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Recruit One Hundred Class Agents

Most newly graduating classes at Williams have 30 or 40 class agents. Older classes often have fewer. This is a mistake. Williams would be much more successful in raising money (both in percentage and dollar terms) and in maintaining connections if we encouraged classes to have 100 agents.

First, it is very hard to recruit class agents after graduation. (Ask any Head Class Agent ever.) If you don’t recruit a 100 agents now, you will always, always struggle to have enough volunteers in later years.

Second, although it may seem like 40 agents provide good coverage for your class, that will change dramatically over the next 5 to 10 years. People scatter. Relationships fade.

Third, the biggest problem that class agents face is not in keeping in contact with the 300 or so members of every class that are the most committed to Williams. They are the easy ones! The problem comes with the 200 Ephs who are not, the ones who have a more standoffish relationship with the College, the ones who had a few close friends, rather than a wide network, the ones who never really clicked with a specific professor or class. Those 200 are the ones that you will have difficulty reaching in the years to come. This happens to every class, which is why alumni giving rates are only at 55%, and falling.

The only way to do better than 55%, the only way to get Person X to give if she is otherwise disinclined to give, is to have someone who knows her very well — someone that she is close friends with, someone she doesn’t want to say No to — do the asking.

The solution is to find many more agents now, while you have a chance, especially agents who are a part of small, isolated, social circles. You know those four women who lived together every year and don’t hang out much with other people? Make one of them a class agent now. You know those 6 male hockey players who loved Williams hockey but didn’t participate much in campus life outside their sport? One of them needs to be a class agent.

The beauty of having 100 class agents is that each agent is only responsible for 5 or so people. So, you have the manpower to connect with all sorts of people who, in other classes, don’t give to the College.

Recruiting 100 agents is hard, but identifying them should be easy. You want one from every entry. You want one from every sports team. You want one from every campus organization. (Of course, many agents will fulfill multiple rolls.) Most importantly, you want to identify the 200 people in your class who are least connected to Williams on graduation day. You want to recruit a roommate or close friend of these people now.

Many of these recruits will hesitate. They are busy. They don’t know that many people. So sell them! Point out that you need them to just cover these four or five people, just their best buddies. No need for them to reach out to strangers.

Organizing 100 class agents is hard as well. (And, weirdly, the Alumni Office does not recognize what a great idea this is.) You might try a single head class agent (a one year position), 10 associate agents (who would stay for five years, one of those years as head agent), and 100 or so regular class agents. Each of the 10 associate agents might be responsible for 10 regular agents, but each regular agent would only need to worry about 5 or so classmates.

But the exact organization does not matter much. The key is getting 100 class agents now, while you still can. Older classes should do the same, but the best time to start is senior spring.

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5 Comments To "Recruit One Hundred Class Agents"

#1 Comment By anon On May 7, 2019 @ 11:53 am

DDF, a really bad take. If the Head Agents could wave a magic wand and get more agents, they would. It is not a matter of lack of trying. Not to mention that there are considerable reasons why 80% of class agents are good friends with each other…

#2 Comment By Williamstown Resident On May 7, 2019 @ 3:45 pm

I would suppose that the 55% and falling number isn’t based solely on the number of class agents. Other factors likely apply as well, including:

1) Alums disenchantment with current state of the school.

2) Growing percentage of alums with Grievance Studies degrees who don’t earn enough to donate.

3) Alums originally from less wealthy families who weren’t raised in a home where charitable giving was the norm.

#3 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On May 7, 2019 @ 4:05 pm

Perhaps also a growing belief that given how much it costs as a student, additional donations after the fact are not necessary.

With respect to WR’s point (2) above, I would expect that someone would have information on how the current wealth/income of the alumni as a whole compares with the situation 20 years ago. Its possible that there are larger percentages with low(er) paying jobs, though I’m not sure there is evidence that these have particular types of majors (can’t agree with the characterization of these as “Grieveance Studies”)

#4 Comment By frank uible On May 7, 2019 @ 4:34 pm

Today’s Williams bears no psychic resemblance to psychic Williams of say 1957.

#5 Comment By Prefrosh On May 7, 2019 @ 6:51 pm

Williamstown Resident,

It’s important to note that:

1) Alumni donation rates are falling at nearly all schools. In fact, Williams has seen less steep declines (or at least ones that are equally steep) relative to its peer elites.

2) Statistically, this is not true. Economics is only becoming more popular as a major, and lucrative fields like computer science are exploding with interest (a figure of speech, but not an overstatement), possibly overtaking economics soon in the future as the most popular major. The heavy demand for computer science courses is actually a relatively big issue at the college, since the department is smaller. Math is popular too, as always, and stats is increasing in popularity as well. The biggest employer of Williams graduates is Google. Not sure where this idea that “grievance studies” (although I wouldn’t call them that) have suddenly become prevalent. In fact, it’s probably the opposite for most of the student body save for a few, as college becomes more expensive.

3) This may very well be true. Logically, it makes sense, although it isn’t Williams-specific.

I agree with WW that student loans may be the primary driver of declining donation rates.