1 Session 021 Getting to Know Students Before They Become Alumni with Stephanie Fortunato Beth: Hello, this is Beth Brodovsky, and welcome to Driving Participation. This week, my guest is Stephanie Fortunato, who s the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations and Special Programs, Institutional Advancement and University Relations for Neumann University, which is here in Pennsylvania. Thank you so much for joining me today, Stephanie. Stephanie: Thank you very much for having me! Beth: So, Stephanie, I think we met at was it the CASE Conference where we met? Stephanie: It was at the CASE Conference, at the District 2 Conference. Beth: The District 2 Conference, which is just a terrific conference. I really enjoyed it, and I was lucky that I actually got to meet so many great people who re actually lined up to be guests on the podcast, which is phenomenal. We had a chance to talk, and I was telling you a little bit about what we re doing here. Stephanie is doing some really interesting things growing their program and their alumni relations. Now, Neumann University was actually Neumann College until not that long ago, so I m sure the growth and changes with that have given you some new opportunities. I want to start with talking a little bit about Stephanie, so tell me a little bit about how you ended up in alumni relations. Stephanie: It s really funny because I have what I call a very crazy past. My undergrad is actually a graphic design degree from Drexel University, and I started out doing my internships in my first job in marketing and sales. I decided when I was in the midst of my first professional career that I wanted to go back to school to get my Masters degree, and out of nowhere, I found Neumann. I found the program at Neumann that I really liked, and I never thought of Neumann before, but something was saying, Check this program out. I went to my orientation for my program, and part of my funny story is, I was sitting at my orientation
2 for my Masters program still at my first professional position, and one other lady sat down at the table with me. It s funny how fate happens I guess it was a year and a half later, a position opened, and she ended up being my boss. Beth: Oh, really? Stephanie: Yes. She was the director of the alumni program. We still work together to this day. We both graduated last May with our Masters in Strategic Leadership together, so that was kind of just a really cool little story there that we always like to tell. That s how I kind of ended up here at Neumann. Halfway through my degree, the position opened up. She wanted me to look into it, apply for it, thought I d be good for it. I went through the interview process and ended up here in a higher education, having never been anywhere near higher education in a working environment before. Beth: Which, in some ways, is sort of unusual, because higher education tends to like people that have been in the industry for a while. Stephanie: Yes, so I felt like it was a breakthrough. Beth: It also goes to show, and it s probably something that you tell your alumni, that networking and building connections with people happens everywhere, all day, anywhere, that the ability to build a relationship with somebody is such a valuable skill, because you never really know where that reconnection is going to pay off. Stephanie: Exactly. We actually tell that story to a lot of students, too, especially if they re at a workshop, and I ll talk a little bit later about some of the career things that we do, but you don t know who you re going to meet. I was just at my orientation. I could have been in sweatpants and the dirtiest shirt ever, and I was meeting my future boss at that table. Who d have known if I d put on a different persona that this may not have come to be. I tell the students that story a lot, and I do talk to our alumni a lot when we do have networking events.
