Tania Brandstrom, MA CFRE, Lead Associate Director, Advancement, SAIT
Astrid Gagnier, Associate Director, Alumni & Stakeholder Relations, SAIT
In fall of 2020 we welcomed our 250,000th graduate to the SAIT Alumni Family. Milestone celebrations had been planned for some time, but with the ongoing pressures of COVID these were at risk of being shelved and this moment passing by un-celebrated. It became imperative that we change our approach. Rather than simply paring down and flipping to digital communications, we looked at the key issues facing our community and our institution and considered how we could use our available resources to celebrate our alumni family in a deeply meaningful way. Guided by a new Alumni Engagement Strategy which was based on alumni survey data that exposed a significant desire by alumni for access to upskilling and reskilling, we made a decision to focus our resources on what alumni said would have the greatest value to them. Our alumni were facing huge challenges and feeling vulnerable in the face of COVID19 – and in Alberta, these struggles were against a backdrop of a deepening economic slump that saw unemployment rates exceeding 15%. That became our theme and our decision-making driver: How could we mark this important milestone in a way that demonstrated true value to our alumni and our community?
So what happened? In November of that year we launched a $500,000 alumni-only award program for Continuing Education courses. The first ever for SAIT, the Alumni for Alumni initiative was framed out and implemented in a matter of weeks with involvement from six departments.
The presentation will:
- share insights into the process we used to challenge ourselves to find opportunity in hardship, supporting one another within our department, our division, our organization and our community – and how this informs our work today;
- walk through the program elements, the new ground covered, and how the theme helped garner the buy-in needed tackle something this big, this quickly;
- provide outcomes and key learnings, including roadblock, setbacks, and how the program has evolved to support a minimum of 200 awards annually and is continuing to grow.