RELATIONSHIP BUILDING IN ALUMNI ASSOCIATION: KEY TO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT BY PROF BEB NWOKE

Prof B.E.B Nwoke

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING IN ALUMNI ASSOCIATION: KEY TO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

BY

Prof. B. E. B. Nwoke, FAS
B.Sc. (Hons); MSc; PhD (Jos); OND (IMT); FRSTMH (UK); FPPSN (Nig); fseh (Nig)
Professor of Public Health Parasitology & Entomology
DEPUTY VICE CHANCELLOR (ADMINISTRATION)
IMO STATE UNIVERSITY OWERRI
NIGERIA.


PROTOCOL

1.0 ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
Business Dictionary defines Alumni as a group of people who have graduated from a school, college, or university. Alumni are usually used to refer to a group of graduate of either one or both gender, while Alumnus traditionally referred to a single male graduate with the feminine term being 'Alumna. An alumni association is an association of graduates or, more broadly, of former students. This platform provides a variety of benefits and services that help members maintain connections to their educational institution and fellow graduates as well as provide a forum to form new friendships and business relationships with people of similar background.

Alumni associations are mainly organized around universities or departments of universities, but may also be organized among students that studied in a certain country. Alumni associations are often organized into chapters by city, region, or country. Unlike sororities, fraternities, and other student organizations, alumni associations are open to all graduates and offer a broader networking scope.

The purpose of an association is to foster a spirit of loyalty and to promote the general welfare of your organization. Alumni associations exist to support the parent organization's goals, and to strengthen the ties between alumni, the community, and the parent organization.

There are four major reasons to get involved with alumni association:
Networking opportunities: One of the main purposes of alumni associations is to support a network of former graduates who will, in turn, help to raise the profile of the university. Just like most other university student organizations, alumni associations aim to bring together like-minded individuals.

Career building tools: One of the things to remember about alumni associations is that they want you to succeed; and most alumni associations offer a variety of career services. These can be anything from organization of job fairs to things like resume workshops, job postings, and online resources for job-seekers. One interesting thing here is that most of these services are offered free of charge to alumni members.

Benefits: University alumni associations understand that even after graduation, many students continue to feel connected to their university, or associate a part of their identity with the institution. That's why many alumni associations continue to offer former students ways to keep their connection with the university.

Give back It is important to remember that our universities provided us with numerous educational opportunities and that our alumni association isn't just about support and job offers to members. Universities hope that their students' successes post-graduation will promote the school's reputation and encourage others to consider matriculation, one of the main purposes of alumni associations is to recruit new students. Again, alumni associations are great resources for incoming students  many award scholarships (funded by donations from alumni) and the strength of a school's alumni association can be a deciding factor for incoming students.

2.0 RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
The term relationship is rooted from the word relation and is defined as a mutual affiliation or connection between individuals or groups of people or entities.

Relationship building is the process of developing social connections. This is a fundamental skill that is the basis for reputation, influencing, closing deals and sustaining commercial relationships.

In ever aspect of life we are in, whether getting involved in the social activities, building our career path, or socializing with family and friends, we interact with various type of individuals.   Such interaction may occur with familiar people with whom we are in close contact like our family and friends or with new acquaintances.   We may also build a connection over a period of time with our work colleagues or members in a club. The fact that we interact with people everyday means that we are building a relationship with these individuals as we associate ourselves with them in one or the other way.

There are various kinds of relationships that we all engage in and are rooted from a particular need of the person. For personal and emotional needs, we have family relationships, romantic relationships, and friendships. To meet our professional needs and demands, we form business relationships with our colleagues and customers.

Most relationships, if not all, are not always positive. There are times when the mutual bond of the individuals is tested by adversities and challenges. Taking care of a relationship is no different than nurturing a plant. Failed relationships are brought about by a weak foundation. Successful relationships are strengthened and hardened by the test of time.

For a relationship to be born, it must be between and among individuals and entities. No relationship exists for a single person only. Shared interests between people form a relationship. Any common interests lead the way for building relationships.

Usually, we create a connection with someone who can offer something that we can relate to. With our family members and friends, we bond with them reciprocally because of love and care.  In the workplace, you maintain a relationship with the organization by making a contribution and in return, you get rewarded or compensated for it. Employees form a relationship because of shared ideas and work interests.

Communication is another factor that plays an important role in forming relationship. A relationship does not exist where there is no constant interaction with another person. Trust and respect are also very important aspects in a relationship.

A well-built relationship can create an impact in our lives. Socialization skills are enhanced as we connect to people around us positively. With good relationships, we are able to easily attain personal and career goals because we are surrounded with individuals who support us in many aspects. An organization successfully achieves its mission-vision when employees or the team members are in a harmonious relationship with each other. With good mutual associations, an individual personally finds contentment and satisfaction in many things. For a relationship to grow and become unrelenting, it has to be nourished and maintained. A good relationship can make wonders in the life of each one of us.