3 Beth: That really makes sense. I use stories like that a lot when I talk about branding. That every ounce of how people connect with you, and if you show up to something not as your best self in any way whether it s from how you re dressed to your attitude to the materials that you re delivering or giving out in a communication setting if it s not really representative of the story that you want to be telling, every little thing can cause a disconnect and chip away at that image. It s interesting that even over in the department you weren t even in it yet that they noticed that. Stephanie: We called it being on the longest interview of my life, and it was, but it kind of takes that common sense. I m going to come to class, and I m going to be my best self, because there are other professional women here, and why wouldn t I present my best self? I try to talk to, like I said, our students and alumni, saying, Really presenting your best self is so key. That, like I said, plays into our career offerings a little bit, which I guess we ll talk about a little bit later. Beth: That really is really important, because I remember when I was an undergraduate student. I didn t even know that there was an alumni office. Who knows maybe there wasn t? It was a very long time ago. I wonder, in your school, while the students are still on campus, how aware are they of alumni relations, what the office does, what you can do for them, and connecting them with the idea of giving back once they become a graduate? Do you do anything in the school to help begin that process? I know someone, someone that we ve actually already interviewed Heather Durkin from Germantown Academy told me once that, from the day they walk onto campus, they begin to train them to be the kind of alumni that will support the school. Stephanie: Yes. We touch them in a few different ways. Just to preface, not all of the things have been my ideas. This is a collaborative effort with many great people in my department. I d be happy to elaborate on any of them with anybody else after the fact. One of the things that we do between myself and our annual giving department is, the freshman have to take what s called INT101, which is basically I guess a lot of colleges have different names for it it s basically an introductory leadership/personal management course/here s all the departments on campus and here s who works in them. It s sort that one-credit introductory
4 class. We ll have a lot of guest speakers come into this class from the counseling center, our administering office, the career office, and one of those guest speakers happens to be our department. From right off the bat in their INT class, myself and my colleagues from Annual Giving will go in, give a presentation on what the alumni office does, what fundraising is, and how we do it here on campus. We mix in alumni with fundraising. Beth: That was going to be one of the things that I would ask you. How s your department structured? Stephanie: Yes. We re very close-knit. All of us work together. I sit in the same office with our assistant director of Annual Giving. We share an office. Beth: How many people are in your department? Stephanie: We have let me count we work with PR and Marketing and Donor Relations and Grant Writing. I d say, all told, there s about fifteen or seventeen people. Beth: But it s your front-end marketing and your development and your alumni are all together. I think that s important for people to know, because that might seem like a lot of people, but it really does cover the range of all communications. Stephanie: Yes. Really, we re a very small shop. Like I said, that fifteen to seventeen people covers three entire departments. That s really not a lot, in the grand scheme of things. Beth: Except everybody that s a one-person shop right now is going to be listening and rolling their eyes. Stephanie: We really are. Each department is like a two and a half person shop. At any rate, we go into the freshman classes, and we talk about alumni, and we talk about alumni who come back, and we talk about our signature events that happen on campus, and then we also go over fundraising. We tell them how we do it. We tell them who gives back, and then we
5 quiz them at the end. They might not remember all of that information we re not expecting them to but we re starting to put faces to our office. We invite them to come up to us if they ever need anything. The alumni office also does and I think this is fantastic we will do business cards for the students, and that was the brainchild of my director, Judy. Most of these things are. Beth: That s a great idea! I never heard of anyone doing that. Stephanie: The student will come up, fill out a form with whatever information that they want to have on a business card, and we ll go over them and contact them if it s questionable. Do you really want your cell phone on here? Beth: Or if they re still using an address that s maybe not the most professional Stephanie: Exactly. Then, she ll design them, and we have certain templates, and we ll print them. I think it s about twenty to thirty; I can t remember which number. We print them, we put them together with a business card holder, and we ll let the student know that they re ready. They can use those business cards at networking events, if they go to an event for class, and that s kind of our way of saying thanks. Beth: That s such a great idea. Right off the bat, they see you as an office that s there to help them with what they need right now. Stephanie: We work together with career development so we re not stepping on their toes here. It s just an extra little add-on that we do in addition to encouraging them to go to the career office. They have to find our office and know we re up here. Beth: Right. They ve got to show up in person to order them, right? Stephanie: Right. They have to show up. We ll never bring the form for them to fill out if we go to speak to a class.
