CAA 2023 Strategic Plan

A Five-Year Strategic Plan

Invitation to the Reader

Our Strategic Plan reflects an ambitious effort to map out concrete steps toward better serving and engaging all alumni of Columbia University over the next five years (Fiscal Years 2019-2023). It takes into careful account the University’s structure and the maturation of the CAA over the life of the first five-year plan: The Big Tent. During the implementation of that Plan, the CAA established itself as a mature start-up, the University’s repository of best practices for alumni relations and engagement, volunteer management, events and programs, and digital communication and outreach. There had also been a sustained effort to articulate the defined relationship between the emerging CAA and the array of existing School-based alumni relations programs. Now, more than a decade since the founding of the CAA, it represents the best elements of a mature start-up while remaining committed to the need for relevance and excited by the innovation and nimbleness required to forge new partnerships and adapt to the changing landscape of engagement.

The work of the CAA 2023 Task Force (Appendix 1) and the CAA Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) represent a clear recognition that the CAA has made significant strides in establishing a solid value proposition for its collaboration with Schools, alumni and student groups, and administrative units across the University. It also signals a need to define how the CAA works with Schools, as well as to empower and encourage other partners to determine how they—as groups and individuals—find value in the CAA and its engagement efforts. This Plan is part of a larger mosaic and the driver for reaching the campaign goal of 150,000 engaged alumni. Executing this Plan will also assist in achieving the campaign goal of $5 billion and 173,000 donors. Existing data suggests alumni who attend programming and who volunteer are likely to donate at a significantly higher rate than those who do not. Further, by engaging students within the alumni community in meaningful ways, we are creating a valuable exchange between alumni and students. We believe this will lead to more engaged new alumni. With more engagement, the Columbia University community will become stronger and have greater impact on members of the Columbia community as well as on the overall global population.

There was consensus that both the mission and vision should be less institutional than in the CAA 2017 Plan. The SPC believes there is a greater understanding of the CAA within today’s Columbia community and is therefore placing less emphasis on explanation and preamble.

The new vision for the CAA is Build. Belong. Bond. We are Columbia. We are the CAA.

The SPC affirmed that the mission statement describes how our efforts on behalf of the CAA can best embody the values of a vision statement.

The new mission for the CAA is: To cultivate a uniquely Columbia environment in which diverse, impactful opportunities inspire students and alumni to engage, exchange, and experience the lifelong benefits of our University community.

We were guided by lessons learned in the first strategic planning process. The most important guidepost was the inclusion of as many stakeholders as possible in the early stages. To this end, workshops at the midpoint of both the deliberations of the Task Force and the work of the SPC (Appendix 2) were conducted. Inviting insights, questions and suggestions during the process created greater transparency of the CAA’s work. This participation by interested individuals and Schools heightened awareness, increased engagement in the planning process and created a sense of ownership of the final plan.

Lastly, but most importantly, the Committee’s collective vision is to provide the framework and direction necessary to create traditions, pride and unity among alumni and students, to build pathways to allow this to happen, and to celebrate the individuality of every member of the Columbia community. United, we are creating meaningful change for our University and around the world. The CAA 2023 Strategic Plan represents a clear and transparent roadmap to deepening engagement by alumni and students. To succeed and achieve the highest impact possible, this Plan must belong to all of us: alumni, students and the University community.


Following the work of the CAA 2023 Task Force, the SPC began its work on this five-year Plan based upon the recommendations of the completed report. In a similar fashion to the last strategic planning cycle (in 2013), the co-chairs of the Task Force (A’Lelia Bundles and Keith Goggin) continued in this capacity for the strategic planning process. Additionally, in order to facilitate a smooth transition between the two phases of planning, eight additional members of the SPC served on the Task Force.

The SPC’s work commenced in December with a briefing on the Task Force report and recommendations to move forward with the proposed vision, mission, and overarching goals. At the first meeting, the SPC split into five working groups supported by administrators who work in the area(s) most germane to the particular overarching goal. Working groups met in February and March and identified key collaborators, metrics and the target year for each goal.

