How (not) to relate

I’m an alumnus of Guilford College, a pretty-good little college in Greensboro, North Carolina. I went there from 1965-1969 and enjoyed it thoroughly. I also learned a lot, made lifelong friends, and started a family there. I still have a few old family ties, but nothing much more than that. I enjoy getting alumni literature that helps keep me up to date with who’s doing what, who has died, who has had kids and grandkids, and stuff like that.

I wouldn’t mind going a little deeper. I’ve given money before. Not much, but some. But if I go deeper with Guilford I don’t want it to just be about money, even though I understand that money will be involved: that I will be “giving”.
I do wonder from time to time about what Guilford is doing, especially since I now have working relationships with two other schools. Having these relationships makes me wonder if it would make sense to pursue one with my alma mater as well.

So I just got a call from a North Carolina number, my cell told me. The caller represented herself as being from Guilford College, and said she was calling to “update your information and talk about our giving program”.

I’ve been through this before, though I had forgotten about it until now. I knew the call is hardly about updating information, but rather about the “giving program”.

Also — and I am willing to bet this — the person calling was not at the college but at some outsourced outfit that specializes in this kind of telemarketing pitchwork.*

All I remember about the last call like this is that it wasn’t pleasant, and that I felt baited and switched in the course of it. So I blew the caller off this time. Now I wish I had kept the caller on the line so I could find out more about how the system works.

What would I like instead?

Simple: a call from somebody who works at the college, who takes an interest in who I’ve become as a graduate, in what I’m doing now, and in how I might contribute in more than just monetary ways. Sure, pitch for money, but go deeper than that.

But that’s not how the system works, is it?

It’s also why we need a new system — one based on the alumnus and not only on a program that pitches for money and offers little else.

[By the way, I’ve gone back and edited this several times, each time by hitting the “Edit” link to start the process; and have lost my links nearly every time. I suppose this is a WordPress, um, “feature”. Drives me nuts. Anybody know a way around that? Thanks.]

* She called back, and actually was at the college (so I would have lost that bet). And she was very nice. Still, the points above are the same.


  1. Hanan Cohen


    All the time I thought of your VRM thing as related to commercial organizations.

    This post made me realize that it also relate to non-profits, which is my area.

    Have to give it more thoughts.


  2. Doc Searls

    The V is a departure point. But the part that matters is the RM.

    Come visit and contribute to the ProjectVRM wiki.


  3. Kathleen

    You are 100% correct. How sad that sucessful graduates are asked for money instead of ideas. They enabled you to succeed, they should be taking advantage of your talents. Meanwhile, in another office, a professor is racking his brain trying to think of ways to make his lessons come alive and inspire the next generation of students.

  4. Sean Bohan

    logging in for the comments sention

  5. Greg

    When I was a student at Clark U years back, I was one of many making those calls. I spent a lot of time chatting with alums, telling them about the new buildings, which professors were still around, etc. Those conversations almost always ended with a “gift.” Glad to hear on a recent call to me that they still do it that way. But I agree with Kathleen that schools should be more open to ideas and opportunities that can flow from alums, not just cash.

  6. Mary Lu


    Here’s my Alumni Giving Experiences over the years…

    The Ex went to Dartmouth– Most of D’s giving is directly related to your graduating class. A majority of the calls for giving were made by his classmates who volunteered to call on one another. I remember the Ex calling his classmates, making notes on all the standard milestones of the classmate and asking for a donation and checking on matching funds from their employer. The notes on the classmate were then sent on to the Class Secretary and corraled in some fashion into the Alumni Magazine.

    Same thing happened in some fashion for me my other Ivy League schools and even Iowa.

    When I was working at Wayne State, we had students and faculty– and occasionally volunteer alumni call for pledges. Dr. Doug gets that as well from UCLA and USC…

    So I’d be less likely to believe your school is outsourcing. The news and info an Alumni can give to the caller is as valuable as the donation. If they’re out sourcing, they are missing the boat.

    Nice to see you back on your feet– Grandpa.

    Mary Lu

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