6 Beth: It s not an online thing. They can t just do an online request. Stephanie: Not even online, no. They have to come up to our office to see us, talk to us, fill out the form, and then come back and pick them up. Then, we get to know faces. One of our big things up here is, we want to get to know the students while they re here as well. We ve been very successful at getting students to come up here, and they come up and talk to us. We get involved in other things on campus. We volunteer to go to the soccer banquet dinner because we want to see the students and we want to get to know them so that, when they do leave, they remember our names, too, and that we were there for them as well. That s a couple things we do while they re here. Beth: I think that s great. Stephanie: We also do a class campaign for the seniors. Beth: How s yours structured? Stephanie: It s still very much developing and growing. It s still in some of its growing stages. Beth: How long have you had it? Stephanie: The campaign itself has been going on I think since the early 90s, but myself and my colleagues in Annual Giving took it over together. I think last year we both worked on it together. It s fundraising, but it s alumni and Annual Giving working on it together. It just kind of continues the cycle we start freshman year, and we actually do a philanthropy cord. The cord itself is a certain donation. Beth: Wait. Define what a philanthropy cord is. Stephanie: A philanthropy cord is just like an honors cord that you d get for being in the Academic Honor Society, but it s a blue and gold cord, which are our colors. We had to go
7 ahead and research to make sure we weren t doing the same colors as any other honor society in our school, and they wear it just the same as an honor cord at graduation. Beth: It s the cord that they wear at graduation, okay. I just like to make sure I m defining things, because not everybody s in higher ed that s listening. Stephanie: Sure, yes. It s just like an honors cord. They wear it at commencement, and the point of it is that they make a donation to the class gift, which is a donation that goes back to the school to represent their class. It s kind of building their idea of philanthropy, building the idea of what it is to be a philanthropist, and that they get to actually have something physical to show from their donation on commencement day. Beth: Got it. You invite them to join it from the time that they re freshman. They ll then have this cord, but the class gift itself, is yours structured that it goes to something on campus like a tree or plaque, or does it go into the annual fund, or something else? Stephanie: It does go into the annual fund, and then actually, at what would be their fiveyear reunion we re not a big reunion school yet; we don t have that kind of following, but we still track reunion years. At what would be their five-year reunion, a project is chosen on campus, and the money that they raised will go toward that project. You might see in a certain classroom, there might be a plaque outside that says, Class of 2007, or if a certain space needs something, there s a statue in one of our rooms in our ministry center that says, Donated by the Class of Something that s needed on campus that matches what they raised, they ll get a plaque and it ll be put on, and it ll be donated. Beth: From the time they graduate until five years after, until their reunion, whatever they can afford, whatever their class collected together, you identify. It starts out sort of unrestricted, but then it all gets funneled into something finite, so then, when they do come back to campus, they can look at that and say, Our class and my contribution allowed this to happen, but you re not locked into saying, We need to raise $X to do this in advance.
8 Stephanie: Right. We do have a goal for each year, and for them, it s fun to try to beat the class before them and be the #1 class in history to raise the most money, but it s not saying, We need to buy a clock, so we have to raise $40,000. It s chosen as needed. Beth: During the course of those five years, what things do you do to communicate with those recent graduates to draw them further in and to kind of connect them to this cause of, Hey, we re saving; we re putting money in to do something so that they continue to contribute and then show up at the reunion and just sort of connect them closely as an alumni group, as opposed to the way you re connected in person when you re on campus. Stephanie: We re still actually trying to create excitement around those types of groups. I kind of mentioned, we re not a big reunion school, so there are some affinities that are strong, but we still haven t been able to create that class affinity or that reunion affinity yet. We re the Class of Blah-Blah-Blah. They kind of peter out, and we think that s going to come with time. We re a young school. We re having our 50th anniversary this coming academic year, so in 1965, but we re an even younger resident school. People haven t been living on campus for very long. The commuter affinity is never a strong one. We re still working, and I think we re confident that, as time goes on, we ll be able to engage them more after they leave to come back for that reunion and maybe make an event out of it. We re going to donate something because of the money we raised five years ago. I could see that, in the future, having an event around that. I don t think we re ready for that just yet. Beth: That s smart, to not try and make it something it s not yet, and to take it in stages. Stephanie: Exactly. We ve been there we ve tried to fit square pegs into round holes. Really, it doesn t work. We think of where we re at, but that s not where they re at. That s the important part we have to meet them where they re at. Beth: I think that s so key. That s exactly right. Actually, recently, we did a previous call with the alumni team at Widener, another Pennsylvania school.
