When a student graduates from a college or university, they are referred to as an alumnus or alumna. An alumni association generally represents alumni. These associations often organize social events, publish newsletters or magazines, and raise funds for the organization. Many provide a variety of benefits and services that help alumni maintain connections to their educational institution and fellow graduates. Additionally, such groups often support new alumni, and provide a forum to form new friendships and business relationships with people of similar background.
Class reunions and other events
One of the big functions of an alumni association is to organize class reunions. These are generally held on milestone anniversaries of the graduation date, such as a 10-year, 25-year, or 50-year reunion. Usually, participants reminisce about their old school days and bring each other up to date on what has happened to each of them since they went their separate ways. A big part of class reunions is the opportunity for fund raising: requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies, all of which can be represented by the various participants at a class reunion.
Other events put on by alumni associations include dinners with special or famous alumni (for fund raising purposes), alumni weekends (miniature class reunions), and speaker series. Alumni will also recruit new students to that school through information sessions at high schools or “taster” days at a university.
Benefits and services
Most schools partner-up with various corporations and commercial entities in order to offer special products and rates to their alumni. This can include discounts on home, dental, and auto insurance, special credit cards and rates, discounts on car rentals, and discounts on merchandise at the schools’ bookstore.
Another tangible benefit for alumni includes an automatic subscription to that schools’ alumni magazine or newsletter. This is usually the official communication between the school and its former members, and contains information on upcoming events the alumni may be interested in, stories on what various alumni are up to, profiles of now-famous alumni, class reunion updates, and invitations to update your personal profile in the on-line alumni database.
Donations and sponsorships
Alumni associations often solicit donations and sponsorships from private alumni, and also from corporations headed by former students. This money is used for a variety of purposes (sometimes dictated by the donor) and can range from annual scholarships in the student’s former field of study, to money used to build new buildings to house laboratories or classrooms. Sometimes the money is endowed, which means it is invested to give an annual return, and is worth more than the initial investment. Some schools have a matching gift policy, which means eligible corporations can match private donations, in order to double the donation’s value.
In return for financial donations, donors get recognition from the school (perhaps the naming of a new wing of a building with the donor’s name), press releases, valuable tax receipts, and recognition gifts. They can also build relationships with potential new clients, employees, and customers, all derived from the student body. Given that many of the larger universities have influential connections with local, regional, and national politics, many corporations generally consider alumni donations “good business”.