Alumni Directories Give Revenue Boost to High Schools By CARLOS MARTINEZ Staff Reporter When Hoover High School co-principal Kevin Welsh began planning for his Glendale school’s 75th anniversary festivities next year, he realized he’d need the help of the alumni. “I knew that if we did an alumni directory that it would give us a jumping off point for the anniversary,” Welsh said. Welsh, like a growing number of public school administrators, is seeing the benefits and fund-raising potential of alumni directories, a financial tool that is catching on throughout the country. Since 1998, the number of public schools publishing such directories has doubled from 150 to more than 300 last year, said Bob Hausman, of the Bernard C. Harris Publishing Co., based in upstate New York. “The schools are starting to realize that they can tap into these large pools of alumni for fund-raising or other activities,” he said. Although private schools have long been publishing alumni directories as a way to market and raise funds, public schools have been slow in doing so. “When government starts budget cuts, they usually target schools first and so schools try to figure out ways to improve revenue,” Hausman said. “It’s much easier to contact alumni with a directory and it also allows the school to sell the directory to alumni at a profit.” Harris, which is the top publisher of school directories in the country, in recent years has been actively marketing its directory services to schools throughout the U.S. as its private school alumni directory business has topped out. “There’s not much left to do in the private school area, but we see a lot of potential growth with public schools,” he said. Cross-referencing project As part of Harris’ marketing efforts, schools are asked to participate in the directory program free of charge by providing records of its alumni, many of which date back decades. Harris, through its data network and national phone directories, is able to cross reference names with new and hopefully current addresses for alumni. Those former students are then contacted via postcard about participating in the directory by calling a toll-free number where operators can then take down current information such as name, home and work addresses as well as telephone numbers and job titles. For Hoover’s Welsh, the advantage of the alumni directory is obvious it gives alumni a chance to become involved with their alma mater through donations or other ongoing activities such as reunions and fund-raisers. “I’ve already talked to a few alumni and they’ve expressed a lot of interest in participating with our anniversary and other activities,” Welsh said. “They want to get involved and give something back to the school now that they’re adults.” Likewise, officials at nearby Glendale High and at University High School in West Los Angeles say their schools have seen a sharp increase in alumni activity and support for school activities. It was just last year that University High became involved with Harris about doing its alumni directory. “We see it as a way to bring alumni together and rekindle friendships, but I imagine people could use the directory for business,” said Rena McKinzie, a board member of the Santa Monica High School Alumni Association which helped start a directory at that school. Harris’ Hausman says high school alumni are more likely to get involved with their former school than they would with their former college. “It’s an affinity with the school and the fact that they formed lifelong friendships there that they wouldn’t have in college,” he said. Alumni interest Welsh agreed, noting increased alumni contact and involvement in the school’s alumni association, organized just last year. “We heard from people that we’ve never heard from before that wanted to get involved in the anniversary, so that’s exciting to us,” Welsh said. But more importantly, the school has also been in contact with a growing number of alumni, including actress Eva Mendes, a 1992 Hoover graduate who is best known for her role in “The Fast and the Furious,” and for her recent cover on Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine. Besides attracting more alumni to the school and its activities, Welsh hopes the directories will be purchased by alumni. With each selling for about $80, the school could earn thousands from its sale. “We really don’t know how much we could get, but we hope it’s a lot,” Welsh said, noting that it could help alumni network with those of similar jobs or interests. So far, Harris has made contact with most of the estimated 30,000 alumni provided by the school. But it’s unclear just how many would add their names to the directory, let alone agree to purchase one when it’s published. But Welsh is optimistic, given the number of calls and e-mails he as received from former students. “I’ve been here 20 years so people remember me when they were here so that’s why I put my name on the post cards sent to them,” he said.
Alumni Directories Give Revenue Boost to High Schools