This call is designed to help you as you go about the very important task of keeping Grinnell alumni, parents and friends concerned about and engaged with the College. As one in a leadership role, you serve as a strong link between the College and its 20,000 active alumni. The successful completion of the charge given to you as a regional leader is vital to the continued well-being of Grinnell College. This conference call seeks to address many of the issues common to regional networks and to provide clear pragmatic guidelines for your use and consideration. While we know we may not be able to provide answers for every question, we will try to address a number of issues that have come up over the past few years. As we proceed with this discussion tonight, we ask you to remember that not all guidelines and suggestions are applicable to every regional network. Flexibility is an important tool for a successful regional network. As you put these guidelines into use, we welcome your comments and ideas. Your suggestions and experiences have been and will continue to be invaluable as we seek to improve training for and communication with regional volunteers. The role of the Office of College and Alumni Relations is to assist you with the important work you have undertaken. We always stand ready to answer any special questions or concerns you may have. Grinnell College is one of the most respected liberal arts educational institutions in the world. If Grinnell is to maintain this position of being on the leading edge of private, liberal arts higher education, it is imperative that we continue to receive the support and direction provided by our alumni, parents and friends through regional networks. Please know how much we appreciate all that you do to strengthen Grinnell’s bond with its larger community.
READ: It is our hope that regional Grinnell events will build connections and promote goodwill among the College, alumni, parents, students, and friends. Regional events provide opportunities for the extended Grinnell community to come together for educational and recreational pursuits, networking and support, and interaction with College faculty and administrators. Regional events also allow alumni to participate in the life-long learning and intellectual exchange offered by Grinnell College.
1) PROMOTE: The purpose of a regional network is provide an organization where alumni, parents and friends in a specific geographic area can meet on a regular basis for service, social and intellectual enrichment. Regional networks enable Grinnell to communicate regularly with its graduates, parents and friends and to allow those same parties to communicate back with the College. Alumni networks promote the values, policies, and programs of Grinnell College. 2) FOSTER: They foster an intellectual connection to the College through increased two-way communication and by the sharing of intellectual resources between campus and regional communities.
3) CREATE: They create alumni and parent advocates for Grinnell by connecting them to the present study body and to other Grinnell alumni, parents and friends in regional communities. 4) INSTILL: They instill a sense of community in all Alumni, students, parents and friends to further promote the bond shared by all. 5) FACILITATE: Finally, they facilitate alumni communities, alumni giving, and new student recruitment efforts so that the College will continue to grow and remain strong in the future. The primary objective of all regional networks should be to promote relationships and involvement between alumni, parents and friends and the College. All committee members, therefore, share in the responsibility for attracting and increasing the personal participation of alumni, parents and friends through cultural and social programming.
The College’s regional network is based on the idea of representative leadership. Network leaders and volunteers head up an organizational structure through which alumni, parents and friends can make ideas known and act upon a myriad of reasons for nurturing the Grinnell connection. Here are some specific expectations we have for all regional volunteers.
Each regional network is assigned to one of the Alumni Relations administrators. The specific ways in which the Office of College and Alumni Relations supports and subsidizes regional networks include the following: Rosters of alumni, parents and friends. These lists, for the geographic areas served by each network, are made available to committee chairs and all members of the planning committee for reference purposes only. Mailings. These are coordinated and paid for by OCAR. Each region is allotted two committee mailings per year. These can be for committee-organized events or for regional newsletters like in the Twin Cities. We will also help to maintain a regional presence on The Loggia, our new online alumni resource. Dan will talk about this…. Alumni program staff travel. In so far as possible, an alumni relations staff member will attend at least one meeting each year for each organized network, likely in conjunction with a marquee event in your area. Supplies for events. Banners, nametags, pens, literature and other odds and ends will be provided as requested or as needed by volunteers.
It is important to remember that a well-organized regional network structure , supported by many volunteers, builds successful community. We encourage you to avoid the “one man show” syndrome. Generate active participation involving different people on a regular rotation. Constantly recruit new members; conduct leadership changes at suggested intervals; keep former committee members involved in an advisory capacity and as planning committee members.
Now that we have talked about the purpose of regional networks and the roles of staff and volunteers play in building the network, let us turn our attention to how we communicate with Grinnellians about these networks. Both content and the medium play an important role in communicating with our intended audience of local Grinnellians. As Marshall McLuhan would say, “the medium is the message.” Let’s look first at media.
Each medium has certain strengths and weaknesses in delivering our message to our audience.
Each medium delivers certain content better than others.
