Let's get right to the point. Effective institutional advancement encompassing community building and fundraising is critical for sustained institutional success. For educational institutions, that means a robust alumni relations program. For other entities, it can be cultivating engaged members or participants. The key is to create a structure and a program that drive the institutional advancement effort. To borrow from the corporate world, “what can be measured, can be managed.”
Consider managing your community building efforts in a more systematic way with greater accountability for measurable outcomes. Here is a new way to consider the fundamentals for success in a few steps:
- Work with institutional leadership to determine the primary goals of your community building program such as periodic service work, networking, mentoring students, providing career opportunities, life-long learning, or social interaction.
- Establish responsibility and accountability for the effort with specific goals and deadlines (short-term and long-term).
- Identify your core constituency (current and past members, alumni, building residents, etc.). Find and keep track of the constituency with good email addresses and mobile connections.
- Design programs with volunteers and leadership to meet the goals of the organization.
- Implement the programs.
- Measure your success.
- Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the effort and make changes for improvement − every year.
Here is what the process looks like:
Of course, we all know it isn't that simple, but these steps highlight the importance of metrics and making sure that you focus on effectiveness, not logistics. If you understand what you are trying to accomplish, you can decide on the meaningful measurements.
Let’s consider an example – an organization that has an educational mission to promote international exchange programs.
- Determine that the broader community that will engage with the institution should support international exchange through donations, hosting, and organizing activities for visiting student.
- Assign the responsible team and define specific goals such as how many hosts need to be found, how many activities need to be organized, and how much money needs to be raised.
- Identify the community that would probably include alumni of all programs at the institution, alumni of the international exchange, faculty, administration, parents, and “friends.”
- Design programs (and communications) with volunteers for everything from announcing the effort to support international exchange through specific engagement activities that encourage hosting and raise money.
- Implement the programs over the course of a year (or six months or two years)
- Assess the success of the program based on the goals set at the beginning.
“What can be measured, can be managed.”
Being accountable for specific outcomes, will make the engagement program more valuable to the institution as everyone recognizes how it aligns with the mission. If you follow the basic steps including determining specific, measurable goals for each year, you will be able to prove your success each year - and adapt to accomplish even more the next year.
The community will benefit from the outcomes and your members/volunteers will appreciate being part of an impactful program. And happy volunteers do more and give more. It’s a win-win.
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