Alumni Association Recruitment and Retention Team

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Team ID: 
College / Administrative Unit: 
Development and Alumni Relations
Date Started: 
June 2003
With 146,619 members as of June 30, 2003, the Penn State Alumni Association stood as the largest dues-paying organization of its kind in America. This status has become a point of pride for the University and for Penn State alumni everywhere. The Association cannot, however, rest on its membership laurels, or presume that its current status will remain in place. As new executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association, Roger Williams asked the staff to form a Membership Campaign Task Force in June 2003. Their charge was to create a plan for a multi-year membership growth campaign. Year one of this campaign worked with a 25 person taskforce - about half the staff of the Alumni Association. A marketing plan was developed and a number of initiatives were outlined and assigned. Year two of the campaign focused on 5 strategic membership issues and the taskforce was divided into 5 project teams relating to recruiting and retention issues.

In July 2005 we began the final year of our three-year membership campaign. This is a critical time and we have a huge challenge ahead of us to meet our goal of 166,619 members as of July 1, 2006. This year we approached the issue by creating a small “SWOT” team to analyze, dissect, and implement change to effect membership growth. Throughout the year this team will identify opportunities for membership growth throughout the Association and will tap individuals and teams for project work as necessary. Additionally, activities and projects will be reviewed and discussed with the membership taskforce periodically.

The SWOT team consists of April Scimio, director of strategic communications of the Penn State Alumni Association; Sue Beschler, director of membership of the Penn State Alumni Association; Roxanne Shiels, associate director of alumni travel and education of the Penn State Alumni Association; Amy Sharer, assistant director of administrative information systems of the Division of Development and Alumni Relations; and Jillian Stevenson, director of alumni relations of the College of Agricultural Sciences. April and Sue lead this team together. This team is not a reflection of “unit” participation because this team will work with units as necessary, but is designed to be creative and to bring many different perspectives to the table and yet be small enough so that active participation is maintained. Our plan is that the synergy of the team will make it effective; enabling us to reach our membership goal and implement processes to streamline membership and ensure continued membership growth. A positive factor of the team is that its small size enables frequent - usually weekly - meetings, which allows us to move quickly and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, this team mobilized to identify membership challenges and solutions and, once we were able to identify Penn Staters and had access to mailing addresses, made sure that we offered / extended Alumni Association memberships. Another SWOT team initiative was a (pilot program) solicitation asking life members from the College of Agricultural Sciences to “sponsor” student members; basically to purchase memberships for students identified by the College to become members of the Blue & White Society. This initiative enables the College to begin a close relationship with students and also to develop the relationship between alumni and the College Alumni Society and students to effectively create a seamless transition at graduation. This pilot program is so successful (nearly 10 percent overall membership response rate) that we will introduce the program to other University Park colleges this spring and plan to implement the program at all campuses with the next fiscal year.

Basically, we have achieved promising results. In 2003-04, we grew by 4.2% and by an additional 2.2% in 2004-05, for a total of nearly 9,500 net increase in membership. This year we are trying to grow by an ambitious 6.4% or 10,000 members to reach our three-year membership campaign goal of 166,000+. I have attached an additional chart that puts our recent two-year surge in historical context.

Contact Person: 
  • Roger Williams, Sponsor
  • Sue Beschler, Co-Leader
  • April Scimio, Co-Leader
  • Amy Sharer, Member
  • Roxanne Shiels, Member
  • Jillian Stevenson, Member