alum? Or is there a limit with how many education institutions a single alum can be engaged?
Is there a limit to how much time and money an alum can give to education institutions in general?
Moreover, if there is a limit, does that effectively mean that educational institutions should be/are competing with others for the same finite volunteering and giving from the same individual alum?
And if it is a zero-sum game, where increasing giving from an alum for one institution may come at the expense of giving for another, how should your institution compete?
Finally, we have a difficult case when schools within the same ‘mother’ education institution could be competing for the attention of the same alum and how best to manage that. Does alumni engagement come at the expense of another institution?
Lots of uncomfortable questions!
There is also a confidence problem out there with many schools doubting their suitability for attaining the top spot of the undisputed alma mater.
I often speak to K12 schools (Kindergarten to 12th Grade) who lament their apparent lack of professional relevancy in the lives of their alumni. What role can a K12 institution meaningful play in the lives of its alumni they ask?
On the other hand, I often speak to business and other professional schools who lament their apparent lack of emotional connection with alumni. How deep can our relationships be when we have played a relatively small part in the emotional development of an alum and simply have been there at the very end of their educational experience?
So we end up with a strange matrix correlating professional relevancy versus emotional connection.
The solution may simply be about playing to your strengths.
The K12 institutions score strongly on the emotional connection and the pivotal role they often play in the development of alumni. They, of course, need to leverage this but begin to think harder about how they too can contribute toward professional relevancy in their alumni networks.
The Universities fall somewhere in the middle with reasonable emotional connection and professional relevancy.
The Professional Schools score highest on professional relevancy and probably least on emotional connection.
This is one of the posts where I don’t have all the answers but believe there is great value in asking these questions.
Is your school the true alma mater for the majority of your alumni?
If yes, how did you achieve this?
If no, what were your biggest challenges?
I would welcome your thoughts.