College Ministers Should be Fired if They Don’t Work with Alumni

One of, if not my most, outrageous statements is, “College Ministers should be fired, if they don’t work with alumni.”.  This is mostly directed toward those who do on campus ministry and particularly those who inhabit my world of Baptist Collegiate Ministers.  Here is my reasoning as well as some suggestions for what and how to do it.

Most college ministry budgets I am familiar with are sorely lacking. Some College Ministers are now being asked to raise a portion of their salary that previously was provided.  They are getting by on a shoestring.  So, where can additional funding come from?  I think the most obvious answer to that is from those who believe in what you are doing because they have experienced it personally.  That would be your alums.  HOWEVER, I believe your interest in and investment in alumni should not be just for fund raising.  You can continue to be a spiritual encouragement in their lives and serve as a resource as many of them begin to serve in lay and ministerial leadership roles.  Plus, the more advocates we have for college ministry out there, the better!

So, here is a random list of my thoughts, ideas, and practices on Alumni newsletters, etc.

1.  Every campus-based college ministry should have an alumni list which they mail to at least twice a year.
2.  It is necessary to mail regularly in some way or other to maintain address forwards which expire after a certain amount of time.
3. I believe one of the mailings should go near the end of the year because some professionals receive year-end bonuses, profit sharing, etc and they then many make significant tax-deductible donations.  Do they even think about or consider your ministry?
4.  Older alums are more likely to make larger gifts because of their season of life and established success.  Many of these folks do not read or like email newsletters.  They want to hold it in their hands.
5.  Always, always enclose an addressed return envelope for their convenience.  We would receive these throughout the year.  What I realized is that many people would stick these back somewhere as a reminder to give at some point.
6.  Send a NEWSletter with NEWS about alums in it….not just telling what you are doing and how desperately you need money.
7.  How do you GET news?  In our end of the year mailing, we would ask them to send us a copy of their Christmas Newsletter, if they did one.  When I saw or heard something, I would jot it on a piece of paper and drop it in a file folder that I kept.
8.  Many people do not give because they cannot afford to make “a significant gift”.  After hearing many alums say to me, “I would send you some money, but I can’t give you enough to help you.”, I realized we need to make it ok and not embarrassing to give a small amount.
9.  We started what we call IPTAY.  It was I Pay Twentyfive A Year.  The first year we began, one alum sent a check for $50.  He said, “I knew my roommate would not send his $25.”
10.  At that time we had 1200 names on our Alumni list.  We said, “$25 times 1200 would make a huge difference.”  If your math is poor, that is $30,000 and that would help!  It did not start out huge, but it continued to grow over the years.  This cannot be a one-time thing.
11.  In our newsletter, we would list everyone who gave to the IPTAY fund.  It was an alphabetical list.  There was no difference in all those who gave $25 and the one who gave $5,000 or those that gave $500, etc.
12.  Many College Ministers have told me that there is no alumni list where they serve.  So, start one!  Somebody has to start it.  Even if you do not reap the benefit of it, your successors will.
13.  How do you start one?  Contact alums you know and ask them to give you addresses of two or three with whom they keep contact. some do an “Alumni and Friends” list.  A friend of mine adds all his freshmen to his alumni list.  That way no one is ever lost to the list because they disappeared before graduation.  By the way, he receives HUGE alumni gifts.
14.  If the newsletter is mailed Bulk, make a notation on the outside “Address Correction Requested”.  It will cost you to get it back, HOWEVER, it will help keep the list up to date.
Check with your Post Office; these rules and details often change.
15.  Sue and I would have a cookout at our house for graduating seniors.  It was for fun and to express appreciation to them.  The only program was a two-minute speech by me.  “Be active in your church when you leave here.  Thanks for what you did here.  Some of the things you enjoyed like Back-2-School Retreat were made possible by alums who give $25 a year.  I hope you will consider it.  Let’s pray and eat.”
16.  One friend who raises his own salary asks alums to consider giving 1% of their annual income.  Darrell Cook at Virginia Tech is a master at working with alums and they have an Alumni Work and Reunion Weekend each summer.  His engineer alums work on their Center.

I know some Baptist Campus Ministers are not allowed by policy to ask alums for money.  I still would do at least one alumni newsletter mailing of some sort.   The more advocates we have, who know what is going in college ministry and particularly the one that impacted them, the more likely they will be to speak up when budget decisions are made in their churches.

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