As was the case with the Task Force phase, the SPC incorporated stakeholder input from two workshops for all interested stakeholders. In late January, the group reviewed the five overarching goals that will guide the new five-year Plan. The early April workshop focused on the SPC’s action items and strategies identified to achieve the goals.

In June, the five-year strategic Plan that reflects the views of stakeholders and the CAA Board will be shared with the Trustee Committee on Alumni Relations and Development. Once approved by the CAA Board, the SPC will shift its role to that of oversight. During the first five-year plan, this proved invaluable and allowed for adjustments and enhancements as needed. This oversight will commence with the implementation of the Plan and will continue through its conclusion in June 2023.

Five Areas of Focus   

The Plan is structured around five overarching goals with action items and strategies to achieve each of the specific goals and metrics to assess success annually and by 2023. Additionally, the SPC identified key collaborators—both internal and external—who will be pivotal in achieving the success of the Plan and its goals.

I. Partnerships

Goal: Identify, cultivate and build upon internal and external partnerships to further the growth and impact of the CAA across the entire Columbia community

Starting with closely aligned partnerships in four areas: (1) Schools; (2) CAA groups (e.g. regional clubs, shared interest groups); (3) groups external to the CAA (e.g. Athletics, Community Impact); and (4) student groups, significantly expand and encourage partnerships of all kinds which enhance the alumni experience and build traditions and bonds within the Columbia community at large.

  1. Create a CAA Partnership Initiative featuring collaboration plans (Creating Ideas Together) constructed with each partner and with several partners together. Components will include networking opportunities, recognition, and both on and off-campus community building.


    • Compile a comprehensive list of the population of partners with detailed data on target audience and potential impact (FY19)
    • Create a template for a continuous outreach plan to potential partners to educate them on benefits of this initiative (FY19)
    • Annually prioritize partners and determine implementation timeline and stakeholders with each partner (FY20)
    • Develop multi-year plans with partners that includes mutual expectations from CAA and its partners, program goals, and metrics to measure success (FY20)

Considerations: It is important to think beyond Schools (e.g. Global Centers and institutes) as well as to consider other areas within Schools but outside Alumni Relations and Development that could be interacting with alumni and students.

  1. Build stronger partnerships between alumni groups, student organizations and the CAA while facilitating stronger connections between the CAA, Alumni Directors and Student Affairs colleagues.


    • Develop a more formalized infrastructure including a communication process between CAA, Alumni Directors and Student Affairs colleagues (FY19)
    • Initiate a process to gain a comprehensive list of student groups across the University, especially those which could be feeders to alumni groups (FY19)
    • Create two toolkits, one specifically for student and alumni leaders and a second for staff, to educate those working with and leading groups (FY20)
    • Determine a role for CAA representation, either a board or staff member, with student groups that are or have the potential to be aligned with alumni groups (FY20)

Considerations: Take others’ perspectives and priorities into account when developing partnerships. Determine the value for each partner. Establish a formal process to create rosters of graduating students to seed SIGs’ future leadership. Any infrastructure and processes created should account for and leverage the CAA student leadership council recommended in the action item “Create a CAA student leadership council.”

  1. Create a CAA student leadership council with School-based representation charged with building awareness of the alumni community and its value, tradition, nostalgia and Columbia pride.


    • Determine the purpose and mission for this leadership group and define specific undergraduate and graduate/professional Schools’ students’ roles and responsibilities (FY19)
    • Establish guidelines that include membership and representation of Schools (e.g. how many individuals and application process) and measures for success (FY19)
    • Create and implement an outreach and awareness plan (FY19)
    • Roll out the plan and build the council (FY20)
    • Annually monitor achievements of the council and satisfaction of its members (FY21)

Considerations: Look at student leadership/councils, especially the Student Affairs Committee of the University Senate, to ensure no overlap and redundancies. Consider advertising through student channels like activity fairs and University Life and its Events Council.

  1. Develop a comprehensive plan of engaging alumni association presidents to build cohesion, interaction, and camaraderie as a group, between AA presidents and CAA leaders, and between the CAA and School-based associations, and provide an avenue to strengthen the CAA's representation in School-based associations.