9 Stephanie: Oh, yes. I know them. Beth: Exactly, they re not too far from you! They were saying that they re a very old school, but they ve also had the same kind of transitions that you ve had over a very short amount of time. One of the things they were saying was that they ve really got to segment their communications. You have a smaller community of graduates at this point. Have you had to get into yet speaking differently to the commuter type graduates versus the graduates that are more recent and have had more of a residential campus-based experience? Stephanie: We haven t gotten so much into that, particularly, but we will be careful with some of our experienced graduates who were here when the college was called Our Lady of Angels College. That s an affinity in and of itself. They re very, very proud of that. We ll be sure to always mention, even in our communications with our freshman, we ll still explain that history. We were once called Our Lady of Angels, and people are very, very proud of that. With regards to talking to the commuters being different from the residential, not right now, at least in our communications. We treat them all the same, with the same communication. We haven t had to get into segmenting yet, and I think, as time goes on, we still won t need to do that, but I think we ll increase our residential population. We still have the commuters, but I know of the student activities, and they re really working hard to create more programs for the commuters. They re continually drawing them in as well. Beth: So, obviously, you want people to contribute to things like your classes and other things in the organization, and you re just now building up to having them come and show up at the reunion. What other types of participation is important to you as an organization? Stephanie: We really look at engagement, and we really want to engage our alumni in any way possible and in meaningful ways. We hold a homecoming every year, and again, the creative genius goes to my director, and everybody who helped out pulled this event off. Homecoming has grown so much in the past few years, even from when I first started here not that long ago. From then to now, it s even gotten bigger. It s so incredible that we ve extended it to families. We call it Homecoming and Family Weekend because we really value that entire family experience with Neumann. We really engage parents as well.
10 When we re looking at participation, when we send our direct mail piece out in the summer about our calendar of events, we definitely include our parents as part of that alumni base, so to speak. We look for that whole family participation. We want our family members to come out. We want them to bring their kids. We want the students to bring their parents to homecoming. That, to us, is very important, so homecoming is definitely a key event, and we re in the process of planning our fall homecoming now. We re very excited, but we do all different things that would appeal to anyone, from the students to the grandparents and the parents and the students friends. It s actually a very nice event, but that participation is very important to us. The whole participation of not just the alumni or not just the students; we want everybody. Beth: How do you utilize that? You obviously send out mail or different types of communications to get all of these different people to come to this event. What does that add up to for you? Do you do direct asks anywhere as part of that? Are you trying to build your list? What are you looking for, as far as making that event a successful thing in the future for alumni relations? Stephanie: We do have tables that explain the Neumann Fund and things like that, and we do encourage donations and things like that, but we haven t pushed that too much. We haven t felt that it s really at least at the event - Beth: Right, it may not be. Stephanie: We want it to be more of that fun, engaging event that everybody wants to come to, and nobody feels heckled to come to. After the fact, we will gauge if people s giving increased at all, but we don t particularly worry about it too much or place an extra amount of effort on that, just because we want that event to be the main thing no matter what. It s not going to go away. We measure our engagement and those sorts of things for our other signature events that are actually fundraisers. This is more just of that fun event. We kind of segment out our events, too, by what s family and fun, and then we also segment our fundraisers, and then we have career section that we focus on. We might look at the people who come to the career events and look at their giving more and use those metrics.
