It seems every development conversation I have with a Camp Executive Director eventually moves towards alumni engagement… or the serious lack thereof.
On paper, it makes total sense: Summer camp alum should be the perfect people to enthusiastically “give back” to support camp scholarships and improvements. Who better than those who have experienced the power and magic of camping to support others who may not be able to afford to attend? In theory, it’s a home run. In reality, we strike out more often than you might imagine.
A few years back I had the opportunity to help launch the alumni association for a fairly new resident camp. Celebrating only its 10th year in operation (an infancy in the camping world), we were starting from square one. Undaunted by the challenges of launching a brand new venture, we set about developing wonderful case materials, bringing together a small leadership team and identifying potential donors.
Early on in the process, a young member of the newly assembled leadership team asked a crazy question: “Other than raising money, why are we starting an Alumni Association?” Another member of the team added: “Why would anyone want to join this group?”
These two simple questions provided us the opportunity to pause and do some research. For the next three months, we surveyed our alumni and set up face-to-face follow up visits. What we learned was our ACE in the Hole! Through surveys and visits, four common themes arose.
The four powerful reasons that alumni wanted to get involved:
- Advocacy: Alumni desire to spread the word of their personal experiences and lead others towards personal involvement with camping.
- Connection: Alumni wish to stay informed and updated about the institution and with each other.
- Engagement: Many alumni wish to play an active role in the ongoing activities of the camp.
- Support: Alumni want to contribute financially to assure that camp remains viable and accessible.
So, if you are hoping to reengage your camp’s former staff and campers, give them a voice, keep them connected, invite them back and encourage them to give.
And for those of you involved in churches, colleges, schools and other not-for-profit organizations, consider how reconnecting with your program alumni could be your ACE in the hole!