    • Reinstate the annual “listening tour” with each of the Schools or groups of Schools and their volunteer leadership (FY19)
    • Develop a formal annual CAA presentation on “What do we do?” and a quarterly presentation on “What’s coming up?” (FY19)
    • Invite School presentations of their alumni engagement efforts in CAA board meetings (FY20)
    • Increase and enhance interactions with AA presidents: Add a business meeting prior to the AA presidents Trustee dinner, a formal gathering of this group at CALW, and a rotating off/rotating on meeting prior to Alumni Leaders/Trustee Reception in June (FY20)
    • Formalize the communications to and within this group providing best practices sharing (FY20)

Considerations: As part of each strategy, include succession planning and volunteer development to ensure smooth transition and increased volunteerism across the University.

  1. Establish a “signature program series” around topic/content (e.g. She Opened the Door partnership with SEAS) with ownership within Schools.


    • Create an implementation template on how to achieve highest engagement and penetration of target segment(s) from a programmatic engagement effort (FY19)
    • Annually, create collaboration plans and determine “owners” of CAA signature programs (FY20)
    • Develop a task force of planners and implementers, both staff and volunteers (FY20)
    • Review and measure success with annual adjustments to avoid becoming stale (FY21)

Considerations: Use the She Opened the Door model to ensure ownership is broad and inclusive. Align with Virtual Engagement action item to increase online access to curated thought leadership across Columbia.

Success in 2023:

  • Create collaboration plans between the CAA and both internal and external groups with at least 10-15 entities
  • Form new partnerships with at least 20-30 alumni or student groups both within and external to the CAA
  • For signature programs, achieve 70%/30% engagement with partner/non-partner participants
  • Achieve 20-30% success rate for first-time program attendees at signature programs who earn additional ALMA points with 6 months to a year post-program
  • Achieve Net Promoter Scores (NPS) of 50 or higher on surveys of partners following each program

II. Segmentation

Goal: Utilize an array of personalization and segmentation tools to assist in individualizing alumni engagement opportunities                                                                   

Equip staff, alumni volunteers and alumni themselves with the ability to create customized engagement opportunities by life stage, geography, interests, profession and/or volunteer activity with ease and transparency as frequently and purposely as they desire, recognizing the importance of individualism and understanding the need to form groups of alumni and students with similar interests and needs.

  1. Develop an information gathering and analysis plan to understand the wants and needs of alumni.


    • Develop a plan to collect, manage and analyze data from all sources (e.g. the alumni community, web property tracking, marketing data, salesforce tracking data and ALMA) in order to inform decisions on targeted engagement strategies and identify cluster areas for potential groups (FY19)
    • Establish mechanisms to track social media for new trends, behaviors and platform usage (FY19)
    • Develop strategic calls-to-action (e.g. quick polls, short surveys) to capture attitudinal information of new trends and interests (FY20)
    • Provide opportunities for alumni to determine the types and interest areas of communications they would like to receive (FY20)
    • Use data to identify potential improvements/changes that could benefit existing engagement opportunities (FY21)

Considerations: There need to be easier ways for alumni to self-select and share feedback. Data collection on current students and the groups they belong to should be leveraged to seed participation in new and existing SIGs.

  1. Create a data-driven plan to better engage alumni with individualized communications and connections to like-minded and similarly interested alumni using information from ALMA, the Alumni Community, web analytics and other sources.


    • Utilize marketing and social media tools and platforms to implement a marketing plan based on segments of the alumni population (FY19)
    • Create a reporting and data analysis process to inform decision-making as additional data and changes in interests arise (FY19)
    • Partner with IT to ensure trending tools are explored to best communicate and engage with alumni (FY19)
    • Form a stakeholders group to ensure dissemination of data to and sharing of best practices with the relevant parties (FY20)

Considerations: Develop a mechanism to review and assess new areas of focus and interest over time.

  1. Establish a structure to seed short-term, task force-style groups to address various issues of concern or topics of interest to the alumni community.


