Alumni Association considers restructuring dues in hope of raising larger donations
After years of having fundraising lag behind the alumni networks of peer institutions, the University of Massachusetts Alumni Association is now considering different ways to attract members to the Alumni Association. One of the plans currently being discussed is lowering the annual dues required for membership to the association.
“The Alumni Association has been evaluating membership for some time now and are considering a restructure that would not eliminate dues but would restructure how they’re paid,” said Anna Symington, executive director of the UMass Alumni Association.
“What is currently being considered is eliminating annual dues, embracing all alumni as part of the association, maintaining current life membership dues and implementing a dues structure that would provide greater opportunity for all members to attain Life membership,” continued Symington.
According to a Boston Globe report released earlier this month, only 3 percent of UMass alumni are members of the school’s alumni association. Of the 215,000 UMass alumni worldwide, only 6,000 are active members of the alumni association.
Symington elaborated on the possible reasons for the low membership, including UMass’ geographic location and campus culture, the current weak economy, the relative weakness of the University’s athletics program and confusion regarding dues-based membership verses donations.
“We have found that many alumni have an affinity for their respective department or area of study, rather than directly to the University,” said Symington. “Confusion exists in that alumni who have made contributions to UMass, either directly or through the Annual Fund, often consider that as dues or contributions paid toward the Alumni Association, which they are not,” said Symington.
If the annual dues are eliminated, the way members pay dues will be restructured. Although the annual dues will be a thing of the past, members will still need to give money to the Alumni Association in one form or another.
According to the Boston Globe report, some schools that have eliminated annual dues find their alumni more generous with their donations.
“The Alumni Association is a non-profit organization that relies on membership dues paid directly to the association to provide programs and services to alumni and students,” said Symington.
The money from the dues are used for programs and events including career resource and networking workshops and webinars, Bateman Scholar lectures, Distinguished Alumni Awards, Homecoming, Class Reunions, alumni club social and networking events (currently 35 clubs nationwide), student scholarships and awards, student social functions (ex: Pancake Breakfast, Commencement Ball) and alumni communications, which are meant to keep alumni connected and engaged.
According to Symington, any restructure will happen mid-to-late next year accompanied with a transition period. However, she noted that the Alumni Association will continue to try to gain more members through the programs and benefits that the organization offers.
According to Symington, the Alumni Association has already taken steps to get alumni more involved by providing involvement in volunteer service programs, implementing social media sites, launching alumni travel programs, working on faculty lecture series and partnering with departments and colleges on campus to provide more career service resources to students.
“We are responding to what we are hearing from both our alumni and students as to their needs and what they consider of value to them in their continuing connection with their alma mater,” said Symington. “More importantly, we will strive to do a better job of educating alumni as to the services and programs we provide and how their dues make this possible.”
Rutgers University and Cornell University’s Engineering program have already eliminated their annual dues, with the goal of both institutions being to create an association inclusive of all alumni. According to Cornell Engineering Alumni Association’s website, the postage, material, and staff time spent to manage paid membership amounted to over 40 percent of the revenue from dues.
Bobby Hitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.