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The 12 Laws of Alumni Programming

November 23, 2011
by Lorie Obernauer
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Before I started working at CeDAR, I was a business owner (a wholesale gourmet food business) and wrote a blog for that business. Although I no longer own the business, I was looking over some of my posts on that blog and saw something that I’d like to share in this new blogging world in which I travel.

Some time ago, a fellow who owns a delicatessen in Michigan wrote an article titled “The 12 Natural Laws of Business”. (If you’d like to read the full article, here’s the link.) The writer happens to be well known and respected in the gourmet food industry for his management training, staff development and customer service programs. In answer to a question he is often asked, (What Makes Your Business a Success), he postulated that there are certain organizational principles that consistently work, that these are “natural laws of business”, and these can work in any type of business.

So as I reread the “laws”, I decided that they also apply to the “business” of creating and running a great alumni program. Here are my “adaptations”: the 12 laws of alumni programming.

  1. Our alumni programs are more likely to be successful if we have an inspiring and strategically sound vision for all our alumni activities.
  2. If we don’t give alumni compelling reasons to participate in alumni activities, they won’t.
  3. If we don’t create a great, rewarding place for alumni to learn and grow, they won’t come back and do great work.
  4. If we want our alumni to learn to be of service to others, we have to be of service to them.
  5. If we want alumni to be successful in their recovery, we have to give them the practical, daily living skills to get there.
  6. Successful alumni programs do the things that others know they should do, but generally don’t.
  7. If we aren’t continuing to learn new ideas for alumni programming, we’re not going to have successful programs.
  8. Success means we get better problems—but there will always be problems.
  9. Whatever we’ve tried that seems to work well will probably uncover something else that needs to be fixed.
  10. It takes longer to make something great happen than people think. So keep trying: your alumni will respond.
  11. Great alumni programs are those where the people in them have more fun.
  12. Appreciate all those alumni from your program and appreciate them as often as possible.

Like the beliefs and behaviors that are part of successful recovery, these “laws” are simple, yet can be difficult to implement. What do you think? Do these “laws” apply to your alumni program?


Lorie Obernauer

Alumni Coordinator at CeDAR (Center for Dependency, Addiction & Rehabilitation, University of Colorado Hospital

Lorie Obernauer

Lorie Obernauer, PhD, is the Alumni Coordinator at CeDAR (Center for Dependency, Addiction...

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