    • Create a plan to gather data to provide insights on coalescing alumni around trending issues or interests (FY19)
    • Develop a set of protocols for convening and establishing ownership of task forces and the parameters of their mission, roles and responsibilities, including a process for expediting the creation of groups to drive participation for topical issues (FY19)
    • Establish a plan to empower issue and topic-related task forces to undertake the process of creating sustainable SIGs whenever appropriate (FY20)

Considerations: It is important to prioritize issues and interests to be engaged in this task force model and ensure ownership is given to the alumni. Whenever possible, integrate students into these groups as a means of deepening student-alumni connections and cultivating future engaged alumni.

  1. Use data segmentation to inform the feasibility and sustainability of initiatives and new groups, both formal and informal.


    • Establish a set of data benchmarks to predict the viability of new requests for creating SIGs (FY19)
    • Establish ways to leverage reunions and other School-based traditions to identify new like-minded groups and share enhanced information about existing groups (FY19)
    • Develop a plan to drive individuals to new SIGs or programs based upon past engagement or interest and create a “feedback loop” to track whether they engage in these newly identified opportunities (FY20)
    • Create a marketing and volunteer training plan as a recruitment tool for new groups and initiatives (FY20)

Considerations: A cadre of dedicated volunteers who will spearhead the efforts of any new group or initiative is essential to the success and sustainability of the endeavor. This action item will rely on the results of the action item to develop an information gathering and analysis plan to understand the wants and needs of alumni. It is essential to share protocols to ensure proper usage of University branding.

Success in 2023:

  • Form between 5-10 new formal groups and 10-15 informal groups seeded through data gathered through CAA channels
  • Convene 2-3 short-term task force-style groups annually and track increase in newly engaged alumni from these groups
  • In addition to current virtual programs such as Alumni Voices, conduct at least one quick poll or survey quarterly—establishing a baseline in the first year and determining a growth pattern for subsequent years
  • Establish a baseline for interest-related data points added by alumni and students to their Alumni Community profiles and then establish metrics for success
  • Establish a baseline of open rates for data-driven segmented outreach to both individuals and groups and strive for a 5%-7% increase annually thereafter

III. Students

Goal: Create a value exchange between alumni and students across the University and worldwide

Capitalize on the symbiotic relationships, wants, and needs of students and alumni. Create a stronger, broader and more inclusive Columbia community. Enrich and enhance the awareness and experience of the CAA for students through an array of mutually meaningful interactions.

  1. Create student-specific spaces across CAA's virtual presence, with separate experiences for undergraduate and graduate students.


    • Conduct a review of CAA’s virtual presence and determine where a student-specific presence is appropriate and necessary (FY19)
    • Prioritize creation and implementation of student-specific spaces and promote these spaces to students, especially with the rollout of access to the online community (FY19)
    • Crowdsource alumni-generated content (e.g. “What do you wish you could tell your college self?”) and solicit additional content based on high-response areas (FY20)
    • Utilize data on relative success of content for future targeting (FY20)

Considerations: Bring students into the decision-making process to ensure it is attractive to students from a marketing and branding perspective.

  1. Create alum-to-student networking and coaching programs, both 1:1 and group-based, to provide both personal development and career advice.


    • Develop a range of commitment levels for alumni volunteers, from virtual micro-volunteering (e.g. “The Mentor is In” or online resume review) to networking events and speaking engagements (FY19)
    • Conduct a research process to identify issues and topics where students are looking for guidance outside School-based mentoring efforts and where they can be exposed to the CAA before coming to campus and during orientation (FY20)
    • Work with existing programs and develop complementary ones to provide multiple advising opportunities for the student community (FY21)

Considerations: It is important to gather input from students to inform how to best develop and roll out this effort.

  1. Develop a CAA presence on campus, by better utilizing the Columbia Alumni Center, leveraging student activities (e.g. Student Activity fairs, President’s Fun Run, Festifall, sporting events) and offering value-adds prior to graduation which promote the CAA as an integral part of University life and a source of Columbia spirit.


    • Review University-wide programming to see where CAA tie-ins will have the greatest impact (FY19)
    • Work with student groups to support events and programs as a sponsor and partner (FY19)
    • Explore opportunities to create new stand-alone events and programs to expose students to the CAA. Partner with Schools and student groups to plan and implement (FY20)

Considerations: It is essential to incorporate the concepts of value-adds, and community building and spirit, and collect information on unaffiliated and unofficial campus traditions that the CAA can support.

