Talk | Jody Kitts, Camosun College
Updated: Apr 25
Jody Kitts, Director of Advancement and Alumni Engagement at Camosun College hosts this informative LiveAlumni Talk where she describes her journey from paper to digital record-keeping and shares exceptional advice on team leadership and planning digital events. Other participants also enthusiastically share their own advice on getting the most out of LiveAlumni and present the creative ideas they used for pandemic event planning.
As with all our LiveAlumni Talks, this is a round table discussion intended to bring the LiveAlumni community together to share knowledge and build successful strategies together.
Camosun’s step-by-step transition from paper to digitalized records.
Social Media is a good way for lost alumni to self-report.
Stop going back to the same well of usual suspects for engagement.
Prevent “corporate memory” leaks when employees leave the department.
Digital alumni engagement during a pandemic.
No matter what size your department is, act like a big shop.
When stewardship planning, focus on thank you.
Getting your students to create a LinkedIn page before they graduate will be like gold for your researchers.
Cultivating new students to become your future donors.
Going Digital with Alumni Data
Jody begins by describing the monumental challenge of digitalizing 40,000 of her 65,000 alumni whose records are still on paper. Some of those records go back to the 1970s, so this project is being prioritized because those alumni are fast approaching a ripe age to become good prospects.
It’s a multi-step process because in those days Camosuon was using the individual's Social Insurance numbers which today is not legal, so the data must first be digitalized to go into their Colleague database to get a Constituent ID assigned. Only then is it ready for Raiser's Edge. LiveAlumni's role is to be the final key for tracking their employment.
The different features of several platforms gives Jodi a pretty complete prospect profile. LiveAlumni shows the person’s employment. The relationship mapping feature in Raiser's Edge displays what other alumni they are connected to. “Charity Cam'' offers another robust relationship mapping feature that offers information on giving history, charity, boards. And Blackbaud Merchant allows for real-time gift processing.
Jodi made a specific mention of the expertise and support provided by our incredible in-house experts when it comes to tailoring queries to their needs. She said it's one of LiveAlumni's greatest virtues and incredibly time-saving. We'd like to say, thanks for shoutout, Jody. We're happy we were able to help!
Jody's Pro Tip: The pre-generated reports are exceptional and the C-suite report, in particular, is great to find people for the prospectors.
Using LiveAlumni across different departments
The RE NXT API component of LiveAlumni is as useful for researchers as much as for development officers. Being able to search for alumni by industry in which a person works makes campaign planning so much easier and interesting.
You can pull that segment - be it military, engineers, architects, teachers, etc. They don't have to have that degree from your institution, they could just be in that industry today. It’s a great way to create a guest list for a specialized event.
Jody's Pro Tip: Share LiveAlumni access with different departments to get the most value out of your subscription.
LiveAlumni and Career Services
As an applied learning college with CoOp placements and a lot of internships, CoOp and Career Services were included in the LiveAlumni onboarding process as well. This way they can see where alumni are working which companies can be candidates for contact training.
Organizing Advancement and Alumni Relations roles
In some ways, Jody takes a small shop attitude towards advancement, so the alumni engagement and advancement officers work closely together and share roles. Advancement officers work on from the 1,000 to the $1,000,000 gifts and the alumni portfolio is divided up among the officers who use LiveAlumni for the engagement component which is very “needs” driven. So a helpful list of alumni can be quickly created based on industry for every event. It's a great gateway to open doors.
But in other ways, it's best to act like a big shop, no matter your size. Everything goes into the database. If a department downsizes or loses key team members, everything is already there and the transition into, say, managing those relationships with donors, especially our major donors is much easier. Don’t let your core relationships sit with one person. Always have two team members meet with an influencer or a major donor so the relationship is not lost when a key team member leaves.
Jody's Pro Tip: Using your database and keeping it up-to-date helps you avoid people falling through the cracks when new team members join you or existing ones take on different responsibilities.
One of the participants mentioned how useful it is to have all of the alumni data stored in Raiser's Edge and LiveAlumni in case of sudden turnover or in the case of contract workers, the data is always there for the next person to pick up where things were left off. It helps to prevent the accumulated “corporate memory” from leaking out every time somebody leaves the job.
Discovering new sets of alumni
Schools often rely heavily on only a small group of alumni over the years for fundraising, so there are still many alumni to engage with that have not been reached out to.
