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A Note from Archie
A NOTE FROM ARCHIE

 

A Note from...

Archie Griffin, President/CEO,
The Ohio State University Alumni Association, Inc

 

 

 

PAYING FORWARD

04/24/09
Stepping up to the challenge of leadership


One of the best blessings of my life is the fact that I’ve encountered so many people who showed me what true leadership is all about.

From my youngest days until now I’ve come in contact with a number of role models who showed me the necessity of strong leadership. Some of those people would be familiar names to you (Woody Hayes immediately comes to mind) but others are not quite as well known.

Still, whether they were famous or not the best leaders I’ve met shared some very similar traits. All were good at setting goals but even better at crafting the plans that helped you achieve those goals. All understood the interpersonal dynamics that can make or break a project or team. And all had the consistent focus you need to stay the course even when things look bleak.

These elements are things I’ve put to use since I took over leadership of the Alumni Association. We set the ambitious goal of being the biggest and best alumni organization then put together a strategic plan to direct those efforts. And while I can’t say that we have yet achieved the goal of being the biggest, I am confident in saying that we’ve moved much closer to being the best.

Today, we offer more programs and services than we did in the past. Our online capabilities have improved immensely and will continue to progress in the coming months. We truly feel that we are putting the pieces in place to make some major transformational jumps in the next few years. At the same time, we recognize that we can’t be satisfied with progress. Satisfaction can lead to complacency, and we will never be a complacent organization under my watch.
So what does this mean to you?

I understand that guiding clubs and societies presents even more challenges from a leadership perspective. Our constituent groups are powered by the spirit of togetherness and volunteerism, but members are not being paid for their efforts. This presents a challenge to the leaders of these groups. How do you keep people engaged and focused in efforts that may lack a tangible personal benefit?

First, I think that it is necessary to recognize the common bond that brings us all together. One thing all Buckeyes have in common is a great love of Ohio State. We all want to see our university grow and improve. Much like I have the goal of being the biggest and best alumni association, President Gee wants to see Ohio State rise to a position of eminence in the world of academia. We can all play a role in that effort and being organized makes that impact even more powerful.

I also think there’s a great deal of importance in goal-setting. Your group should have a clear goal or goals that all members are working together to achieve. Whether it’s to raise scholarship money, advocate for the university, or recognize tremendous faculty members, your group should have a clear goal in mind. Activity for activity’s sake is great, but purposeful activity is more valuable.

Lastly, I think that there must always be focus on growth that starts from leadership. All of our constituent groups have Ohio State alumni audiences they’ve yet to reach. It is up to you to help find these people and get them engaged. No Buckeye should even be able to say that no one has reached out to them. That would be an opportunity missed.

The challenge of leadership is clearly not an easy one to meet. Nothing worth anything is. At the same time, our university has given you the tools to lead effectively. I know you can do it.

11/07/08

When I joined the Alumni Association as president and CEO, the first thing I did was establish our vision of being the biggest and the best alumni organization in the world.

That vision contains two specific challenges.

Being the best is something that is something our staff aspires to each and every day. It is a charge to seek ways to change, innovate, and expand. I want my staff to challenge assumptions and never accept that the way that we’ve always done things is the way that we should always do them.

I think that we’ve lived up to this challenge. Today, we offer more programs, raise more scholarship money, and have a better view of our members than ever before. When we can directly affect and improve the worth of a membership in the Association, we live up to this challenge.

The second part of our vision is being the biggest. Simply put, we want to have more dues-paying members than anyone else. The Association draws a great deal of its operating resources from membership revenue, so the more members we have, the better and richer benefits we are able to offer.

The value of a membership is something that we talk about every day in our organization. In fact, our third strategic goal speaks directly to this conversation. It reads: We will become the biggest dues-supported alumni association by demonstrating exceptional service and indispensable value. Those last two phrases are very important to me. They suggest that we won’t become the biggest by happenstance. Rather, we offer so many valuable benefits that you’d be selling yourself short by not joining.