  1. Enhance students' connection to the CAA by building relationships between student and alumni groups for support and collaboration.


    • Research and compile a comprehensive list of undergraduate and graduate student groups to initiate a mapping of student to alumni groups (FY19)
    • Prioritize groups and meet with governing boards of undergraduate and graduate student groups to match their constituent groups with similar CAA alumni groups (FY20)
    • Create an outreach plan to help groups connect more organically (FY20)
    • Pilot initial collaborations and trainings between student and alumni groups to develop partnerships and identify best practices (FY21)

Considerations: Willingness to partner and “what’s in it for them” should be taken into account when deciding which groups to include in the pilot.

  1. Leverage regional clubs and SIGs to build student-alumni connections through CU there!.


    • Develop an outreach plan for students to inform them of the value and access available through CU there! (FY19)
    • Create welcome events for students through CAA clubs and groups (FY19)
    • Establish an annual assessment process for new events to evaluate response and efficacy (FY19)
    • Grow CU there! to organize holiday and summer events in New York and elsewhere via CAA clubs and groups (FY20)

Considerations: SIGs and clubs offer different points of connection, so separation may allow better targeting.

Success in 2023:

  • Increase the number of meaningful opportunities/programs for students to interact with alumni from 10 to 25 annually (Appendix 4)
  • Increase from approximately 1,400 student touches with the CAA in FY18, strive for a goal of at least 3,000 touches per year
  • Increase the number of graduating students with ALMA points within a year of graduation from 4,900 (40%) to 7,400 (60%)
  • Increase the number of graduating students considered “engaged alumni” within a year of graduation from approximately 2,100 (17%) to 3,600 (25%)
  • Achieve Net Promoter Scores (NPS) of 50 or higher on surveys of student interactions with alumni following meaningful engagement opportunities


IV. Virtual Engagement

Goal: Strengthen the CAA’s position as a consolidator and provider of virtual engagement for the Columbia community

The CAA’s digital presence will invite alumni and students to “own” the centralized yet multi-faceted network of Columbians worldwide by providing content and connection through the sharing of ideas, expertise and Columbia pride and link them to University traditions, volunteer opportunities, resources and programs.

  1. Enhance the CAA website to improve user experience and provide a central access point for all CAA offerings and University engagement.


    • Utilize focus groups and surveys to determine appropriate modifications and upgrades to the CAA web presence to more effectively engage with alumni and students by providing dynamic content and an interactive experience (FY19)
    • Develop an ongoing marketing plan to highlight facets of the website to drive engagement and volunteerism behaviors amongst users (FY19)
    • Conduct a comprehensive redesign of the CAA web presence for mobile-first browsing, responsive design, personalization and improved data-gathering (FY20)
    • Roadmap an annual improvement plan with alumni, volunteer leaders and administrators intended to address cosmetic and short-term, mission-critical issues and work with data and technology colleagues on long-term enhancements (FY20)

Considerations: It is essential that all new properties/platforms synchronize and fit in with the current CAA/OAD digital ecosystem, gathering as much overall and personalized data as possible. A universal, easy log-in process for all virtual properties should be pursued where necessary.

  1. Educate and empower alumni to connect organically, promoting grassroots engagement using digital tools and virtual platforms.


    • Implement a plan to monitor and analyze the effectiveness, growth and sustainability of alumni-driven virtual engagement (FY19)
    • Recruit alumni, faculty and student groups of platform advisors, ideally experts on community management or organizational behavior, to assist with a user engagement framework to spur interest and participation (FY20)
    • Provide support for organic, grassroots virtual efforts by alumni and students including digital toolboxes and online assistance (FY20)
    • Use data-driven insights to target potential new areas of engagement and incentivize/gamify innovations in alumni- and student-driven engagement in the virtual space (FY20)

Considerations: As the CAA develops and increases its virtual engagement opportunities, it is important that we develop alumni-monitored protocols and policies to ensure proper usage.