3.0 RELATIONSHIP BUILDING IN ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
The under listed are some of ways of relationship building in Alumni Association can be effected
Utilize Social Media: WhatsApp, Twitter Periscope, Facebook and Instagram allow you to connect in a more personal way. Being active and real on these platforms helps to build out relationships. It is a two-way channel where you have the opportunity to build and enrich relationships with your customers and prospects. Messages can be based on affinities, age and lifestyle habits.  Content created for print and other direct communication can be repurposed with the intent of fostering engagement, networking and two-way communication with your alums.

Coordinate with Student Affairs: It is important to note that our current students are alumni in training. So be sure to share strategies, programming and resources with your Student Affairs department. Student Affairs can provide opportunities for student orientations, career mentoring, senior class events, booster and spirit activities and other networking events.  When students become lifetime members of the alumni association before they graduate, they learn first-hand the benefits of supporting their university.

Move alumni through an engagement funnel  this allows strong relationship building at every point of the interaction. Alumni should have multiple opportunities to connect with the university and not all of those interactions should be requesting donations.  As Alumni Associations build stronger relationships with their alums, they will learn more about their interests, which guides future interactions and allows stronger engagement.

Provide opportunities for advocacy  alumni and foundation boards in both private and public colleges are a great source of informed advocacy when armed with information about dwindling legislative budgets for higher education. The more advocates who are visibly successful in their professional and personal lives, the greater the perceived value of the colleges degree. Alumni can be central to your strategy for increasing revenue sources and partnerships.

Measure Effectiveness: The core elements of sustainable alumni relations are technology and analytics. Data-driven, measurable outcomes need to track impact and determine the best use of future resources.  Knowing how to use data to segment and target key audiences, manage relationships that bring value to both alumni and the institution will drive the best outcomes.

Focus on programs with the highest return: The alumni relation offices need to use data and analytics to determine their most and least connected alumni.  Strategically invest in growth programs and make tough decisions to eliminate annual reunions or meaningless events that have low return on investment.  No alum will be left behind using this strategy either.  Be sure to use special incentives or different messaging for alumni that are identified as least engaged.

The need to implement these strategic approaches to alumni and advancement relationship-building is vital to ensuring loyalty in this quickly changing, digitally connected world. 
4.0 RELATIONSHIP BUILDING BY ALUMNI ASSOCIATION IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
(a) National Development and Tertiary Education 
The  framework  of  National  Development  is  to  conceptualize  the  goal,  actors  and activities  needed  to  build  and  expand  social  and  human  progression  within  the  available resources and potentials of the nation-state. National development in summary is the embodiment of  different stages  of  planned coordinated and calculated advancement and expansion of the organized human society with the aim to attain progression of an independent sovereign state.

Tertiary educational institutions are created to satisfy specific or general educational needs of a nation through teaching of students, conduct of research and dissemination of knowledge together with other community activities. They are sources of intellectual power that can be mobilized to achieve the socioeconomic, political, cultural and technological priorities of a nation. These institutions are also centers for serious inoculation of knowledge and skills that will be directly profitable, to both the students and the society. This emphasizes the contribution of education to national development.

The underlying rationale for public funding of education is to equip people with the requite knowledge, skills and capacity to enhance the quality of life, argument productivity and capacity to gain knowledge of new techniques for production, so as to be able to participate evocatively in the development process. Public sector funding of education in Nigeria is anchored on this notion.

Education trains an individual to be useful in the society and to meet up the need of the society for national development. It is a statement of fact that education has a critical function in national development. But in the Nigerian context, education has not fully played its roles in this regard. This is as a result of certain inherent problems in the Nigerian education system.

First among these problems is inadequate funding. The funding of higher education has been regressive over the years. Currently, tertiary education in Nigeria is under funded, and inadequate funding puts these institutions management under stress and strains, hence they are incapacitated in providing essential services. This has led to rampant crises in the system resulting in strikes by academic and non-teaching staff as well as dearth of equipment and facilities. As the sector is not properly funded, it cannot efficiently contribute to national development.

In the quest for development, UNESCO (2002) noted that developing countries have acknowledged that investment in (and) adequate funding of higher education are viable conditions that facilitate change since the value of education hinges on teaching, learning, research and the production of qualified personnel which are needed for national development.

Nigeria, as a developing nation, is currently witnessing increased enrolment of tertiary education students. Udoh (2008) reported that this increase in enrolment demands corresponding increase in funding which is not the case in Nigeria. Fund allocation does not increase to meet the demand of funds occasioned by the enrolment increase.

Under limited funding, capital projects to meet the expanding programmes could not take off, in case where they took off, they had to be abandoned due to lack of funds. Sometimes it lead to downward pressure on staff salaries together with deteriorating working conditions. Others include:
Curtailment of laboratory/practical classes  Limited number of field trips
Curtailment in the attendance of academic conferences,
Curtailment of the purchase of library books, chemicals and basic laboratory equipment
Freezing of new appointments
Virtual embargo on study fellowships,
Reduction in research grants, among other
All these will have tremendous effects in the quality of higher education and national development in Nigeria

Financing higher education in Nigeria today is a crucial national problem. The political, social and economic factors, which are currently having significant impact on the world economy, have necessitated the need to diversify the sources of education funding, mainly because reliance on only one source of revenue can inhibit educational growth (Akinsanya, 2007) and national development. He however highlighted these as some possible options of financing higher education;
Fund from owner government
Tuition and fees
Alumni Association 
Gifts, Grants and Endowments
Investment income
Consultancies and Research activities, etc
Educational outcomes are products of the complex interactions of the different stakeholders who participate directly in the schooling process (parents, teachers, students, administrators, ministries etc) and other agents not directly connected to the educational system. The financing of education should be the function of all the major stakeholders. This is because government alone cannot fund higher education.