Email – Grinnell has email addresses on file for over 65% of alumni (12,800 Grinnellians). An email message can be sent to one person or 1000s with virtually the same effort. A message can come from staff or peers. Email is instantaneous - with a few clicks one can send a message, and recipients can reply just as easily. At the same time, a message can be deleted just as easily as it is opened. After all, 90% of email is spam says the computer security vendor Symantec (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-10249172-83.html). On average, 35% of recipents open messages from Grinnell. Because of a variety of quirks in how email servers are configured, this number is very conservative. It is likely that more Grinnellians open email than what is reported.
Social media – Using social media, you make connections with friends and acquaintances. The content shared through social media tends to be ephemeral – “What are you doing now?” “What’s on your mind?” Different sites have different niches.
Facebook tends to tap into your past terrestrial networks, particularly high school and college. You can also give Facebook permission to extend invitations to the contacts in your email contacts. Facebook also suggests friends based on your existing network of friends on the site. For example, my friends could loosely be grouped as Bexley, Hope College, UNLV, Grinnell, shared experiences, and other. The information shared on Facebook is ephemeral – the update field asks “What’s on your mind?” Users post text updates, photos, links, events, and other content, and have the ability to comment on others’ posts. There is great flexibility in restricting posts to certain groups but the privacy settings are confusing and most users do not take advantage of them. The content tends towards “now” than “enduring”. I suspect if Facebook users could look at all of the posts over a given year, many would wish they could undo at least one post. Facebook also has groups and fan pages. There are dozens of Grinnell groups. The most popular are tied to class year. Other social media networks exist by the dozens. (Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, Google Buzz, etc.) What else do you use to connect with others? With Grinnellians?
LinkedIn also taps your past terrestrial networks, with a focus on current and past employers. Like Facebook, you can extend invitations to the contacts in your email contacts. LinkedIn also suggests connections based on your existing network of friends on the site. LinkedIn also has a group feature; the Grinnell College alumni group has 1,246 members.
Plans (www.grinnellplans.com) is a Grinnell College-exclusive social network for students, alumni, faculty and staff. Registration is required to participate. Originally part of the campus VAX, it became independent of College servers in 2003 (http://www.grinnellplans.com/documents/faq.html#plans). Since 2002, Plans has had over 4,700 join. Plans is text-based and allows links to websites and other plans. It does not permit photos or video. Users message other users by listing the receiver’s username in posts. For example, can message Jayn by including her username, [baileyja], in my post from my account [mccuedan].
Lyris lists are subscription-based email distribution lists. Members of a Lyris list send and receive messages. Grinnell has built over 200 Lyris lists based on different affinities – primarily class year, region, and volunteer role. Users can opt to receive messages as they are sent or a daily digest. Lyris lists are most popular with classes of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. One of the biggest challenges of Lyris lists is etiquette. Messages are not moderated, so a small group of users can have a conversation that is distributed to all on the list, frustrating other members because of content or volume of messages. Membership management is high maintenance for Grinnell College staff.
Web – alumni can connect with Grinnell and other Grinnellians through http://www.grinnell.edu and The Loggia, http://loggia.grinnell.edu. www.grinnell.edu is the primary College website for all constituencies (student, alumni, faculty, staff, prospective students, parents, and the general public). The Loggia (http://loggia.grinnell.edu) is the hub alumni connections. The purpose of The Loggia is to foster connections between Grinnell College the Grinnell diaspora – alumni, students, faculty, and staff – through web-based content and applications.
The Loggia is well-suited to sharing and retrieving information (directories and information updates), transactions (giving and registrations), and serving as a hub for other web-based connections.
How does all this talk of media translate into content? Event info – In the example above, Chicago-based Grinnellian Dinah Zebot might receive a message from a Chicago committee member (sent en masse from Grinnell College) with an invitation to attend the Chicago picnic. The message would include key information about the event and a link to register for the event online. This information would also be available on The Loggia. The College would also mail a print invitation. Peer invite – After the invitation mails, friends in the area might text, Facebook, or email Dinah asking if she is coming to the picnic. RSVP form – Dinah checks her inbox, clicks on the registration link, and registers for the picnic.
Alumni interests are varied and diverse. Club programs are no longer limited to beer and pretzel happy hours. These programs do not constitute a year’s worth of effective programming. The following types of events have proven to be successful because they focus volunteers on the institution’s needs while meeting the alumni needs through well-rounded programming. What is more, the programs help to quantify success and alumni engagement, a resource that can be leveraged in trying to obtain future accelerated funding for alumni development. Family outings: trips to the zoo, amusement parks, children’s museum , etc. constitute the traditional foundation of alumni programming as well as the mortar that holds a group together. 2) Summer potluck picnics are an inexpensive, casual and fun way to connect new students with regional Grinnellians. Also a rare opportunity for current student involvement in regional activities. Make sure to take time at these events to welcome your student and recent graduates. 3)Educational events such as wine-tastings, art museum exhibits, historical tours, luncheons and dinners with guest speakers are effective regional events. 4) Community service events such as Habitat for Humanity, highway beautification, soup kitchens, food drives, holiday shopping for underprivileged children, athletic fundraisers (AIDS Walk, etc.) can be good opportunities for allowing alumni to give back to the local community with area Grinnellians.