  1. Launch virtual clubs or small networks for the purpose of specialization or learning.


    • Collaborate with the CAA Associations and Clubs Committee to develop best practices and policies for governance and inclusiveness (FY19)
    • Identify potential alumni-led clubs or groups for further development with emphasis on growing sustainable entities that can flourish in the virtual space and transcend traditional leadership hierarchies (FY19)
    • Pilot two virtual clubs, with sponsorship from University stakeholders, after securing platforms and leaders who will host these pilot clubs (FY20)
    • Create a virtual leaders conference for training and leadership skills-building (FY21)

Considerations: As virtual groups grow, specific virtual volunteer leader training needs to be developed to ensure CAA is providing the support the volunteers need.

  1. Aggregate and consolidate information by creating a central calendar and information site that includes internal and external events and programs, communications, and volunteer opportunities.


    • Establish an advisory committee to oversee content and site enhancement, the user experience, and the overall coordination among stakeholders (FY19)
    • Collaborate with existing Columbia publishers to maximize awareness and distribution (FY19)
    • Build an internal audience and distribution network for the purpose of coordination and collaboration and develop a University-wide email best practices series (FY20)
    • Access broad-based Columbia University events, communications and volunteerism (FY20)
    • Institutionalize an external calendar that allows for maximum personalization of a user’s interests and points of engagement (FY21)

Considerations: Intentions should be communicated clearly, so Schools/units do not misinterpret them and believe their autonomy in reaching their constituents is curtailed.

  1. Increase online access to curated thought leadership across Columbia.


    • Build a social media listening network to track social performance of stories, tweets, posts, etc. (FY19)
    • Identify and cultivate partnerships with existing Columbia publishers (e.g. SPS’ [email protected], Heyman Center) (FY19)
    • Develop a comprehensive plan for providing ongoing curation and dissemination of accessible content (FY20)
    • Undertake a year-long study of Columbia University editorial activities and output for the purpose of gaining a baseline understanding of existing content and curatorial experience (FY20)
    • Explore the feasibility of student-driven thought leadership content (e.g. doctoral dissertations, student project presentations, student entrepreneurships) (FY21)

Considerations: For the success of this effort to continue, an understanding of how to maintain a constant flow of new content is essential.

  1. Gather more data on individual users’ virtual engagement with Columbia.


    • Access current data-gathering capabilities across the portfolio of CAA digital initiatives and determine how best to increase the comprehensiveness of data being gathered (FY19)
    • Develop a plan to convert the gathered data into insight-driven decisions around virtual content and how best to offer similar insights for in-person programming and volunteerism (FY20)
    • Establish a long-term yet nimble plan to continually monitor new data gathering opportunities and to select the new platforms and tools which further enhance data collection (FY21)

Considerations: As more data is gathered, it is important to ensure the data is relevant and accurate and that the right data is moving through the value chain. Transparent, carefully considered governance guidelines regarding the proper use and protection of user data should be drafted.

Success in 2023:

  • Once the new CAA website launches, increase yearly page views by 10% annually from a baseline of 1,839,257 
  • Establish a baseline of the number of individuals connecting with Columbia social media platforms then set an annual growth targets while increasing the quantity of user post engagements and interactions within and through Columbia social media platforms
  • Establish a new baseline for search pages visited in the newly launched Alumni Community and agree upon an annual increase
  • Increase the number of partners sharing calendars with the CAA from 28 to 46 (Appendix 4)
  • Establish a baseline of social interaction with CU thought leadership content and increase by an agreed-upon annual rate

V. Volunteers

Goal: Elevate and enhance the perception and diversity of the experience of volunteerism at the University

Promote volunteerism as essential to the strengths and successes of our alumni community. Identify, recruit, train, recognize and retain volunteers as the most important and impactful resource of the CAA. Recognize that the lifecycle of every volunteer is unique and should be valued and celebrated.

  1. Grow the use of VolunteerColumbia as the central hub for alumni and student volunteerism and develop more low-commitment, high-impact opportunities that attract time-strapped alumni and students.


