My name is Joanna Vinick and I am the new EverTrue Genius. I know what you’re thinking: that title carries a lot of weight and expectations are high. Don’t get me wrong, I know that both of those are true but that’s honestly the way I like it. I like to be in a job, and on a team, where I am constantly challenged both professionally and intellectually. I like constantly growing and I love being in a place where I can talk about one of my favorite things – alumni affairs. You can ask anyone – once you get me talking about alumni affairs, student affairs and really, education in general… I don’t really stop until someone hits me.Graduation day from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, May 2011
So, when Brent first came into Boston Startup School, of which I am a recent alumna, I was absolutely shocked to hear that there was a startup that was working in the alumni affairs and institutional advancement space. How could I be THIS lucky? As the 6-week long program continued I made no secret of my love for EverTrue, both as a potential new hire and as an alumni volunteer for my alma mater, Hobart and William Smith Colleges. I wanted an EverTrue app formyself – I knew it would make my life, as an alumni volunteer, so much easier when reaching out to alumni/alumnae.
I spent most of my time at HWS Colleges, first as a student and then as a professional after I graduated, working to increase communication between alumni affairs and student affairs. Since I had an opportunity to learn about higher education in the context of these two very divided offices, I walked away with three recommendations for alumni affairs professionals looking to increase young alumni engagement.
1. Try and remember that today’s students are tomorrow’s alumni. This is not a novel concept, but if you repeat that phrase in your head over and over as you plan events, work on campaigns and think about engagement you will begin to realize that those students who live, work and learn across the street from you will likely be more invested in what you are trying to accomplish if you invest in them.
2. Young alumni have no idea who you are. The second they are handed their diploma, those professionals and faculty, with whom they have spent four years building relationships, have basically disappeared. Usually, their only connection to the school is your alumni affairs office so try to be accessible, welcoming and introduce yourselves. Be creative about it. Events help. So does a strong social media presence.
3. Lastly, there is a reason that this young alumni volunteer was so excited about working for a startup in advancement. I speak on behalf of alumni volunteers everywhere: we hate excel spreadsheets with outdated information. How can you expect us, year after year, to call old phone numbers, disabled email accounts and ask about jobs that people haven’t held for months and still be enthusiastic volunteers? Remember, we are donating our time because we truly love our alma maters and want to help continue to strengthen the communities but, we are the X Generation, the babies of the baby boomers, and we want (and expect) new technology. No more outdated spreadsheets, please.
Joanna, your newest “Genius”