We hope that all alumni view membership in the Association as a valued part of their complete Buckeye experience. And I have no doubt that many do feel this way. I have heard from countless members who’ve joined because they feel indebted to Ohio State and want to continue to help their university. This was the prime reason I joined—I wanted to pay forward for the university, and I knew that the Alumni Association was deeply engaged in furthering the Ohio State’s mission. To me, joining was an easy choice.

For others, it is not quite as easy. In these difficult economic times, budgets are tight and many people are looking for value when they plunk down the money to join an organization. Although it may not be quite as straight forward as an out-and-out quid pro quo, many members want to know that their $65 will bring them at least that much in return. This is understandable. If it is indeed our goal to offer exceptional service and indispensable value, reaching that $65 benchmark should not be that difficult.

So I decided to take a closer look at our benefits of membership to see what is included. Are we providing the dollar-for-dollar value that makes it a no-brainer for someone to join?

What I did is look at four benefits that a member could potentially use. If I bought $100-worth of merchandise at Buckeye Corner, my membership would get me a $10 rebate. If I wanted to wear that new gear to a Blue Jackets game, my membership would get me 20 percent off of two tickets, a savings of $20 for some pretty good seats. If I used our 20 percent discount at Brooks Brothers on a $100 purchase, I’d save another $20. And if after these purchases I decided to take a Spanish course through Ohio State’s Continuing Education Office, my membership would get me an $18 savings.

On those four purchases combined, I would have saved $68, which would exceed the $65 cost of an annual membership. And this only takes into account four of the more than 40 benefits we have listed on our site. It also doesn’t take into account the fact that members receive six copies of Ohio State Alumni Magazine each year, and subscriptions to a bi-monthly magazine can cost between $15 and $25.

As you can see, I believe we can make a strong case that a membership in our Association is worth each and every penny. When you pile the intangibles on top of it and factor in the work we do to make your university stronger, I frankly think that joining is a no-brainer.

Of course, this does not mean we are ready to rest on our laurels. As I mentioned early on, being the best means you are constantly striving for ways to improve. To that end, our staff continues to seek ways to add value to a membership. We have some very good ideas about how we can improve and grow in the next few years and we’re working diligently to bring those benefits to reality.

I am truly excited about the way our organization is positioned for the future. There is no doubt in my mind that we have some fruitful and bright days ahead.

When I came to the Alumni Association four years ago, one of the motivating factors for me in taking this job was the fact that it would give me chance to pay forward for future generations of Buckeyes.

As many of you may know, the concept of paying forward has been one of the bedrock principles that I’ve used in my life. My college football coach Woody Hayes was a firm believer in this idea and it was something I heard him preach and watched him practice. Coach Hayes got the idea of paying forward from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on Compensation. Emerson wrote, “You can pay back only seldom. . . . You can always pay forward and you must pay line for line, deed for deed, and cent for cent.”

These words have always been impactful for me, particularly because I can look back at my life and recognize that any accomplishment I achieved came in part because of the efforts of others. I consider myself an example of how paying forward can help advance a life.

This is why so many of our efforts at the Alumni Association are devoted to paying forward. It is why we decided to support the Recovery School District in New Orleans, an effort that to date has raised nearly $70,000 for kids in need. It is why we decided to make our Alumni Cup golf outing benefit our scholarship endowment, an idea that has led to more than $50,000 in scholarship funds being raised. And it is why I take tremendous pride in the fact that our clubs and societies raise more than $400,000 in scholarship funds each year.

Everywhere you look, you can find ways that the Association, our members, and our constituent groups are paying forward. You probably don’t have to think very hard to come up with ways that your group is helping to do the same. That makes me extraordinarily proud.

The idea of paying forward is also one that is clearly on the mind of Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee. I had to smile when I saw his list of six strategic goals and got to goal No. 5, which is “Commit to our Communities.” President Gee recognizes that Ohio State and its alumni do not exist in a vacuum. We are all part of a broader community and being active in these communities is so very important.

This is the type of work that you and your group are doing on a regular basis. You’ve taken a leadership role, which is something that we take note of here at Longaberger Alumni House. So keep the faith, keep up the good work, and let’s keep paying forward to ensure that others will enjoy a bright future.

 


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