Roles of Alumni and Alumni Relations Officer in Tertiary Institution
According to American Heritage Dictionary, an alumnus is a male graduate and former student of a school.
Co-educational institutions usually use alumni for graduates of both sexes while those who object to the masculine form, often use the phrase “alumni and alumnae”.
In other words, alumni body is a group of graduates of an institution who are important stakeholders in advancing the reputation and development of their Alma matter.
Alumni are part of the Publics of Tertiary Institutions. Publics as given by Nolte, cited in Ajala (2001:75) define publics as “everyone interested in or affected by an organization, or whose opinions can affect the organization”.
In recent times, alumni have occupied important status in educational institutions occasioned by the ability of alumni bodies to support their Alma matter financially and otherwise.
Up till now, the Federal Government budgetary allocation according to Ibara (2006:3) revealed that; “between 1995 and 2006, the Nigerian Government has not been able to allocate up to 26 percent of her annual budget to education as recommended by the UNESCO.
As sources of funding are dwindling, one of the key mechanisms that could be helpful in solving financial dilemma facing tertiary institutions as given by Kaneko and Kitamura (1995) is developing the culture of Philanthropy. This financial challenge among others has made alumni relations a vital area which educational administrators cannot trivialize.
On the other hand, the willingness of alumni to form themselves into groups in order to plough back into their Alma matter has given alumni relations a well deserved attention. According to a submission by Ajala (2001:235), “alumni are ambassadors of educational institutions; their support should be sought through organized effort. Involving alumni in discussion sessions have advantage of giving students the chance to hear from those who have gone through the system before.”
Alumni over the years gathered themselves together under the aegis of alumni association as voluntary groups which were supported by individuals.
The importance of alumni to educational institutions cannot be under estimated this development have therefore paved way for the engagement of communication and public relations experts as alumni relations officers.
The establishment of alumni relations office in tertiary institutions has placed some set of responsibilities and functions on alumni relations officers and their offices. Alumni relations professionals performs increasingly strategic and complex roles serving their institutions and Alumni by championing the students missions, encouraging and fostering alumni involvement with their institutions, building long-term relationship with the advancement team to maximize efforts on behalf of institutions and its alumni towards raising funds.
The above submission was corroborated by Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE 2010) that “alumni is an important constituency that provides credible voice and contribute time, talent and treasure to the Alma matter”.
Apart from the above responsibilities, alumni relations efforts could be said to have promoted massive donations for the advancement of concerned institutions for execution of special project.
Other development and Alumni relations services as given by CASE 2010 include; engagement with alumni and friends, planning of assistance and co-ordination of alumni chapters, telephone campaigns and direct marketing, fund raising for priority projects, application to trustees and foundations, provide data on alumni and other stakeholders to benefit schools departments, prospect research, gift administration and stewardship.
Worthy of note is the alumni relations process which begins when students are offered admission into the institution. In essence, the starting point of alumni relations is focusing on prospective alumni through organized programmes that could help catch them young. Alumni relations is part of the engagement funnel, meaning the entry point of activities (beginning with students and ideally converting engagements to giving (NAPA 2010). In other words, it is a chain of activities, which involves providing services, organizing programme events and ensuring communication necessary for enriching affiliation with alumni.
Summarily, alumni relations like Public relations is the process of maintaining ties between graduates of educational institutions and the Alma matter. The alumni relations process diagram will help us to understand the task and cycle of alumni relations process.