Volunteer Weekend 2017 – Work Session Summaries

Class Agents Workshops

with Molly Campe '96, senior associate director of alumni & donor relations; and Ashley Schaefer, associate director of alumni & donor relations for campus partnerships.

The workshop involved several hands-on activities and lively discussion about class agent letters.

In the first exercise, class agents were asked to write on notecards why they write letters. The agents then put the notecards in a circle on the floor. Class agents linked arms and rotated to read the cards. Besides creating a good photo op, the exercise showed some commonalities in the answers. Many cards mentioned communities, connections and engagement.

Campe told the group class letters are the number one way alums like to hear about what’s going on at the College. A question was asked about whether the letter should mention and/or encourage fundraising. Some agents do write about fundraising, but others didn’t. DAR doesn’t have a position, Campe said. Agents are given a lot of leeway.

The next exercise involved small groups reviewing examples of class letters. Agents marked +’s for things they liked and –‘s for things they didn’t. Some of the positives mentioned were variety of content and ease in reading. Negatives mentioned were hard to see photos and not a lot of news about classmates.

Agents noted the difference in writing styles, saying the 2015 letter sounded more like Twitter posts with shorter sentences. This specific letter appeared to be emailed out. Most agents thought snail mail was a better approach. It’s more personal and the agents have the option of including a hand-written note. Some of the younger alumni also like getting it in the mail. One noted, it’s rare to get anything in the mail that isn’t junk.

Next, agents were asked to put up a blue card for statements they agreed with and a red card for statements they disagreed with. Items with the widest split in panels were whether to include political opinions, fundraising requests and inside jokes. The agents agreed social media updates from the college were OK to include as were social media updates from alumni, if permission is obtained. Fake news was mostly frowned upon though a few agents thought it could be used in certain contexts when it’s obvious the news isn’t real.

The session concluded with class agents being asked to write one best practice for being an agent. Answers included:

  • Put more in the letter than just news from classmates, include campus updates.
  • Use email surveys with questions to your classmates that aren’t just about achievements
  • Ask a theme question for your next class letter such as, “Tell us what community service work you do.”
  • Include dates to remember, like your next Reunion.
  • Invite a guest class letter writer.