As an alumna of The Consortium, Chair of the Alumni Relations Committee April Taylor understands that when it comes to giving back, not everyone has the same bandwidth.
“In this day in age, when you get a million requests to give money, sometimes, you … don’t feel appreciated,” Taylor says, “especially when you have other things that you could offer, like your time.” This recognition — along with the sheer size of The Consortium’s alumni base, which numbers around 9,000 — has shaped her concept of and thus approach to alumni giving as she strives to “meet people where they are.”
“You have alumni who have retired, you have alumni who are striving for the C suite, you have alumni who are … struggling for the next step and don’t know what to do, and then [you have others] who just graduated [and are] just happy to have a job,” says Taylor. “We have so many talented people … that it may not be a check [they] can write at this point but [the ability to help] provide access and opportunity — and many times, that’s just as good, if not better, than a monetary donation.”
Taylor makes a point of practicing what she preaches. For the reverberating positive effects The Consortium has had on her own life, she has continued to give back to the organization in one way or another as an alum, currently doing so through her service as chair of the Alumni Relations Committee, a post she has held since November.
While some alumni remain more involved than others, Taylor says there is always room for improvement with regard to their engagement. “We’re definitely not at a zero, but we’re certainly not at 100 either,” she says. For some people, the connectedness they feel with the organization and their peers lasts only while they’re in school, Taylor notes, making it all the more important to maintain that connection post-MBA.
“Not everybody can make it to the Orientation Program (OP) once a year, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t mentor a student at your university,” says Taylor.
These modest but meaningful efforts can have a cumulative effect, she says.
“I want people to be able to give in their own way so they don’t feel pressure, because once you feel comfortable giving, I think you automatically want to contribute in a financial way,” says Taylor. “Sometimes it starts as small as mentoring somebody who is a first-year student. Sometimes it’s even smaller, with just telling people about the experience that you had as a Consortium fellow, sharing the opportunity for others to apply and become fellows.”
Additionally, she believes small acts like these could inspire someone else to one day pay it forward. “I don’t want to discredit somebody just because they [might be] mentoring somebody on campus,” says Taylor, “because them mentoring that person could result in a donation down the line from that individual.”
For opportunities to get involved, she recommends checking the calendar on The Consortium’s website for upcoming events and activities, like local MAPS events. Regional chapters in big cities like Atlanta, Seattle and New York City also present an easy opportunity to get involved.
However, one of the best things alumni can do to remain connected to The Consortium is to update their contact information in the organization’s online system as well as with their alma mater. “That is one of the most critical opportunities for us to stay connected and stay connected to each other,” says Taylor, who makes a point to also volunteer for events at her alma mater, Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
While all forms of giving provide critical support for The Consortium’s mission, Taylor is careful not to downplay the significance of monetary contributions — no matter how big or small. “Anything matters because what we know more and more is that business school is expensive, and it’s just one of those things that in many cases prohibits individuals [from attending],” she says. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to go to business school had it not been for the fellowship opportunity.”
But it’s not just about alumni supporting The Consortium or current students. The Consortium strives to add value for alumni as well.
“For some of us, it’s enough to see a smile on someone’s face, but for some people, there comes a time when you need to be fed as well,” says Taylor. “Sometimes you’re in a place where you need the professional development and support just as well as anybody else — and I don’t think those opportunities should be overlooked.”
The Alumni Relations Committee makes an effort to facilitate these activities for alumni, which has included hosting different professional development events. At the 2019 OP, the committee hosted several workshops that allowed alumni to not only reconnect socially with one another but also use their skills to benefit other alumni. The committee is currently reviewing surveys about alums’ experience in these workshops to determine if they were appreciated and beneficial.
“That’s the thing, I think, is how do you provide and showcase an opportunity for [alumni] to engage — provide them something that they can walk away with, tell others about and then get them engaged moving forward?” says Taylor.
In her effort to redefine alumni relations, Taylor emphasizes and tries to be sensitive to the fact that an individual’s ability to give depends on where he or she is in their life as well as their circumstances.
“It could be that you just had a baby or just got married or are going through a horrible life transition; sometimes you just don’t have the space for everything. Realistically, we can’t expect everybody to be at the same level,” she says. “But what we can try to do is remain relevant [for] when these individuals are ready [to give] — whether it be monetarily, whether it be with time or whether it just be with mental capacity.”
When it comes to this work, Taylor has a vision for The Consortium: “Five years down the road, I’d love for alumni to be beating down the door,” she says.