By offering a variety of activities, your regional network has a better chance of attracting many different alumni, parents and friends and helping them to become more involved with the regional network and the College. These attendees could be future planning committee members. There are several reasons why alumni, parents, and friends are reluctant to attend College events. Please invest your time and resources to attract new faces with as much innovation as possible. Don’t be tempted to settle for satisfactory attendance among “the regulars”
The Office of College and Alumni Relations places great emphasis on communication with alumni, parents and friends of the College. To help ensure successful events, be sure to: Seek convenient settings Rotate event locations within your regional area (downtown v. suburbs) Alternate the day of the week Contact new people. Recent graduates appreciate friendly contacts. Recognize and warmly welcome everyone to the event Use a phone and email tree. Ask alumni you contact to contact 3-5 other alumni who they know about the event. Communicate to guests that their attendance is greatly appreciated by the regional network and the College.
Perhaps the most important contribution regional networks make is keeping regional alumni, parents and friends up to date on the College’s accomplishments, needs, priorities, and goals. Regional networks maintain good communication links through events, email, and meetings. Alumni, parents and friends who participate in these events turn out to be the best ambassadors for the College, taking the institution’s message into their workplaces, communities and civic organizations. They create tangible results, establishing a reservoir of goodwill by their common support. Grinnell regional networks extend the reach of the College by multiplying and amplifying the voices telling the Grinnell story to prospective students, donors, and other constituents. They provide a way to organize and focus the energy and commitment of able ambassadors for the institution. From the College perspective, you make up a critical component of the College and Alumni Relations team and you are one of the many reasons why Grinnell College is the place many still call home. Thank you.
Regional Volunteer Training
Office of College and Alumni Relations
April 13, 2010
It is our hope that regional Grinnell events will build connections and
promote goodwill among the College, alumni, parents, students, and
friends. Regional events provide opportunities for the extended
Grinnell community to come together for educational and
recreational pursuits, networking and support, and interaction with
College faculty and administrators. Regional events also allow
alumni to participate in the life-long learning and intellectual
exchange offered by Grinnell College.
Hold at least two (2) planning meetings yearly to plan local
events of interest.
Monitor the planning, publicity and implementation of local
events and keep the College informed by designating a
contact person for each event.
Make phone calls and send emails to publicize events and
recruit other volunteers to help.
Provide material, leadership for regional website.
Assist in planning attractive and well-attended events
Rosters, invitations, and websites
Attend planning meetings and events, and assist with
network activity and committee recruitment
Provide general staff and event support
A well-organized regional network structure, supported by many
volunteers, builds successful community.
Avoid the “one man show” syndrome. Generate active participation
by involving different people on a regular rotation.
Constantly recruit new members; conduct leadership changes at
suggested intervals; keep former committee members involved.
What are some of
your most successful
What challenges has
Range of connections
Ephemeral (“What are you doing right
Dozens of sites
◦ Facebook, LinkedIn, Plans, etc.
Third-party user community
◦ 400 million active users worldwide
◦ About 70% of users outside of U.S.
User centered communication
◦ Your share with your friends (updates, links, photos)
◦ Portable content (Web, Email, Mobile)
Potential to integrate with The Loggia
Dozens of Grinnell groups
65 million members in over 200 countries
Focus on career, professional networking
Active Grinnell College alumni group (1,200+
No active geographic focus at this time
Third-party user community
◦ Grinnellians only (alumni, students, faculty, staff)
◦ Messages by user “tags”
Younger demographic (90s-00s)
Text and links only
Existing regional pages
◦ Over two dozen city Plans and 11 country Plans, including
[chicago], [dc], [desmoines], [losangeles], [twincities]
High control for sender, low control for reader
Older demographic (70s-90s)
Existing listservs: [chigrin], [dcgrin], [lagrin],
The purpose of The Loggia is to foster connections
between Grinnell College and the Grinnell diaspora –
alumni, students, faculty, and staff – through web-based
content and applications.
◦ Direct communication
Social Media (Facebook, Listservs, Plans)
◦ Meaningful connections
◦ Reinforces other messages
◦ hub for information, transactions
Better chance of
parents and friends
Resist temptation to
settle for “the
Seek convenient settings.
Rotate event locations within your area.
Alternate the day of the week.
Contact new people, especially Recent graduates.
Recognize and warmly welcome everyone to the event.
Use a phone and email tree.
Thank guests for their attendance.
As volunteers, you are
one of the many
reasons why Grinnell
College is the place
many still call home.