Why don't we have more cross alumni events?
For the fourth year in a row, I had the pleasure of attending the Alumni Charity Challenge in Richmond, Virginia. Every year I look forward to this event because not only is it a great night for my alma mater, Longwood University, but we get to see alumni representation from schools all over the country and the state.
So what is the Alumni Charity Challenge? Five years ago VCU's RVA Gold Chapter had the brilliant idea to partner with the Central Virginia Food Bank and to hold an event at a local brewery where alumni from different schools would compete against each other to see who could raise the most canned goods. Fast forward to 2017 and this year's event featured over 30 schools who raised over 45,000 lbs of food.
Different schools have different approaches. Some will send members of their office to drum up their alumni base and others will leverage their local chapters to execute the event. Either way, it's a successful night for everyone, and it's been a lot of fun to see more and more schools join each year.
It's rare to get some many people who are passionate about their alma mater all in one place. It may occasionally happen at a conference basketball tournament, but there are certainly more opportunities to do so outside of athletics.
Reach out to your rivals
During the Alumni Career Services Network annual conference this summer in Boston I had the pleasure of attending a roundtable discussion by Johnathan Luster. Johnathan is the Associate Director of the Alumni Association for Alumni/Student Engagement at the University of Washington.
The Huskies, fresh off the College Football Playoffs, annually pick two road games a year to host alumni events. Last year one of the events was the road matchup at Arizona and Johnathan had an outside the box idea for his alumni in the Tucson area.
He reached out to his Pac 12 counterpart at Arizona, whom he actually met at the ACSN conference the summer prior, and proposed a dual alumni networking event.
Washington and Arizona split the cost of the event and Johnathan was able to leverage local event planning knowledge and also provide a unique experience for his alumni in the area. They were even able to find a professor at Arizona who had degrees from both schools, who became the guest speaker for the event.
We often look at other schools as rivals, especially on gameday, but we know how powerful a tool networking is and there is no reason why we shouldn't look to work with our partners at other institutions more. You'll end up with stronger attendance and a more meaningful experience for your alumni.