  • Refine the protocol for partners to participate in the Hub, including guidelines for management of student and alumni groups (FY19)
  • Create a process to review and update the content in the Hub, including information on how individuals benefit from volunteerism with Columbia, and expand the list of volunteer opportunities (FY19)
  • Develop a comprehensive marketing plan for continued rollout of the Hub (FY19)
  • Work with IT to build data integration and transfer into the system (FY20)
  • Form a task force to develop sustainable micro-volunteerism (e.g. virtual and Done-in-a-Day) opportunities (FY20)

Considerations: University-wide participation in and ownership of the Hub is essential for the platform’s success.

  1. Build out a more comprehensive program of volunteer recognition.


  • Develop a categorization model for all forms of recognition opportunities and a roster of all appropriate forms of recognition for each category (FY19)
  • Execute a comprehensive survey of all current recognition opportunities across campus (FY19)
  • Expand the focus on peer-to-peer and virtual recognition opportunities (FY20)
  • Establish University Citizenship recognition as a CAA hallmark (e.g. Campbell-like award for an alum of each School, University Citizen profile in each CAA newsletter) (FY20)

Considerations: It would be helpful to build a mechanism for tracking recognition of individuals in the database.

  1. Establish a sustained program to create volunteer paths from student to alumni groups and vice versa, creating an ecosystem that allows student volunteers to transition seamlessly to alumni volunteerism.


  • Develop and share protocols for effective and appropriate interaction between alumni and student groups (FY19)
  • Empower the CAA Recent Alumni and Students Committee to help facilitate the interconnectedness of student and alumni groups (FY19)
  • Evaluate the most effective means of creating the connection of volunteers between student and alumni groups (FY20)
  • Build out a recruitment program to transition students to SIGs and regional clubs when they graduate and incorporate student volunteers more fully into CALW (FY20)

Considerations: There are differences between undergraduate and graduate students that should be taken into account. A virtual home where groups can connect is necessary for this action item.

  1. Launch a “Volunteer Drive” initiative to recruit volunteers.


  • Develop a strategy to standardize volunteer drives (e.g. pre-CALW for 5-8 point ALMAs, early April for graduating students) (FY20)
  • Use gamification to create excitement and friendly competition among volunteer groups (FY20)
  • Create a series of volunteer roles for the purpose of volunteer drives (e.g. chairs, social media ambassadors, group captains) (FY20)
  • Establish a formal approach to getting buy-in from Schools, alumni groups including SIGs, regional clubs and student groups (FY20)
  • Phase in a Thank-a-Thon or volunteer-recognition aspect as volunteer drives are institutionalized (FY21)

Considerations: There should be data-informed targeting of potential volunteers.

  1. Formalize a structure between the CAA, Schools and alumni groups for retaining key volunteers during transition. Employ peer recruitment and training strategies across life stages and engagement levels.


  • Establish a confab for administrators who have front-line contact with volunteers (FY19)
  • Create a menu of high-level roles to facilitate smooth transitions for senior volunteers (FY19)
  • Develop a proposal for University-wide guidelines around volunteer management as it relates to transitioning and retaining volunteers as well as training peer recruiters (FY20)
  • Develop training for all alumni and development staff on managing, retaining and transitioning volunteers (FY20)
  • Offer sessions at CALW and online to help volunteers think proactively about transitions (FY20)

Considerations: There should be a structure that differentiates between senior volunteers and others for the purpose of a more customized approach to transitioning roles. Volunteer pipelines for front-line volunteer managers including lapsed volunteers should be a priority. Exit interviews may be a useful tool in facilitating transitions.

Success in 2023:

  • Increase the CAA’s Hub partners from 25 alumni entities and 2 student entities to 50 alumni entities and 20 student entities (Appendix 4)
  • Increase Done-in-a-Day opportunities from approximately 20 to 50
  • Increase the number of student leaders who volunteer for alumni activities within 1 year of graduation from 20 to 50
  • Create 5-10 new volunteer opportunities to correspond with volunteer recruitment drives, establish a baseline of volunteers recruited in the first drive and set a growth plan for subsequent years based on that data point
  • Facilitate 20 senior volunteer transitions in the first year of the Plan and 20-30 in subsequent years
  • Develop a volunteer satisfaction survey and set a baseline level of satisfaction and number of responses and established agreed upon growth targets for subsequent years


Considerations, Partnerships and Overall Metrics for Success

When developing the action items, the SPC incorporated the following considerations:

  1. Be mindful of the dichotomy between the individual and the need for belonging

There was consensus from the earliest stages of the Task Force’s work that the CAA needed to respect the individuality of all members of the community and to allow them to define how they would like to engage while also ensuring they feel a sense of belonging to the greater alumni community.