11 Beth: I think it s important that there are different goals, that you know that not every single thing that you do needs to have a heavy direct ask embedded into it. I think that there are some people who feel the pressure of doing that, or think that s the only way you can really be successful. If I m not asking them all the time at every single thing that I do The fact that you re building up an event that people really can come to and feel engaged with and not feel that, I don t know if I want to go because they re going to be asking me for money again. There s a lot of value in that. Stephanie: Those same people are invited to many different other events on campus, so they have a couple opportunities that, if they do come to one of our fundraisers, then that s giving back for their ticket to their fundraiser. Like I said, with the career events, that s a free service that we offer, and I ll get into that a little bit. With that, we re kind of looking at as more, This is a value for you. We re giving this to you. We kind of look at that a little more, but our career section I don t know if you want to dive into that yet. Beth: Sure, yeah, absolutely. Stephanie: Okay. We partner with career development in this, but when I came, we were doing just kind of some on-campus workshops. We ve grown what we call the Career Management Series to include workshops that happen on campus. Just to preface, these are open to alumni, these are open to parents, they re open to students, and they re open to our community members as well. Beth: Oh, really? So people that maybe have no direct connection with the school? And all mixed together, so it could be any combination of these people at these events. Stephanie: Right. At a workshop, we ll put press releases out. If you re part of the community, you can come to our workshops! You can come to our resume workshop. You can come to our networking workshop. We typically just have an hour and a half on a weeknight, and there s different speakers mostly alumni, but they re professionals in their field in whatever workshop is being presented and then, last year, we added a series of live
12 webinars to the mix. For our people who can t come on campus, who are non-local alumni our alumni who live in California or our alumni who live in Canada who could never make a workshop they can go to the webinar. This year, we re very excited we re adding another component to the Career Management Series, which is virtual networking. That s provided I don t know if, at the Case Conference, you remember Brazen Careerist was there. Beth: No. Stephanie: They were in a few of the modules where people were talking about alumni career services. We don t call ourselves alumni career services; the Career Development office sees alumni with their career services. We re not offering coaching or counseling or anything like that. We re not equipped professionally to do that. We looked into adding a career platform, and basically, it s what it sounds like it s kind of like speed networking over on your computer. Or, if you have to have your phone on you, it s like texting. It s text networking. Beth: Is it event-based? Do you have a networking event? Stephanie: Yes. Beth: Really? Stephanie: It is event-based. For instance, I say we re going to have a virtual networking event next Thursday at 12:00. You sign up on the website. I m going to say this networking event is for all of our alumni in the Philadelphia region. So, you sign up if you re an alumni in the Philadelphia region. You get invited. You basically log in the day of at the time. It s usually about an hour 12:00-1:00, during your lunch break and it can be divided into booths, or I could just have it open. It s kind of like going to a career fair, where employers are in different booths. It s kind of the same thing. I could divide my booths by let s say my main event is the Philly area alumni. I could have three booths that are Philly area marketing alumni, Philly area counseling alumni, Philly area physical therapy alumni. You could choose to enter one of those booths and network with anybody who s in that waiting room. This can be on your computer, it
13 could be on your phone, it could be on your ipad during your lunch break, you could do it on your phone. It s a really convenient way to network without having to go to a networking event. People will kind of argue, You know, you need to talk to people, but there s a great follow-up module with it, where you get a transcript of everyone you spoke with or chatted with virtually, and you can follow up with them. You get to kind of keep a transcript and keep an idea of a log of everyone you talked to. If you did plan on following up with somebody, you can remember that you said you were going to do that. It s kind of like the collecting business cards piece after a networking event, where you look at your business cards and say, I have no idea why I have this business card. That takes place of that, and you can then follow up from there. You can do everything from resume coaching, mentoring, career offices can do virtual career fairs, so I sound like an advertisement for the company! Beth: But it s a great resource. I mean, I ve never heard of them, so I ll put a link to them into the show notes page. Have you started using it yet? Stephanie: Yes. And they have a blog, too. Beth: Okay. I ll make sure there s a link to that as well. What s the response that you re getting from the alumni? Stephanie: We re just starting it, so we haven t opened it up yet. We re going to have our first event after August 1st. We re very, very excited that it s going to be successful. We think it s going to be successful. It s just another way, again, to reach out to a wider base of our alumni, alumni who don t live in our area, and it s just a more convenient way to network I think especially for our younger alumni, for our new alumni. I think, from what I ve heard, a lot of even more experienced alumni from different schools will really enjoy this and catch on. Beth: This program will just include the community. It s not for parents; it s just for your alumni? Stephanie: We re actually opening it to parents and alumni.
