Sanford Johnson and Katie Steinour at Induction
Sanford Johnson ('03) and Katie Steinour ('11) at the Induction event for new corps members in fall 2016.

Building an Involved Movement

How do you keep leaders involved? Here's what's worked for us...
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Each year, Teach For America tracks how many of our alumni in Mississippi are actively involved in our movement—whether donating time or money directly to our organization, or supporting the work of our network of leaders across the state.

Historically, Mississippi has always had a strong alumni engagement. But last year, we had what alumni director Krystal Cormack (TFA-MS ’04) calls a “ridiculous amount of involvement”—78 percent—easily breaking the goals we set.

After almost two decades in Mississippi, Krystal says our alumni base has changed and matured—as people have made their way to leadership positions, where they have influence in many different spheres. That’s an asset, as it means our network of leaders sit in some pretty lofty places. It can be a challenge, too, as top leaders are busy folks, hard to keep involved.

So how to do it—how to keep leaders involved, even after their service is over? A few key lessons stick out from a successful year:

 

Plan (or leverage) big events

Last year, Teach For America celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary with a big summit in Washington, DC, which featured multiple days of discussion, development, and just plain fun. A large group of Mississippi alumni made the trip up north—many not just as participants but as presenters. That was the biggest event of the year, but not the sole event; local development summits for our corps members, as well as our annual marathon, gave alumni many fun ways to help out.

 

Prioritize the one-on-one

A huge part of the work of our alumni team is to sit down one on one with our alumni—to find out their goals, their strengths, and the sticking points we can help solve. Our alumni team puts a particular emphasis on alumni who are conducting a job search, giving feedback on resumes, and sifting through her mental list of in-state contacts to connect them with other helpful folks.

 

Know your community, inside and out

That’s all the more true in a state like Mississippi, big geographically but tightly knit with social and professional connections. The alumni team makes sure to know not only as many of our alumni as possible, but also leaders of other like-minded organizations across the state. These connections mean that in one-on-one meetings, our alumni directors are set to help all alumni be successful in the goals they are pursuing.

 

Provide various opportunities

Beyond one-on-one meetings, the alumni team works hard to provide resources and opportunities of many kinds: ongoing coaching for alumni who remain in the classroom; the new Delta State University Graduate Fellowship for alumni who aim to start social ventures; and summer fellowships for young alumni looking to connect with organizations in state.

 

Of course, none of this could have been accomplished without starting with such a strong group of leaders. Thank you to all of our alumni for your hard work and involvement over the past years—and please keep it up! We’ll be holding an alumni reunion on February 11, in Greenville, to coincide with the Mississippi River Marathon. If you’re interested in joining, please email emily.hawthorne@teachforamerica.org for more information.