The Challenge

Case Western Reserve University needed to revitalize a stalled strategic planning process to ensure the timely development of a roadmap for alumni engagement. Key objectives were to clarify the Case Alumni Association’s mission, goals, and strategies; to identify opportunities for optimizing staff structure and roles; and to expand campus partnerships. Another priority was creating a model for supporting alumni volunteers, enabling the staff to scale their alumni outreach more effectively.


Our Approach

The research phase of the project included four components. We began by reviewing client-supplied material that provided qualitative and quantitative information about the program’s history and resources. We then conducted 15 one-on-one interviews with staff members and volunteer leaders to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the pertinent issues. We benchmarked the College against a set of peer institutions to enable a comparison of alumni relations resources and investment. And we facilitated a half-day Alumni Board retreat to clarify the Alumni Association’s mission and identify the objectives that would best serve the College and its graduates.

After analyzing the information that this process generated, we produced a report detailing our findings and recommendations. In it, we:

  • Clarified the positioning of the School as a sub-brand of the University
  • Described additional research avenues for illuminating audience needs and expectations
  • Identified the Association’s highest strategic planning priorities
  • Demonstrated how to integrate all staff into the budget management process
  • Recommended beneficial new campus partnerships (for example, to provide more robust alumni career support)
  • Cited opportunities for increased partnership among alumni relations, the Dean’s office, and the Case Alumni Foundation
  • Helped prioritize changes to the Association’s web presence and online tools

The Results

The client jump-started its strategy planning process, with volunteer leaders helping to drive the project. Staff members and volunteers have been more effective at measuring their success by employing the approach we recommended for assessing alumni program outcomes. The Case Alumni Association has established effective partnerships with a diverse set of campus programs and offices, and focused more deliberately on volunteer recruitment, training, and support.