14 Beth: Parents and alumni? Okay. Stephanie: Yep. Our whole mix ends up being for everybody. The webinars are for everybody, and then this virtual networking is for alumni and parents. Beth: Okay. That s nice that there are plenty of things that are available to everybody in the area, but some things, you ve got to come to school here to get access to. Stephanie: Right. Braze is a little more sophisticated. We re very excited. Basically, we ve heard the research. Our alumni need jobs, and they re not getting one right off the bat when they leave here. We re trying to provide them, along with the career office, as many of these workshops as possible to get those jobs. That s why, for the workshops, we open them up to students, too, because we want them to think of us as well. That s another way we catch them. We want them to think of us as well. When they leave, they can still come back for these workshops, and they can still come back to network. It s planting that seed for them, and then, they say, Well, what else is available? I don t live in the area, but I can jump on a webinar. The alumni office offers these for free. I just graduated and I have a big student loan, but they re offering their services for free, so I can really get a value out of that. Beth: Exactly. I think that s really the key, the big picture value. It s something that Tina Phillips from Widener (Episode DP007) also said to me. Participation with the big capitol P to get people to not just show up at this event and that event, the regular participation, but to get them to connect their ongoing participation to the value of their education. Having these events and giving these opportunities for people to get jobs and to grow in their professional careers. The point of spending all that money on school is ultimately to be able to craft a career that s meaningful to you. A school staying involved and giving direct tactical things that can help a student do that has got to help them also continue to have positive feelings about that money that they spent, especially when the payback of that money is just starting to come in. I ve talked to a lot of students and people who ve graduated recently have said things like, Well, they ve gotten enough of my money. You ve got that sort of concept to I wouldn t say fight but fight, yeah. Now, I ve got to start paying these big bills, and they re asking me for donations, too? What am I getting out of it? Doing things like this has to be really giving them the answer to that question.
15 Stephanie: Right. I think that you re absolutely right. We do hear from a lot of our young alumni, especially our newer alumni. We can t afford it. And rightly so. How are we engaging them otherwise so that, down the road, they ll continue to think about us? When they do have that job, they will think of Neumann when they re ready to give back. We still do the ask. We still do campaigns around young alumni. I think I remember seeing one of our alums. She said, I d rather just come back and give my time to volunteer. Providing those opportunities, too, like around homecoming, Hey, you group of alums who just graduated last year who were really involved in homecoming last year, who really are missing it, do you want to come back and help us this year? We continue to recognize those things. Again, that s why it s so valuable to us to get to know the students. Sometimes, a lot of offices, even alumni, they re far off, away in a house somewhere in the corner of campus, and students don t see them. For us, it s kind of true. We re on a floor of a building, and students don t come up here. They have no reason to come up here, so we have to create reasons, and we do because we want to get to know them, and we want them to say, I remember Judy and Stephanie from the Alumni Office. I remember Bill from Annual Giving. I remember these guys. Let me ask them for help. That s what we try to create here so that, when we do have them as alumni, they know who to come to, and they remember us. They say, Oh, of course I ll come back and help you guys. It takes time, too. That s the other thing it takes time to cultivate. Beth: It does, and you have them for four years, so the more you can do to not be a stranger to them, to not have them think, Well, I graduated, and I really need help with this. I wonder what I should do. Or, if you do call them or contact them or reach out to them, that it s not that cold call feeling of this stranger, and it s, Oh, wow, I graduated, and they still care about me. It s a really great atmosphere to create. Stephanie: It is. And we do the little things, like we were talking about how we do a Polaroid at graduation. We catch them at graduation, too, and we wait, and this Polaroid idea that I ll explain, we actually stole it from a webinar that another school did, and I m completely remiss in that I cannot remember the university to give credit to that we took this idea from. Beth: If you re listening and you re the school you think thought up that idea, please let me
