Creating a Flagship Event by Honoring your Fellow Alumni
An annual alumni award event, such as the Joseph Wharton Award dinners planned by the Wharton Club of New York and the Wharton Club of Boston, is an excellent way to create a lasting impression on your member base by showcasing your club at its best. This event is particularly exciting, as it has the power to:
- Increase membership
- Anchor the larger calendar of events and build momentum throughout the year
- Provide additional leadership opportunities and ways to recruit future Board Members/Officers
- Build relationships with corporate sponsors
When planned well in advance, you increase the chances of attracting prestigious alumni as nominees, which in turn lends credibility to the event and the club in general. Below are some tips to create a flagship alumni award event for your club.
Consider the Timing
Being careful to not jeopardize other annual events for your club, put some thought into what time of year makes most sense for your area. For example, US clubs may gain the most traction by timing this event in the fall, prior to the excitement of the holidays. International clubs would want to consider the school calendar and local holidays to determine the time of year that lends to the best availability for their member base.
Determine the Goal of your Event
Is the goal to attract and retain a larger member-base? If so, then making that transparent to attendees is the first step. In every communication, make the benefits of attendance clear to your audience. Why should they attend? What will they learn or how will they benefit from attending the event?
Obtaining a corporate sponsor for your event is a great way to increase your event budget while building corporate relationships for the club. Either gifts in kind (i.e. event space, catering, giveaways, entertainment) or direct funding sponsorship will help limit your expenses. PLEASE NOTE: When soliciting corporations please clearly indicate that you are asking on behalf of an alumni club and not the Wharton School.
Some tips for attracting sponsors:
- Show the value they will receive for sponsoring
- Provides visibility among Wharton alumni
- Goodwill with the community
- Opportunity to network with prominent alumni
- Options to buy a table at the dinner and offer seats to Wharton alumni at the corporation for employee appreciation
What Awards to Present?
Now that you have decided to create an alumni award event, what awards should be included? A great way to think about this is to align your awards with the priorities and initiatives of Wharton. Some examples of popular awards:
- Lifetime Achievement - For the Wharton alumnus who has had a positive impact on his/her industry and society as a whole over the course of his/her career
- Excellence in Entrepreneurship - For the Wharton alumnus who has proven success, sometimes from humble beginnings, and has become a change agent for his/her industry
- Social Impact - For the alumnus who has had the greatest impact in public service, social enterprise, or philanthropy
- Young Leadership - For the Wharton alumnus who, early in his/her career, has demonstrated the greatest potential for leadership and lasting impact
Volunteer of the Year - This award is for the person who keeps all the gears of the club turning and is a constant resource for club officers and alumni
Finding the Right Nominees for your Awards
Wharton graduates benefit from having one of the most influential alumni bases in the world. From recent graduates to more senior alumni, offering these Wharton graduates the opportunity to be recognized by their peers and fellow alumni is an extremely positive way to spread goodwill and momentum in your community. It is also a great way to increase visibility to your club by building relationships with key alumni stakeholders. Some ways to increase engagement with awardees is to present the following options up front when you are making the initial ask for them to accept the award:
- Ask award recipients to join your club’s Board of Overseers for a term
- Ask recipients to participate in the nomination process in subsequent years
- Ask recipients to attend the event next year, and present the award to their successor
- Add the Board of Overseers to your website to increase visibility
Your staff liaison can suggest alumni nominees in your city or country. PLEASE NOTE: Before approaching alumni, you must first obtain approval from the Global Clubs team by filling out the Alumni Award Request form found here. Your nominees will be vetted through our system and your staff liaison will revert back with the outcome. Please allow at least one month’s time to finalize award nominees with the Global Clubs Team. This should be added to your timeline to allow for proper planning.
Marketing Your Event
Now that you have an impressive lineup and list of recipients, it is time to start thinking about marketing your event to your alumni base. Below are some ways that you can encourage alumni to register early for the event:
- Market the event as a membership drive. Be clear on what types of expenses membership dues cover, and how it helps the club continue to operate. Offer special “member-only” pricing or even free for new members or renewed members during the marketing period.
- Offer an early bird pricing structure for those who register before a certain date.
- Offer a discount for guests of registrants, for example, “bring a friend and get 20% off your 2nd registration.”
- VIP Access - offer the first xx registrants entry into a drawing to attend a VIP reception with award recipients.
- Offer special “member-only” pricing to encourage alumni to become members of your club.
- Bundle deals - buy one, get in the next 2 events free of charge.
- Be sure to take photos at the event and market on your website and social media outlets
- Send out a post event thank you to non-members and offer them another opportunity to become a member at a reduced price: “We hope you enjoyed attending our flagship event. As a thank you for attending, we are offering an opportunity for you to become a member at the reduced price of xx so that you can continue to enjoy the quality events hosted by the Wharton Club of x.”
8 months out: Create a planning committee among your officers, past awardees, board members, or any combination that works for your group.
- Confirm timing for your event, search for a venue, start to obtain quotes and finalize your budget.
- Create a sponsorship outreach plan.
- 7 months out: begin to discuss awards and nominees. Work with your staff liaison for suggestions. Fill out the Alumni Award Request form found here. Your nominees will be vetted through our system and your staff liaison will revert back with the outcome.
6 months out: Once nominees are confirmed with the Global Clubs team, reach out to your nominees to extend the invite.
- If the nominee accepts, confirm whom from their team you should be conferring with for logistics.
- Keep them up to date with schedule, timeline for the evening, expected remarks length, who the presenters will be.
3 months out:
- Send a “Save the Date” to your member base.
- Create a detailed timeline for the event that includes minute to minute transitions on stage, presenters, timing for food service, etc. Enlist a member of your planning committee to manage the timeline leading up to and onsite.
- Confirm all vendors including photographers, florists, caterers, giveaways, etc.
2 months out:
- Send out your full invitation to your member base. Offer incentives for early bird purchases.
- Use the Wharton Officers listserv to promote your event to the wider Global Clubs Network: email@example.com
- Work with your staff liaison to determine if they or other members of the school administration can attend by offering “comps” for school officials.
- Continue to keep your nominees appraised of any changes in program, planning, etc.
1 month out:
- Depending on registration numbers and capacity, think about ways to cross-promote with other Penn/Wharton clubs and ivy-clubs (if relevant).
- Day of event: During remarks, remind your alumni base about the power of the Wharton network, and how and why this event is important to everyone in the room.
- Post event: Continue to encourage club membership to attendees who may not have become a member. Create incentives for these members to join your club.