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Archive for Saturday, August 12, 2006

KU Alumni Association to set new membership goals

August 12, 2006

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After more than a decade of static membership numbers, the Kansas University Alumni Association wants to grow.

"We don't want to stand still when it comes to membership," said Jennifer Jackson Sanner, the Alumni Association's senior vice president for communications.

After years of hovering at the same level - roughly 40,000 to 41,000 paying members out of nearly 190,000 KU graduates - the Alumni Association is planning an upturn.

"We want to have as strong an alumni association as KU can possibly have," said Kevin Corbett, the Alumni Association's president.

It's too soon to say how high the goal will be, but the Alumni Association is expected to announce its goals in the fall, he said.

The Alumni Association is charged with strengthening KU student and graduate ties to the university, work insiders call "friendraising." It's a precursor to fundraising, which is handled by the KU Endowment Association.

Corbett took over the reins in 2004 after the firing of longtime president Fred Williams. Del Shankel, a former KU chancellor and professor emeritus of biology, served as interim president between Williams and Corbett.

Williams responded by suing the association for more than $2.2 million. The dispute went into arbitration, which was completed last month, Corbett said.

He also said the association had been able to move on from the issue.

The organization spent the last year primarily focusing on the state. It started seven organized alumni chapters in areas surrounding Wichita, Garden City, the southwest corner, the northwest corner and elsewhere.

In the past, alumni efforts in the state primarily were relegated to honors program events, in which KU recognizes the state's top graduating high school seniors. The Alumni Association wants its chapter liaisons to engage in more activities, recruit new members and stage events showcasing KU's academics and athletics.

It created or redefined 13 other chapters outside the state and redesigned its Web site with chapter-specific pages and a more casual tone.

"It's all about mobilizing human capital for the university," Corbett said.

The Alumni Association also wants to address recent graduates better. In the past, graduates received a free six-month membership following graduation. But it wasn't enough to capture graduates' interest.

Because many KU students use Facebook, an online directory that connects people through social networks, the Alumni Association plans to offer a similar program for graduates and is working on ways to help them with career networking.

But growing membership will be tough. The biggest challenge is competition from nonprofits and other organizations, Corbett said.

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