16 know and I ll put a credit to you in the show notes! Tell me about that. You were telling me about that before. Why don t you share this idea of what you do with this Polaroid? Stephanie: Sure. We actually used it other than graduation, so we got a big foam core, lifesize looking Polaroid frame. Really, it s huge. Beth: I guess, technically, it s bigger than life-size. Stephanie: It really does not fit in a minivan, so we have trouble transporting it. On the bottom is our school s logo, and then on the top, it says our alumni online community, which is alumni.neumann.edu, and we take it to events, and we have people get their picture in it. They hold it up, and we ll also make little props for it. For our graduation information fair, which is where they get their cap and gown and they can give to the class campaign and class gift, we made little signs that said little stupid things like, Woohoo, we did it! or Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Dad! or any other little sayings. We cut them out from paper and they could hold them up in the Polaroid. Then what we did was, we posted them on our alumni Facebook page. Go like our page and find your picture. But, we ll bring it to other events, too, and they absolutely love it. The students love it. They think it s the best thing that we ve ever done, and we love it, too. We get our pictures in it all the time just for fun. Beth: The question I always have to ask is, do twenty-year olds today know what a Polaroid is? Stephanie: That s the thing I don t think so. I don t know. Beth: It s funny, because they ve never seen a Polaroid camera, but yet, the concept of this Polaroid image, they still seem to understand what it means. I always have to ask people that. A lot of those of us that are creating these ideas, we remember these things, and it s interesting to see how that s resonating with kids. It s kind of like, I always think it s funny when I see a seventeen or eighteen year old with a ringtone on their phone that s an actual telephone ringing from back in the 70s or 80s, thinking they ve never heard a phone do that. But it is interesting to see that there s still cultural context for these things, obviously, because they re loving it.
17 Stephanie: Yes. It s sort of on of those timeless cultural things; you re right. It s a frame they take your photo in. Beth: Exactly. To them, that s all it is. Stephanie: Exactly. It s the best thing for them since sliced bread, because they go crazy over it. We bring our mascot in and he ll hold it, and we ll take pictures in it together. This will be the first graduation, actually, on Saturday, that we ll bring this Polaroid frame with us. We ve brought it to other events and it s been a success. We ll bring it on graduation day, and we re very excited for how successful it can possibly be. It s just a little thing, but they re going to remember their photo. They re going to see it on our Facebook page. Beth: I was going to say, is that the only place that you put it? They can t access it other places? Stephanie: That s the only place we put it, is on our Facebook page. Beth: I think that s great, because then, it s a positive sharing reason to get them to come over and see that you have a Facebook page and like it. Especially with the challenges of Facebook that are happening right now with the reduction of exposure and all that stuff, Facebook is now not wanting people to do things like actually tell people, Like us! Share this thing! What they want you to be doing is creating content that people want to engage with, as opposed to telling them, Take this action. That s a perfect way to do that kind of thing. Stephanie: Right, and then they can do what their photo what they d like to do with it from there on out. It s just a little thing, but they see alumni.neumann.edu, and the more times they can see that, too, that s our online community they can log onto that houses our events and things like that for alumni. The other thing we do, one of the little things we do at graduation is, we sponsor the water bottles that are placed under the seats for the graduates as they sit outside, and we make a little label. We design a little label every year for the water bottle, and it says, Complements of the Neumann University Alumni Association. It s very simple.