Currently, one of the major sure stakeholders in assisting and financing education in Nigeria to meet up with purpose as a core institution for national development is Alumni Association. A nation can't be built without committed citizens and citizens can't function and deliver their potential in building robust nation without a conducive educational environment. Nation building through Alumni associations or their role in educational development of a nation can't be negated, primarily because most times, it's a healthy, professional platform where intellectuals meet to exchange ideas, network, mentor, lobby/pressure members of the ruling class, and encourage members to participate actively to give back to their Alma Mater institutions.

Relationship building in Alumni Association and National Development
Creating an engaged, supportive alumni relationship building is crucial to an institution's success. If communication stops once graduates leave an institution, their understanding of the institution will become stale. Good alumni relationship brings many benefits to both the institution and the alumni. Here we present the benefits of engaged alumni network or how relationship building in Alumni Association has enhance National Development through their support to their Alma Mater.

Supporters: As graduates of the institution, alumni have a special connection with the institution and as a result are likely to be some of its more loyal supporters. An engaged alumni network allows the institution to benefit from the skills and experience of their graduates, by offering their support to the students, to the institution and to each other. If we keep them properly informed and engaged, alumni are the most loyal supporters and institutions best ambassadors, offering invaluable marketing and promotion across their personal and professional networks.

Expertise: Talented alumni will likely have a wealth of experience and skills to share with current students via talks and newsletters. In certain cases, this could go even further with alumni offering to practically support students in work placements and help them launch their careers.  Peter Lock, the Alumni Relation Officer at Bournemouth University  once said Creating an engaged alumni network is beneficial for us because engaged graduates are much more likely to want to give back to the University; that could be, for example, by coming back and sharing their experiences with prospective and current students  there are no better ambassadors for your university than your alumni!

Employability: Alumni network has a real life benefit for current students: Alumni also donate their valuable time to offer careers support to current students through innovative schemes such as Professional Mentoring Programme, work shadowing and professional networking opportunities. These enhance the students experience and give them that competitive edge in todays tough jobs market.

Global: Alumni Association are the best ambassador of your institution to the outside world. Their success and achievements represent concrete outcomes of your efforts. Consistent and deep engagement with Alumni will ensure that the institutions image they project is both positive and current.

Financial: Because of the dedication and gratitude, many Alumni are often generous with fundraising efforts. These invaluable philanthropic supports can be on form of financial donations enable the institution to offer life-changing scholarships and bursaries to talented students who may otherwise have to give up their studies. They also enable the institution to provide students with advanced facilities and equipment for teaching and pioneering research.

Personal development: Whilst having an engaged alumni network is beneficial to the institution, the benefit to the alumni themselves should not be overlooked. My [professional] mentoring journey has been very rewarding. I have learnt a lot about myself and my own career trajectory.

Support current students: Alumni could provide placements, internships, mentoring and career advice to the current students. You could also get sponsorship for student projects, research or courses.

Partnerships: Alumni are in excellent position to broker partnerships (as consultants/ researchers/advisors) between the institution and their employees/affiliated organizations.

Enhance quality of teaching: Alumni could help to bring overall improvement in quality of teaching by sharing their real life feedbacks with the institutional leadership. Additionally, they could provide case study materials and give guest lectures to bring real life experiences into the classrooms.

Education is no doubt, directly linked with the processes of nation building and development. Again, no nation grows beyond the quality of their educational system and any stakeholder to supports the educational system impacts on the national development.

The outlined benefits above are clear testimonies that engaged alumni network or relationship building in Alumni Association has continued to enhance National Development through their support to their Alma Mater. In the face the numerous challenges currently starring at our tertiary educational institutions in the country, Alumni Associations are the sure and major stakeholders that will help drive these institutions to achieve the purpose of their establishment.

Contemporary “world attention has focused on education as an instrument of launching nations into the world of science and technology and with consequential hope of human advancement in terms of living conditions and development of the environment. This is because, education, in the life of a nation, is the live wire of its industries and also the foundation of moral regeneration and revival of its people. It is also the force and bulwark of any nations defence and it has been observed that no nation rises above the level of its education. One of the worlds greatest philosophers, Aristotle once said education is the creation of a sound mind in sound body. This means that any stakeholder that impacts positively on educational development of a nation consequently impact of national development. No wonder then maintaining affinity with alumni after graduation will provide invaluable, lifelong support to their Alma Mater and consequently national development. This confirms that relationship building by alumni association and support of their Alma Mater is a key to national development.

Thanks for inviting to serve and contribute

Professor B. E. B. Nwoke, FAS

Comments