After being involved with the U-M Club of Seattle for several years, I’ve come to realize that the business model for your local alumni club is much the same as it is for your local public radio station.
A public radio station doesn’t just broadcast to its members — it broadcasts to anyone who wants to listen. And so, even though membership generally offers a few perks, the motivation to contribute financially is primarily based on altruistic feelings — the desire to give back, to be an active part of the station’s community, to contribute to a positive force making a difference with others around you.
Membership in your alumni association is much the same. Sure, you receive a few perks by joining. But you became a U-M alum by attending the University, not by joining the Association. And our club events are open to all alums, not just Association members. So even though our club’s funding comes solely from a percentage of the dues paid by local AAUM members, you benefit from the club’s existence, whether you contributed financially or not.
And so, the primary motivation to join the Association may well be an altruistic one.
Let me tell you a little story. At one of our football watch parties last fall, my wife Pauline and I were seated in the back room at Buckley’s, since the main room was already full. We sat at an open table, and were shortly joined by three others who had just come in to watch the game. It turned out that two of the three were a young couple just visiting Seattle for a wedding, and were both recent Michigan grads. They were excited because, on the way back to their table, they had each run into fellow classmates they didn’t even know were in Seattle, and hadn’t expected to see that day.
And the third member of their party? He was a visitor from Vancouver BC who had met the young couple at a wine tasting earlier in the day. They had hit it off, and he had decided to come along with them to Buckley’s. Not only was he unaffiliated with Michigan in any way, I don’t believe he had ever seen an American football contest before. But he ordered a beer and watched, intrigued by the game.
Before long, of course, the Wolverines scored a touchdown, and the entire room burst out into a rousing chorus of “The Victors”. Our Canadian guest was unprepared for this, and somewhat amazed. At the next break in the game, he inquired about our fight song. I Googled the lyrics on my smart phone so that he could study them and commit them to memory, and by the end of the game, he was singing along with the rest of us. And as we left, he expressed his thanks for welcoming him into our Michigan community, and told us that he would now look forward to following Michigan football!
I tell this story, and remember it fondly, because for me it encapsulates the purpose of our club: to help alums connect with each other, and to promote a positive image for Michigan in our local communities. These twin motivations form the foundation for everything we do.
And so I return to the theme of membership in the Alumni Association. You don’t have to join. You’re already an alum of one of the greatest Universities in the world. You’ll be welcome at all of our events, whether you’re an AAUM member or not.
So why join?
To give back. To know that you’re helping to make our local Michigan community a little stronger. To help your fellow alums, as much as to help yourself. To help burnish the U-M image in the Pacific Northwest, through community service and other local events. To help us promote the University to local high school students, to give some of them the opportunity to attend the same great University you had the privilege of attending. And to help ensure that the University of Michigan remains, not just a team that shows up on game day, not just an emblem on a degree hanging on a wall, but a proud, seamless tradition that spans the generations, and a great educational institution that helps preserve and extend humanity’s rich store of knowledge and cultural traditions.
All of that for a few dollars a year?
If you’re already a proud AAUM member, then thanks for pitching in! If you’re ready to join or renew your membership, then you can do it here:
June 9, 2012