Alumni association plans to reach out to current students

Drop in donations has created the need to expand pool of donors

Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor

Over the last five years, the Capilano University Alumni Association (CUAA) has seen a steady decrease in donations, which doesn’t only impact the financial aid in the form of awards, scholarships and bursaries given to students, but the University’s operations as well. Director of Alumni and Development, Scott Blythe, attributes this to the CUAA’s tactic of focusing on retaining its current donor base and not expending as much energy on attracting new donors, but as Capilano University approaches its 50-year anniversary, the CUAA is at the beginning of a new stage of reaching out to a new crop of graduates, as well as bringing current students in their circle.

The CUAA is a member-led organization that aims to advance the goals of the University and stay connected with alumni. The organization was created in 1971 with the expressed purpose of providing awards, scholarships and bursaries, but as time has gone by, they’ve moved towards a different funding model that incorporates capital projects, including the Student Success Centre, and expanding their influence to attract and retain CapU students. “The government covers a certain percentage of our budget but not all of it,” said Blythe, “So where are we making up those revenues and how are we best leveraging that public investment in Capilano University?”

CapU receives the lowest funding per full- time equivalent (FTE) of all the universities in BC and the third lowest funding per FTE of any post-secondary institution in the province, because government funding was never adjusted to reflect the reality that Capilano transitioned from a College into a University in 2008. At the start of the 2017-18 academic year, the University’s operating revenues were $98.5 million compared to UBC’s $1,894 million. Operating grants and tuition fees accounted for nearly 85 per cent of CapU’s funding this year, the rest came from other sources. $300,000 went towards providing scholarships and bursaries for students, and a further $250,000 towards supporting students’ financial needs that had gone unmet.

Blythe explained the Alumni Association has always had loyal donors, some of whom are alumni. Last year they retained 88 per cent of their original donors, which is significantly more than non-pro t organizations typically retain, often times they keep fewer than 50 per cent. However, CapU’s donor base has shrunk. “It’s not so much that our donors are ageing but we’re not going out and attracting new donors, and if you’re not building strategies to bring in new donors, then you’re going to see a shrinking pool,” he said. The CUAA simply hasn’t invested as much into attracting new donors as they have into maintaining symbiotic relationships with their current donors.

The CUAA aims to get alumni involved by incorporating them as key stakeholders in the decisions made by the University. Alumni have representatives on both the Senate and Board of Governors, which oversees policymaking and directs the school’s affairs. They let alumni know that after they graduate they still have access to CapU’s Career Services, and aim to include them by inviting them to Blues games, volunteering for on-campus events or alerting them about networking opportunities.

New for the CUAA is working with the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) and clubs to identify student needs and figure out where they can be valuable. “We’re coming in as a group that’s adding value rather than intruding into an existing relationship, it’s really for us about being invited, we want to be invited to the table,” said Blythe. Students forge long-lasting relationships with their instructors and that is where their connections to the University lie, so they want to take advantage of those close ties and form their own relationships with alumni before their instructors retire. They’re currently in the process of formulating strategies to begin connecting with current students.

As they aim to do with alumni, the CUAA hopes to see a continuation of the student experience by engaging students in their areas of interests, whether it is through sports, academia, clubs or extracurricular. Blythe added that alumni often hire graduates from their alma mater, so making those introductions is crucial. They want to connect with students and alumni alike, and believe that the school’s 50-year anniversary marks the perfect time to renew their efforts.

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