A Taste for Adventure

By Alicia Pettis

Integrating Young Alumni Needs

In collaborating with other offices, I was able to integrate Young Alumni needs across many areas to be able to meet the breadth of their needs. By doing so, any improvement in one area would positively impact another. The interconnectedness of each piece really spoke to the importance of taking an integrated approach and not isolating innovation.

If you have not done so already, I highly recommend reading through the development of the GOLD Network first, to be able to better understand the needs and drives of Young Alumni, which informed each of these innovative collaborations.



In collaborating across the different departments in my division, it was important to note how interdependent each offices’ work was in the larger goal of increasing Young Alumni donors. YA needs were not isolated, so meeting their needs required working in cross-functional teams.

Below you will see the projects associated with each area, the approach, and the results.

NEED: Creating more career & networking focused event opportunities.

Career & Networking opportunities were at the top needs identified in my research. I partnered with our Alumni Relations Office, which had just created a brand new position to address this need, to be able to create Career & Networking Month. To get funding for this initiative, please read about our pitch to the Madison Trust.

In the first year, we traveled across 4 cities with 200+ alumni in attendance at our events. In the second year, we hosted events across 7 cities and introduced webinars with over 1,200 individuals registering.

NEED: Increasing digital marketing in native spaces.

In a partnership with Communications and the Alumni Relations Offices, we started a monthly newsletter that informed alumni about what was happening on campus and in the Alumni community. This quick little read, with the ability to read more on the website.

Social media is not usually a driver of action, but is a great tool for building engagement and relevancy. We gamified posting JMU social media content, in order to spread the word about JMU Giving Day. We recruited ambassadors and allowed them to quanitfy their personal impact.

NEED: Creating intuitive and engaging digital fundraising campaigns focus on donor participation.

Giving Day is a 24-hour, online fundraising event that involves everyone in the JMU family – alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff and friends. It’s chance for everyone to show pride in the institution. Essentially, it is gamified giving which is participation driven (high-volume, low dollar). Similar to crowdfunding, the call to action is to get a certain amount of gifts within the 24-hours. The main goal of this type of event is acquisition of new fiscal year donors. But, ultimately the goal is to build a culture of philanthropy that transcends the day.

2016 results: In our 1st Giving Day, we raised $338,964 through 3,326 donors gave. Of the total donors, 25% were Young Alumni.

2017 results: In our 2nd Giving Day, we raised $614,443 (almost doubling what we raised previously) through 4,762 donors, including 1,286 first time donors. Of the gifts made, 3,013 were between a $5 – $50 range.

NEED: Improving the quality of user data in order to stay connected.

In looking closely at the contact information we had for our alumni, I realized that we still had JMU emails for many of our Young Alumni. Having talked with Young Alumni, I knew that many did not use their JMU email anymore, so our efforts to communicate, engage, or solicit were not reaching them. Furthermore, without their best email account info, we couldn’t contact them to either update their email or any other contact info. This was a big issue, so I brought this to our leadership with a plan to fund a campaign to solicit updated contact information.

Video created by JMU Marketing team.

In partnership with Alumni Relations, Data Quality, and Marketing, we were able to create a fun and engaging campaign to ask alumni to update their contact info. We used social media and email as the main communication platforms.

As a form of stewardship, we sent out magnets to those who updated their contact information. For some, it was even an incentive to update their info, to get a free JMU magnet.

In the end, we received over 1,000 contact updates from alumni!

Soliciting Graduating Seniors Non-JMU Emails. Using a captured audience, our seniors about to graduate, to update their contact info before leaving campus, was an extremely successful initiative. Alumni staff went to graduation conferences to be able to engage with students as they entered. They used iPads to quickly get contact info like: non-JMU emails and mobile numbers.

In total, over 70% of seniors info was updated through this initiative.


Comparing the before & after of the programs available to Students and Young Alumni, you will notice there is more congruence in their experiences.

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