Exploring the Future of Alumni: Part 4

By Michelle Lackie

Over two days last December, an incredible group of executive directors, chief program officers, directors and alumni explored alumni engagement. In the final piece of our series, M² is eager to share our conceptualizations in the form of “What ifs…?” These thought-provoking questions truly represent a diverse group of voices. And while broad in their scope, not every idea they seed will resonate with each organization. We’re hoping some will resonate with you, while others provoke deep conversations, and still others even validate what you already do.

  • What if we considered the “end” of the program as a new door opening?
  • What if we differentiated between alumni engagement as “keeping in touch” from alumni engagement as a viable way to continue achieving our missions?
  • What if we ensured our alumni work supports our mission and that our mission doesn’t drift to cater to our alumni?
  • What if we were not inhibited by a fear of losing our alumni?
  • What if we created boundaries, understanding that alumni will benefit from expectations and limitations?
  • What if we were to nurture all our alumni and invest in some?
  • What if we expected things from our alumni in return for our investment in them?
  • What if we created greater expectations for the individuals who participate in many programs?
  • What if we redefined what investment means? Not giving or receiving, but mutual collaboration between the organization and alumni?
  • What if we provided opportunities for alumni, each according to their abilities and needs?
  • What if we saw success in alumni creating their own connections, even when we can’t “own it” ourselves?
  • What if we aspired together to reach beyond our inner circle to those who don’t even know how to access our networks?
  • What if we trained alumni to be our mentors?
  • What if during our programs we involved alumni in our future plans so that they were involved from the very beginning in “what’s next?”
  • What if we redefined our alumni engagement trajectory to include inflection, investment and cutoff points?
  • What if we made it ok – and even desirable – for failure to be ok as an inflection point?
  • What if we designed within our programs an “exit strategy,” helping our alumni identify their next step before they leave our programs?
  • What if we enabled alumni to define “success” themselves and then engaged them on those terms?
  • What if different networks shared alumni referencing groups?
  • What if we enabled alumni to connect with alumni from other programs and organizations?
  • What if we didn’t feel the need to “own” our alumni?

What is your what if…?

Michelle Lackie is the Senior Director of Community Engagement of M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education.

M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education provides educators and organizations with knowledge, tools?and skills?to?advance the theory and practice of experiential Jewish education.