Using Personal Stories to Reach Out to Alumni

by Kevin Martone, Technology Program Manager, JCamp 180

I recently picked up a copy of the Spring 2008 edition of the Amherst College Alumni magazine. The cover story was a profile of 15 different graduating seniors. Each profile included a picture and answers to a series of questions such as:

  • What activities have you been involved in while at Amherst College?
  • What will you do after graduation?
  • What's been your most defining experience of your four years at Amherst?

You can find these profiles online. Amherst College has also provided the option for ANY alumni to provide their own answers to the questions, to learn even more about their alumni and what they care about.

To make this their cover story is a big statement about the importance of these personal stories. Obviously the Amherst College Alumni Association feels that this information is a useful way to continue to build connectedness among their alumni.

I believe camps can harness the same power of the personal story.
One thing the camps truly have an abundance of is personal stories from their campers and alumni. Camp touches each camper in a unique way. Alumni, campers, and parents can all relate to these unique stories of camp experiences. These are stories that can and should be captured each summer. They can be captured as simple interviews with standard questions, as Amherst College did.

They can incorporate formal pictures (like Amherst) or candid pictures of the camper/alumni while at camp. They can even be shared online on the camp website and/or at video sharing websites like YouTube as short video interviews. Obviously permission to share the camper's information (from the parent and/or camper) must be granted.

No matter how the information is captured, it can be shared via the camp website, a camp blog, and/or an alumni eNewsletter.

There are many questions that could be asked of current campers and alumni about their experiences at camp. For example:

  • What is your favorite camp memory?
  • What is the greatest lesson you learned at camp?
  • Do you plan to keep in touch with friends from camp? How?
  • Etc.

There is a great side effect of this effort, too: Building connectedness with profiled campers before they even leave camp. Try it out and - as always - let us know about your successes and lessons learned.