LiveAlumni broadens the pool of prospects drastically and keeps fundraisers from going back to the same well and usual suspects for engagement.
Jody's Pro Tip: Use LiveAlumni to find new prospects and make sure you're not over-prospecting the same small group over and over again.
Engaging Alumni During a Pandemic - Camosun's 50th Anniversary
Several participants commented on the effect of feeling Zoomed Out at this point! Jody has principally focused her engagement on newsletter communications for this reason, though they are now planning a 50th-anniversary event.
Obviously, planning is difficult without knowing in advance what the public health orders will be, but in honor of their culinary arts and hospitality management program, they are planning a digital event at 50 restaurants across the region.
They used LiveAlumni to build a report of people who are in the Hospitality and Culinary industry that revealed many new alumni for them to contact. For example, an engineering graduate of the school with a passion for food is now actually working in the food industry. Before Livealumni, the person would never have been on their radar.
Interest is gaining momentum and clusters of alumni and other stakeholders like department heads and sports enthusiasts are organizing to meet at different locations. Each restaurant event will be posted on social media to encourage others to join the group/restaurant of their interest. Being on Social media will also help them identify those alumni who comment but who have not yet been digitalized and put into the database. It’s a very innovative approach to an event, a good way to help support alumni in the restaurant business, bring the community together and engage alumni
Digital Awards Ceremony
Another successful Covid Era idea that was shared in this Talk was a digital award ceremony. Traditionally, donors meet with students to deliver awards and certificates. This year a Zoom event was set up for one particular donor, a financial institution, where the bank executives across Canada called in along with the student award recipients.
Advisors prepped the shy, indigenous students for the call, and were able to share their powerful stories with the executives from all across the country. The students had the 50th-anniversary shirt on during the call so the Zoom event photos were circulated around the financial institution to showcase the impact their gift is having on Camosun.
It was a very successful event and not only a different way to engage donors who normally can’t go across the country to attend a stewardship event, but also a great confidence-building opportunity for the young students.
Youtube Live / Zoom
Another digital occasion was a Youtube Live / Zoom event with Michaela Pereira, a well-known alumnus, who spoke to current students about their hopes and dreams and then to a panel of alumni about their career trajectories. It is normally a +1000 in-person event, but The Zoom / YouTube setting, Jody thinks, actually feels more intimate. There was none of the usual event fatigue after this event, as a matter of fact, they wanted it to go on.
Recorded Interviews with Students
Another great initiative that was mentioned was to record interviews with student recipients of relief awards where they tell the great stories that fundraisers hear all the time but not donors. It's a great opportunity for the donor to hear what a difference their contribution has made. A sort of digital thank you card that is also shared on social media.
Jody's Pro Tip: In the end, Jody suggests that the biggest thing to focus on during stewardship planning is the Thank You. For Camosun’s 50th anniversary, Jody and her team have been mailing and hand-delivering unique gifts like blankets and cutting boards to the donors which they have loved.
Requiring Students to Create LinkedIn Profiles Before Graduation
For one researcher in the group, getting a student to create a LinkedIn page before they leave campus will mean that the person can be tracked through their career.
For him LiveAlumni data is like gold, it is like having a big open door to reach through and find those star alumni to hand over to fundraisers. He commented that he does not have the research as hard as he used to because LiveAlumni is his first stop.
Cultivating new students to become your future donors
Jody's Pro Tip: Begin at the beginning. The first day that students step foot on your campus is the beginning of your alumni relationship. Connecting with them from day 1 and ensuring they have a good experience will make it more likely they will one day become a donor.
The Benefit of “Transfer" or Community Colleges
Jody's Pro Tip: Focus on your strengths. Whilst it's often thought that big schools can engage alums more easily, Jody shared that colleges like Camosun actually have a unique advantage. They keep their classes really small and very personal, so students and alumni are fiercely engaged. Engaging them is easy because in general they highly regard the school. The challenge is simply finding them - and that's where LiveAlumni is incredible.
Want to watch more LiveAlumni Talks?
Jodi is just one of many inspiring members of the LiveAlumni community who have been sharing their strategies, tips and success stories. If you’d like to learn more you can (1) register to attend one of our future Talks or (2) watch recordings of past Talks.