Advancement office focuses on alumni relationships

At the beginning of her freshman year at college, Kate Sacks ’07 was surprised when she received a care package.

“I was feeling pretty homesick during my first few months at school,” Sacks said. “But seeing the Harvard-Westlake things made me think of senior year and it put a smile on my face.”

For the first time Advancement Officer Eli Goldsmith sent out these packages to alumni in their first years of college. This effort was a result of the Office of Advancement’s overall change of focus to trying to build a more intimate relationship with its alumni.
“By paying more attention to these relationships, especially by spending time listening to them, we shifted to a more donor-centric point of view,” Senior Advancement Officer Jim Pattison said.

The office has nearly tripled in its number of employees in the past six years, which has helped make it possible to create more channels of communication with alumni, Pattison said.

The office has created a monthly electronic newsletter, a new website and several career connection networks. This increased communication, Pattison said, has directly contributed to more alumni participation.

Goldsmith hopes that communication will continue to improve next year as he and the rest of the Alumni Relations team move to the Upper School. The move will be effective for the team because they will be closer to the students immediately becoming alumni, he said.

As part of the Alumni Relations team, Goldsmith organized several alumni receptions at several colleges this year during spring break. The reception at Columbia University was the “highlight” of the college tour, Goldsmith said. Twenty-six alumni attended, the most to ever attend any college tour reception.

Overall alumni participation has also grown from the around 6 and 7 percent to now nearly 17 percent in the past six years. Also, in the past five years, the number of alumni donations has doubled.