September 1, 2016 smz-blog

Membership Organization Insights from an MSU Alum

Like any major fundraising effort, gleaning dollars from college graduates is an arduous and important initiative for their alumni schools.  Higher learning has become a very competitive field and appealing to the younger generations of alumni is more important than ever.

Michigan State University had its most successful fundraising year ever when it raised a record $272 million in 2015-16. “This year, by hosting campaign events in major cities around the country, we brought MSU’s story directly to donors, alumni and friends who are passionate about helping to shape it,” said Bob Groves, vice president for university advancement.

Another MSU event, Grandparents University, is hosted on its own campus. Many alumni participants travel from several states away to attend with their grandchildren. It’s an absolutely brilliant event in countless ways and executed near flawlessly.


As described on their website, Grandparents University is an opportunity for grandparents and grandchildren (ages 8-12) to come together for a three-day educational experience while spending time together on the MSU campus.

Participants enjoy the college experience of living in the residence halls, attending classes across campus and sampling the many highlights of MSU. Grandparents University gives alumni a chance to relive their college days while exploring campus and creating lifelong memories with their grandchildren.

The event is organized by the alumni relations professionals within colleges and units across campus. The program is self-supporting and relies entirely on registration fees, donor contributions and sponsor support to cover all expenses.

After personally attending this event with my granddaughter and co-Spartan alumni husband the last three years, I can honestly tell you I look forward to it just as much as a trip to Europe or Disney.  It’s THAT fun! And worth every donated alumni dime.

The event reaches multiple generations in amazingly positive ways:

Alumni hark back to a time that for many was one of the most enjoyable of their lives.

Parents get a break from their kids; kids get a break from their parents while spending quality time with their grandparents.  It’s important one-on-one grandparent bonding time in a safe, fun learning environment.

Grandkids learn that college is “doable” and definitely worth aspiring to. They get comfortable on a college campus at a young age.  Hit those books if you want to live here full time, kids!

Kids get to explore their interests just like a college freshman.  Class options are as wide ranging as ‘How to Create a TV Ad’, ‘Straws and Tape? Yes, You ARE an Engineer!’ and ‘CSI Animal Disease Detectives.’ A young attendee coming back from a chemistry class exclaimed, “That was so cool! We got to blow stuff up!”  Evening activities include archery at MSU’s own world-class competitive archery facility, swimming in MSU’s Olympic-sized pool and ‘Cardio Tennis’ with accompanying music.

Registration is strictly online and seasoned participants know that they have to plot out their preferred classes and be online the second registration opens.  The myth that grandparents aren’t web savvy is blown to smithereens here.  Grandparents can be cutthroat driven for their grandkids!

What can your business or brand do to appeal to multiple generations? Would hosting or participating in satellite events allow you to reach lapsed loyal or new audiences?


MSU college grads, Carol and Jack Marshall and their son at an MSU alumni satellite event in California.


Kylee McGee with her grandfather Steve McGee settling into their dorm room and trying out their new selfie stick, part of the MSU Grandparents University SWAG Bag.


Kylee McGee attending CSI Animal Disease Detectives class at MSU’s Grandparents University.

Ann McGee, Senior VP/General Manager




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