Volume 96, Issue 13
Thursday September 19, 2002

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Alumni love Western, Western loves money

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

Universities across the country have realized that if they do not maintain a good relationship with alumni, it can hurt their pocketbooks.

This year will mark Western's 73rd Homecoming and, according to Jim Etherington, president of Western's Alumni Association, it is one of the largest in Canada with 10,000 people expected to return this weekend.

Western has been successful over the years in its attempts to maintain a good relationship with alumni, Etherington said. The Alumni Association makes an extraordinary effort to keep in touch with everyone, he added.

There are 185,000 Western alumni around the world and the association keeps in regular contact with 135,000 of them, he said.

The Alumni Association maintains contact with such a large number of people through many different avenues, Etherington said. There is the quarterly newsletter, the Alumni Gazette, as well as the Purple Flash Web site, which provides information on alumni affairs, he added.

A major indicator that alumni are happy with their relationship is seen through donations to Western, Etherington explained.

The target for the university's current fundraising drive is to raise $270 million by April 2004, he said. Of that, $235 million has already been raised, thanks in large part to donations from alumni, Etherington noted.

Ann Vroom, the executive director of the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education, a professional organization that runs development conferences for universities across Canada, said a key factor in alumni fundraising is loyalty to an institution.

She said garnering loyalty to an institution from both the current student body and alumni is the key to any institution's fundraising initiatives.

The CCAE runs strategy sessions for non-academic staff who work to advance the cause of post-secondary institutions, she said, noting this is mainly done through fundraising.

Western is not alone in focusing on its alumni relationship.

According to Sandra Woloschuk, manager of alumni relations at the University of Manitoba, the school does a direct mail-out early in the year.

While Manitoba does not ask alumni for donations outright during Homecoming, there is a significant increase in donations during that period, she said.

The University of Victoria is trying to develop a healthy relationship with alumni, said Don Jones, director of alumni relations.

"Compared to other universities, we don't do as well," Jones said. "We're trying to build that, but we haven't had it yet."

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2002 THE GAZETTE