18 We try to design a new one every two years. We have fun with it. Again, it has alumni. Neumann.edu on it, and like I said, it s, Congratulations Class of Whatever, Complements of the Alumni Association. They re seeing it. The more times you can get them to see it, so it s just those little couple tiny things we do. Beth: I know, and they re not super crazy or super expensive, but what you re ultimately doing is, over the course of their time on campus while they re going to school there and in their early years after they graduate, what they re seeing is that you re giving first. You re continuing to give back and give back. Not that you re not asking them throughout that, but it sounds like you re not giving the impression that it s a one-sided, We gave you this education, now you need to give back to the school. You re creating an ongoing atmosphere of support and, We re going to give you little things, which creates a culture of gratitude. Stephanie: Right. That s really what we want to create, that culture of gratitude, that culture of philanthropy. That s why we try to educate them as much as possible from, again, that first touch as they re freshman, to explaining what the philanthropy cord is, to explaining what the word philanthropy means. They can t even say the word, philanthropy. Beth: I certainly had never heard of it when I was in school. Stephanie: Neither had I. This year, I think the Annual Giving office, I don t want to speak for them, but I think they re planning some really fun things on National Philanthropy Day. I don t know what they are, but I think they ve done things even in the past where they ve tagged things to say who donated them or how much it cost to donate. We ll also explain to the students what they would not have without donations. We really try to increase our exposure with the philanthropy and the concept of philanthropy every year. I think it help so much that we re such a tight-knit group up here in our office. Beth: Right. It really does. But, I do like the idea that you re saying explain to the students what they would not have, or what s actually being done with some of this money. One of the things I know I struggled with in school that I went to was, while I was in school, the
19 dorms were freezing. They wouldn t turn the heat on until a specific date no matter what the temperature was, while at the meantime, they re out building a beautiful brick walkway with big signs all over it saying, This is the alumni walkway. We re thinking, If the alumni would only pay for heat, that d be really great! Who cares about the stupid walkway? They didn t ever really connect it to things that we really valued and benefited from. Really helping them see, Here are some valuable things that you d appreciate. Here s a whole new chemistry lab with brand new, state-of-the-art equipment that you have because the alumni cared enough about you to provide that for you. It s sometimes hard. If they don t hear that and feel that while they re on campus, it s going to be even harder to make them feel that it s necessary once they re done. Stephanie: I think this coming generation, I can say, I might even still technically be part of this generation age-wise, but we re very result-oriented. We want to see where money is going and how it s being used, and we want to see for what. We want transparency. We re done with the whole secretive thing. Beth: Trust us we know what we re doing. Stephanie: Exactly. We don t trust you. Beth: Hey, good to know! Stephanie: Yeah. Unless you re being transparent with us, unless you re showing us, unless you re telling us where our money is going and what it s doing, we re not going to trust you. I think a big part of it, especially with the students is telling them, Here s where the money is going to do. Sometimes, we ll explain the program, and they ll perk up that something is going to be done on campus at your five-year reunion with the money. We re not just taking it. We re not just taking your money. Beth: Exactly. It s not just going into the big bank to pay for faculty housing or something like that. These generations coming up are, I think, especially suspicious of that. Again, with the
20 whole transparency thing, they want to know exactly what s going on with their money. We try to tap into that as well and be as open with them as possible. Beth: Well, this has been phenomenal. I think these are all great ideas. I think it s really great to see the perspective. I ve talked to some larger schools and all different size organizations, but I think sometimes, people don t realize that with colleges, not all of them are humongous. A fifty-year old school often has different challenges than a 150-year-old school when it comes to the size of your alumni base and the staff that you have to support them and all the different things you re doing. It sounds like you re doing some really great things that are just going to help you grow as you keep on going. Stephanie: Yeah. We re really happy with the progress we ve made, the progress we re making, and the things we re doing across the board. We couldn t say more, in that regard. We re always excited to try new things, and everything like that. It s really great for us. Beth: Thank you so much. If people have any questions, is there a way that would be helpful maybe for them to contact you? Stephanie: Sure. My is the best. It s probably the best way to get a hold of me. Do you want me to give that? Beth: Yep. Stephanie: It s and Neumann has two Ns at the end. Beth: I ll also put a link to it directly in the show notes so people can find you there and connect with you. Thank you so much. This was great. I think there are lots of great ideas that other people can learn from, and I can t wait to see what you guys do next. Stephanie: Great! Thank you, Beth, so much for having me.
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