Here’s to the Volunteers!

19 June 2017

Here's to the Volunteers!Carls help Carls. These three words are more than a catchphrase — they’re the secret to Carleton’s success.

Carleton’s standard-setting volunteer culture traces its roots to the late 1980s and early ’90s, when a group of alumni partnered with President Steve Lewis to strengthen an alumni-owned annual fund and a strong reunion program that would keep alumni more connected to the college. Those efforts have produced attendance topping 2,700 at recent Reunion weekends and cemented Carleton on U.S. News & World Report’s top-10 list of most loved schools (on the basis of alumni giving) for more than a decade.

But the success didn’t stop there—once Carls get engaged, they don’t stop looking for ways to help. Carleton volunteers reach out to prospective students; partner with the Career Center to offer students advice, professional connections, and internships; talk to students about research, graduate school, or jobs via their major departments; foster community and diversity through the Multicultural Alumni Network and Out After Carleton; discuss shared interests with other Carls in their hometowns; and serve on committees that assist with campus governance and strategy. 

Catie Gardner ’10, associate director of alumni relations, says Carleton’s remarkably robust alumni and parent volunteer programs are the envy of our peer institutions. “ ‘What are you doing?’ they’ll ask. ‘How are you drawing thousands of people back for Reunion? How are you getting such high giving rates? And why are alumni willing to host students in their homes for two to three weeks at a time [for winter break externships]?’ ” she says.

For Gardner, the answer to those questions is the same as her explanation for how she let a two-year “starter job” right after graduation morph into a career she can’t imagine leaving: “Every institution has the heart-blood of what makes it unique,” she says. “For us it’s the investment Carls have in each other. I can’t imagine a community that brings more joy.”

All those volunteer hours have made an incredible impact. For example, Alumni Annual Fund data shows that alumni are twice as likely to make a gift when asked by a classmate. Plus, volunteers provide some services that staff members simply can’t offer—like networking opportunities inside a specific industry or tips for recent grads who’ve just moved into a new city about how to navigate their new home.

“I’m here to give volunteers the tools and support they need to succeed because it’s their vision that will lead Carleton into the future,” says Gardner.

“It’s never too late to start volunteering for Carleton,” she says. “No matter where you are in life or how much time you have to give, we’d be delighted to have you.”