A Membership Success Story: Washington State University Alumni Association

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Read on for the conclusion of a self-described aggressive membership marketing plan that defied the odds and brought tremendous value to Washington State University and the Washington State University Alumni Association.

At the CAAE Winter Institute in February 2020, Tim Pavish (Washington State) provided a micro-lecture on the topic, “Why a Membership Drive Now?,” where he explained the rationale for launching an aggressive membership campaign in spite of trends pointing to a decline in membership programs at other alumni associations. 

Citing alumni desire to belong, the correlation between alumni membership and development goals, and the $1M in revenue generated annually by members, the WSUAA expanded its membership options with the goal of attaining 40,000 memberships in 2020.

Mission accomplished!

“Back in 2003, the WSUAA had 13,000 members,” said Tim. “WSU needed more alumni to be engaged with the university, so we set our sights on doubling the number of WSUAA members. Some people thought we were crazy. In fact, one former staff member went as far as to say it was ‘the talk of a crazy person.’ Call me crazy, but I knew my fellow Cougs would respond. And, they did.”

Tim said that as the WSU system grew, so did its need for alumni support. “We thought if we were able to double membership since 2013, why not try to triple it,” he said. “In 2018, we launched our “40 by ‘20” membership drive.”

WSU alumni came through by reaching a membership of 40,000 members six months ahead of schedule. As at July 2020, the WSUAA membership stands at 41,862.

“In addition to benefiting from alumni becoming members for the first time, we also witnessed a large number of current Annual Members upgrading to Life Membership, and existing Life Members stepping up to become Platinum Life Members,” said Tim. “The conclusion of the “40 by ‘20” membership drive was timed to precede the launch of WSU’s next comprehensive campaign. WSU has learned that members of the WSUAA are more likely to become involved, attend events, and donate.”

By Tim Pavish, with contributions by Gabrielle Korn (McGill)

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