Guest post written by Seth James Ellis, Summer Search’s National Director of Alumni Relations and Development.
The quintessential role of alumni networks — from those at colleges and universities, to large corporations or small nonprofits — is to create lifelong and mutually beneficial relationships between the organization and its alumni.
Here at Summer Search, we launched our own National Alumni Network in 2012 with the same purpose in mind, but with an added focus on professional development, service and philanthropy.
We believe every element of Summer Search’s work is enhanced by the engagement and leadership of our 2,300 alumni, who have long expressed gratitude for their own Summer Search experiences.
In a recent speech celebrating Summer Search’s 25th Anniversary, alumna Ana Baires reflected:
“There is no amount of words to express how grateful I am to Summer Search… I didn’t do this on my own, so you should know that my triumph is our triumph together!“
That gratitude is turning into action. In just over two years since the launch of our alumni network, something remarkable has happened: alumni philanthropy has skyrocketed more than 75%, and for the first time ever nearly 200 alumni have collectively contributed more than $115,000 to Summer Search across seven program sites and our national office.
Our alumni are also giving back in other ways, sharing their experiences and taking on leadership roles as Summer Search board members, now with seven alumni serving on local and national boards, with more leaders like them waiting in the wings.
And we’re not finished yet. Alumni from all seven of our program sites will get together this fall in celebration of our 25th Anniversary in New York City at our 2015 National Alumni Summit & Leadership Conference. On the agenda is identifying new opportunities for our alumni to do even more in service to each other, to Summer Search, and most importantly, to the next generation of students.
From volunteering at local sites, to attending networking events, to advocating and inspiring philanthropy to Summer Search, our alumni are more engaged than ever. By having these clear and meaningful opportunities to engage with current students and each other, our alumni have taken on a new role at Summer Search as significant investors in the futures of our students and in the future of the entire organization.
We think alumna KishaLynn Elliott said it best (from her keynote speech at Summer Search Philadelphia’s 2014 Gala):
“This organization is a part of everything I’ve become… it is impossible for me to be around Summer Search, or anyone involved with the organization, and not feel inspired to view the world and myself through the lens of potential transformation… Yet I’m one person out of thousands that can and will demonstrate what Summer Search helps its students become. Every single thing I do has Summer Search’s fingerprints on it.”