ALUMNI - Opportunity to make a difference (ploughing back)

We have all, in one way or another, undergone development since we have been born, and we continue to do so. This development is performed by public or private institutions like kindergarten, schools, colleges, academies, and universities. This suggests that behind our great names (as demonstrated in our curriculum vitae) and achievements there is the work of these institutions (and their teachers, facilitators, administrators, managers, leaders, and governing bodies). They continue with their work because this is their purpose. The question is: do we need to wait until there is dire need, disaster, outcry or we are invited, to go back to our former institutions to make a difference? The individuals, citizens and society that cares about its competitiveness and sustainability should be interested in doing so. In South Africa this should become every citizen’s desire and practice. We need every citizen’s participation in the rebuilding of our country. Education is the main foundation of our country’s future. Alumni organizations must be mushrooming at all levels of our education system, i.e. from Kindergarten to Postgraduate.

What is Alumni? Google defines Alumni as a former pupil or student, especially a male one, of a particular school, college or university, a former member of a group, company, or organization. 

“Alumni can be used to refer to men only, and in that case Alumnae is used to refer to women only, but more often Alumni is used to refer to either or both sexes where both attend the same school. The singular forms are Alumnus for a man, and Alumna for a woman”, Cambridge English Dictionary

The former graduates of a particular institution or organization can, in their own individual capacity (i.e. alumnus or alumna) have a desire and drive to contribute to the course of the institution. The reasons for doing that may vary. It is always assumed that such voluntary move will be welcome by the institution. It is encouraged that one reaches out to the institution and announce the intention to support its activities as a former graduate. However, if there is Alumni in a form of collective (i.e. a group of former graduates) already in existence, it is advisable for the individual to belong to the group. 

In many cases the objective of the Alumni is to advance the course of their former institutIon. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to study the governing documents of the Alumni first, if they exist. The fact that you are the graduate of the institution does not mean you must be forced to join. It is your choice and you must want to. 

Looking closely at some Alumni one comes across those that were established as a response to crisis or a dire need. Although that sounds reactive, Alumni formed in that manner can turn out to become a force to reckon with. I, personally, tend to favour Alumni that are proactively established. This is a good practice and must be encouraged. The objectives of such Alumni are forward looking and well formulated.

Irrespective of how the Alumni was established, the members are always emotionally connected with their former institutions. That is why the Alumni is the best group and structure to appeal to for resources, ideas, and support in times of need. They are proud to have graduated from the institution and remain its ambassadors to the outside world. 

However, it is advisable for the members of the Alumni to be rational in their engagement with their former institution. The times would have changed and we may not understand their new challenges since we graduated. We must not take over the running of their affairs. Ours is to be good and active listeners, provide honest advice, and support in whatever way we can.

The best practice is for the Alumni to exist independently from the institution, for its benefit, for its benefit though. It can also exist for the benefits of its members. Their support is not imposed on the institution. It is requested by and/or negotiated with the management and leadership of the institution.

The Alumni could be run as a formal or informal structure. The formal structure will require the choice of a legal form and governance structure. The implication of a formal structure is resources and costs. Members must be willing to contribute to the establishment funds, or volunteer their own resources. Running the Alumni informally at the beginning is advisable. As the commitment becomes evident, the members may consider formalizing it.

The Alumni must be creative in the mobilization of the funds and resources. There must be consideration of multiple sources of funds like membership fees, donations, sponsorships, fund-raising events, etc. This is the foundation of the Alumni and failure to raise funds will be the beginning of its failure.

I am interested in hearing your views on this topic. Leave your comment in this post or contact COMETSA office at callcentre@cometsa-goc.com ; cell. +27 72 376 7503; Check our site: www.cometsa-goc.com




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