The program at a glance
An alumni communications program enables the alumni of a fraternity or sorority chapter to keep in touch with each other and the undergraduate chapter through newsletters, other published mailing pieces, and if desired, online communication via e-mail. The program is designed to be completely supported by alumni contributions, raised in conjunction with two or three newsletters each year.
COMCOA’s Greek clients have alumni communications programs that are tailored to their particular needs, but all follow the same general format. After a Greek chapter establishes a client relationship with COMCOA, the following regularly occurs:
Key alumni and undergraduates write and submit copy and photographs for a newsletter. COMCOA then includes personal notes submitted by alumni and a list of those alumni who have contributed money to the newsletter program.
COMCOA’s professional editorial staff downloads or types, proofreads, and lays out all copy for the newsletter. The finalized layout then goes to COMCOA’s production department for printing, folding, and any other post-press or bindery requirements. Addressing and preparation for mailing follow. The finished newsletter packet includes the newsletter and a news note/contribution form. The form contains a request for funds which is written with tact, reminds alumni of their fraternal identity, and thanks them for their support. A postage-paid return envelope is also included for the alumni to use in sending contributions and news notes for the next issue of the newsletter.
Once alumni receive the newsletter and enjoy reading about their fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, many will send contributions to support the program, and perhaps send a news note, photos, or special story. Checks sent in support of the program are either forwarded to clients or deposited semimonthly in client accounts, and transmittal sheets are sent to key program persons.
Then the whole process is repeated‚ with the greatest success if a newsletter is published three times each calendar year.
Establishing or Improving a Program
If a complete alumni communications program is something that interests you, discuss the concept of such a program with your chapter leaders and your alumni board.
All those who would be involved should be a part of the decision to start a program or to enhance an existing program. Determine who will do the work (a joint undergraduate/alumni project is strongly recommended). Consider how you will maintain continuity in newsletter staff and how frequently you will publish your newsletter. Three newsletters annually will produce the best results.
After discussing the preceding points, contact COMCOA to indicate that you want to start a program or to request additional guidance. If you are ready for client status, we will need a current address list of all members of your chapter. We will enter the list on our computer while you compile copy and photos for your first newsletter.
Serving alumni and developing alumni interest should be your primary focus. If you accomplish this, your alumni definitely will be pleased with a program that keeps them in touch with their former classmates and with their undergraduate brothers or sisters. COMCOA’s experience shows that if the program focus is on the alumni, they will be happy to contribute the funds necessary to keep the program self-supporting, with excess dollars available to use as your corporation or chapter wishes.
Either at this point or after your program is underway, you may want to determine what other kinds of publications, functions, or programs, you would like to include. (Our clients have produced anniversary invitations and programs; alumni directories; rush booklets and pamphlets; birthday cards; Christmas cards; homecoming, Founders Day, golf tournament, invitation, and other cards and flyers; etc.) We suggest you don’t try to do too much in the first year‚ two or three well-prepared newsletters make a good beginning.
Developing the Newsletter
Your next step is to develop your newsletter staff. Who will do the work of gathering the articles? Usually, it is your alumni relations chairman, secretary, alumni editor, or chapter advisor.
Remember your audience! In order to keep the newsletter alumni-oriented, the news may include:
- Alumni news notes and obituaries
- Announcements of activities for alumni
- Names and addresses, etc., of the corporation and advisory personnel
- Historical news, quotes, or photos
- Other material, including spotlights on alumni, letters from advisors and corporation board members, excerpts of minutes or other written documents from yesteryear
- Chapter news and photos
- Campus Greek news not published in your university alumni publication
Your first issue will include an article written by COMCOA explaining the program and identifying your new Alumni Office. This will give the alumni an idea of what to expect from following issues.
A typical newsletter is four to six pages in length and consists of alumni news; initiate and pledge lists with hometowns; alumni-written “news notes”; announcements about Homecomings, Founders Days, and Parents Weekends; photos; and a list of those who contributed financially to the program during the particular program year.
Once written, your copy is presented to COMCOA for entry, layout, printing, and mailing.
Membership Lists and Mailings
COMCOA’s staff will do the primary computer entry of your membership list and will then maintain the list through the years, updating it daily. The list is intended to be a database of information on each member of your chapter and is used as a mailing list for your newsletter and any other pieces you wish to send to alumni.
To successfully enter and maintain a membership list, COMCOA will need from you a list of all initiated members of the chapter, including those who are lost, deceased, transferred, expelled, etc. Each alumnus or alumna is important! Sources for your list include your national office, the college or university alumni office, chapter records, and alumni association records.
Once your database has been established, it will be maintained and updated with information on all new initiates as they are initiated by your chapter. Your chapter should provide COMCOA with full names of initiates, their home addresses, roll numbers, and initiation dates. All returned mail is processed and the returned pieces resent if an address can be found, so alumni don’t miss any communication from you.
Client list maintenance is a continuous process. Because of our focused research, COMCOA’s information is often more accurate and complete than that from other sources! The goal is to establish and maintain contact with as many of your alumni as possible.
COMCOA periodically publishes lists of lost members in each client’s newsletter, knowing that other alumni can provide current address information.
The mailing list is available to key alumni and graduates working with the program. It may not be used for commercial purposes and is available in any combination of ZIP Code, Automated Area Distribution Center (AADC), state, alphabetical, roll number, or year order.
COMCOA prepares mailings and delivers them to the Post Office for each client. A chapter’s alumni might number between 500 and 2,000. Mailings of this size could become frustrating if one were not well-informed about US Postal Service procedures. After years of working with the Post Office, COMCOA knows postal rules and regulations, rates and permits, and types of permits best suited for each mailing.
Besides building stronger communities, alumni newsletters are also a fundraising vehicle. All of COMCOA’s clients suggest a $25 minimum contribution or more per alumnus annually. With three newsletters per year, organizations can easily generate a positive response and a solid source of alumni funding. For more information on how to garner the greatest benefit from a newsletter program, please contact us to talk.
Maintaining a Program – Consistency is Key
Centralizing a complete communications program at COMCOA is the best bet for stability, consistency, and success. Here are several reasons why:
COMCOA works as a liaison between the client’s entire alumni body and the key undergraduate chapter and alumni officers. Each published piece is monitored so it is consistent with the entire program of the client. In this regard, continuity is carefully maintained in the newsletters that are published. Each successive newsletter and fundraising piece is consistent so that there is no contradiction or confusion for alumni. One newsletter must follow another in content and intent.
With the alumni program centralized at COMCOA, stability and continuity are provided throughout the succession of undergraduate editors and occasional change of alumni newsletter editors.
COMCOA does the work of soliciting funds from the chapter’s alumni. All contributions are received and processed at COMCOA. Records are kept of all contributions, and the funds are either deposited in the client’s account or transmitted to a designated client recipient.
Accurate records are maintained from year to year, an obvious advantage in allowing COMCOA to manage the financial contributions. Giving trends are monitored, and undergraduates and alumni need not keep track of contribution records, checks, deposits, etc.
Some tips for a successful communications program:
- Develop a uniform publication format and schedule so alumni will know what to expect
- Publish all pertinent news received from alumni
- Always thank contributors
- Record address changes and corrections
- Always be honest with alumni
When COMCOA’s counsel is followed, it is certain that a client’s program will be successful over the years!