  1. Create clear, yet flexible, items, strategies and tactics

The Plan needs to anticipate the realities of changing technologies, life stages and personal passions, particularly with reference to the overarching goals around virtual engagement, students, and personalization/segmentation preferences.

  1. Export the successful strategies of the volunteer-driven and volunteer-sustained CAA Arts Access program to spur the growth of Shared Interest Groups (SIGs)

Arts Access provides a blueprint that exposes diverse populations to professional opportunities and social and cultural engagement. It serves as a helpful guide for growing the quantity and quality of SIGs.

  1. Build pathways for individuals, groups, institutes and Schools to articulate how they want to engage with and leverage the CAA

The CAA should encourage individuals, groups, institutes and Schools to determine how they would like to engage with the CAA, its expertise, programs and resources. The CAA invites all of its constituents to define and take increased ownership of these relationships.

  1. Amplify the CAA’s voice as a source of University traditions and pride

While not an overarching goal identified by the Task Force, the ideal of pride and tradition resonated deeply with members. The Plan should encourage the development of traditions and the enculturation of Columbia pride.

  1. Define the CAA’s role as a source of interdisciplinary mentorship opportunities                      While the CAA has currently espoused mentoring as the purview of the Schools there, were several requests for the CAA to provide broader mentoring, advising and networking opportunities across Schools, professions and disciplines.

The overall metrics for success annually and in 2023 are:

  • Achieve The Columbia Commitment campaign goal of 150,000 engaged alumni
  • Establish a baseline number of alumni engaging in the following ways: through in-person activities, virtual opportunities and CAA initiatives and then establish agreed upon growth targets for subsequent years
  • Achieve 2,000,000 aggregate engagement touchpoints by 2023
  • Increase the number of CAA regional clubs and SIGS from 100 to 130
  • Increase the number of volunteers from more than 14,800 to 20,000 annually

The work of the SPC should include an annual review of the Plan, including:

  • Evaluate progress and timeline
  • Consider additional or enhanced strategies
  • Adjust metrics (percentage or numeric)
  • Review metrics around initiatives to set a baseline (year one) and benchmarks for success in subsequent years
  • As new analytics and data points become available, coordinate with aligned administrative units to assess the need for new metrics
  • Monitor changing data integrity and privacy regulations and adjust data-driven strategies as appropriate
  • Utilize data sources to identify programs yielding the greatest number of new volunteers and greatest number of alumni and students with increased engagement levels

The SPC identified internal key collaborators across the five goals (except where noted) in achieving success by 2023:

  • University Alumni Relations
  • Office of Alumni and Development
  • Schools and Affiliates
  • Columbia Alumni Directors
  • Deans of Student Affairs
  • Office of Multicultural Affairs
  • Office of University Life
  • Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Alumni Affairs Committee, University Senate
  • Student Affairs Committee, University Senate
  • Campaign Management Office
  • Faculty and academic departments
  • CUIT
  • University Office for Public Affairs
  • Directors of Career Education
  • Columbia Global Centers
  • Columbia World Projects
  • Columbia Entrepreneurship
  • University Libraries (Virtual Engagement)
  • Community Impact (Partnerships, Volunteers)
  • Columbia Community Service (Partnerships, Volunteers)

The SPC identified external key collaborators across the five goals (except where noted) in achieving success by 2023:

  • CAA Board of Directors
  • CAA Committees
    • Associations and Clubs Committee
    • Arts Access Committee
    • Strategic Planning Committee
    • Programs Committee
    • Recent Alumni and Students Committee
    • Columbia Alumni Leaders Weekend Steering Committee
  • CAA Regional Clubs
  • CAA Shared Interest Groups
  • School-based alumni associations
  • Columbia University Club of New York
  • Recognized student groups
  • Technology vendors (Virtual; Segmentation; Volunteers)