4) What are some future goals or projects you and your department are working on? What are you most excited about right now?
MS: We are about to launch, probably in the next six months, a new digital platform called Irish Compass. This will be a place for alumni to connect with students to serve as mentors, where they can find a robust job board, discussions and forums, and other resources.
Anything else you want to add?
MS: Engagement of alumni really has to be about gratitude for what they do for the university — the time, talent, and treasure they give. Our alumni really are Notre Dame in their own communities, an embodiment of the mission and extension of us.
1) Notre Dame embraces the campus itself and programming on campus as a way to draw alumni and friends back. This connection is both physical and emotional, and promotes greater engagement away from campus.
2) They welcome and value supporters and friends as much as alumni. For example, Mike explained the meaning and history behind the phrase “Subway Alum,” which is how they refer to Notre Dame fans and supports who didn’t attend the university.
He also told me that the wording of club names — for example, “The Notre Dame Club of New York City” — intentionally does not include the word “alumni,” because the clubs are open not only to alumni but also to friends, parents, and supporters of the institution.
3) They understand and communicate the narrative of Notre Dame consistently and strategically.
4) They are honest about areas that need to be improved and try to gauge and respond to what alumni want.
For instance, Notre Dame recently conducted a big survey of alumni, parents, and friends, and are now in the midst of a big “re-envisioning project”— building a three-to-five year strategic plan, revising their mission, etc.
With this survey, they sought to learn “what alumni are hungry for.” When I asked Mike what was surprising about the results, he said about 37 percent of alumni indicated that they want to have more engagement with the university. This was especially true among younger alums (those under 35). So they are re-envisioning with this in mind.
Questions to consider…
1) For Notre Dame, one of its binding qualities is its Catholic mission. What are the strongest binding qualities of your institution that you could deploy as you design and implement alumni engagement programs?
2) To help support their regional clubs, Notre Dame utilizes “The 6 Cs” (see above). What approach does your institution take to regional club support and structure? Like Notre Dame, do you have a way of honoring standout clubs?
3) When was the last time you surveyed your alumni? What was most surprising?
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And keep an eye out for next week’s follow-up post, when we discuss five secrets to effective alumni club websites and profile Notre Dame’s Chicago Club website!