Oxford Conclave 2018

New Directions in Development and Alumni Relations: Options for Presidential Leadership

At a time of heightened competition for a shrinking pool of prospective students, undergraduate-serving colleges and universities face greater pressure to control costs while finding new sources of revenue to fund student aid and invest in programs and infrastructure.  The partnership between presidents and development leaders has never been more important, as they must collaborate to encourage greater alumni participation, identify new sources of philanthropy, and introduce innovations to engage younger donors whose motivations and values differ from those of older generations.  At the same time, alumni and parents are increasingly valued not only for philanthropy but also for student referrals. The 2018 Oxford Conclave focused on leadership strategies and new approaches for addressing these issues, with delegates sharing institutional best practices and personal lessons learned.

Each president invited a senior executive with responsibility for development and alumni relations to participate in the program, which included breakouts for presidents, development leaders, and presidents’ spouses, as well as joint sessions involving all delegates.  Spouses of development leaders also participated in meals and Oxford excursions, including Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral, High Tea at the Randolph Hotel, and visits to museums and historic sites.

Discussion topics included:
  • Addressing the participation decline by “middle-of-the-pyramid” donors
  • Raising philanthropic support from undergraduates’ parents
  • Seeking new avenues for corporate and institutional support
  • Deploying micro-campaigns, crowdfunding, and other targeted strategies
  • Optimizing the president’s involvement in alumni events
  • Identifying and developing alumni leaders as potential trustees
  • Responding to changing attitudes and motivations of younger alumni
  • Connecting career services with the alumni office
  • Encouraging graduates to refer prospective students
  • Cultivating future loyalty with today’s students

The 14th Oxford Conclave was held September 23-26, 2018, at Balliol College, University of Oxford.