Alumni Relations & Development in the UK

Expanding to new markets is never easy. Expanding internationally can be even more difficult. So, you can imagine our excitement when we won the UK Go For Gold Competition sponsored by the UKTI.

The Go for Gold UK competition was announced last summer at a UK-Massachusetts business forum featuring Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

This trip presented a unique opportunity for us to establish relationships with leaders in alumni relations & development at a variety of institutions and organizations. We also observed some interesting similarities and differences between the UK and US advancement industries, which we note below.

Similarities:

1) Institutions were founded via philanthropic gifts.  While the tradition of giving to one’s Alma Mater isn’t as strong in the UK, it was interesting to note that many schools were founded through philanthropic gifts by donors ranging from Eton College’s King Henry VI to the £20,000 bequest that funded the London School of Economics to Cecil Rhodes’ initial funding of the Rhodes Scholarships.

2) Advancement professionals are extremely well networked!  Much like the US, alumni relations & development professionals all seem to know one another, and constantly share best practices, all supported by the leadership of Kate Hunter, Carolee Summers-Sparks and the rest of the team at CASE Europe.

3) Tracking alumni is difficult!  This was cited at each school we visited, ranging from universities like Cambridge and Oxford and independent schools like the American School of London.  Development professionals cited a constant struggle to keep traditional donor databases like Advance, Raiser’s Edge and Sage Millennium up to date.

Differences:

1) Participation rates.  There are exceptions, but the average giving participation rate at UK institutions was consistently cited at 1%-2%, versus the 10% US rate recently cited by the Council for Aid to Education.  Each school we met with emphasized a focus on establishing a culture of giving.

2) Government funding.   UK higher education has historically been heavily subsidized by the government.  This is changing in light of budget cuts to education totaling 2 billion pounds between now and 2015. Maximum student contributions have grown from zero prior to 1998 to an estimated £9,000 (~$14,000).

3) Geographic distribution of alumni.  In the U.S., it’s rare for even 30% of a school’s alumni population to be based abroad.  In UK, it was common over 50% of alumni to be based internationally, which presents a new set of challenges and opportunities for advancement professionals.

Given our focus on building mobile software that blend location with social data, we documented our entire trip to the UK through mobile apps including  FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

By “checking-in” at each of the twelve schools we visited, we were able to easily take photos and leave comments that helped us document our visit. It has been fun to write this post and relive our trip.

Our first meetings of the trip were with Imperial College Business School and CASE Europe (@CASE_Europe). This was a great way to start our trip and get our bearings in the UK.

As you can see from the various check-ins and pictures, we visited Oxford, Cambridge, the Rhodes Scholars at Oxford, Oxford-Brookes, University College London, Kings College of London, London School of Economics, American School of London, and Eton College.

Are you an alum any of these institutions? We would love to hear from you!

The trip opened up  doors for us with these amazing institutions and we are grateful for everyone involved.

Follow us on Twitter @EverTrue to see if we are traveling to a school in your area…and keep an eye out for pictures and checkins from our upcoming travels!

Ever True!
Jesse

p.s. We’d like to offer special thanks to the UKTI team: David Hughson, Joanna Manwell, Matthew Campion and Consul-General Phil Budden. We are proud to be the first UKTI Go for Gold alumni!