Advice for Alumni Groups

Advice for Alumni Groups

Looking for advice on running a Group? All the information you need is here. If you still have questions, our team will be happy to assist.

The Cambridge alumni community is a truly extraordinary global network. Our alumni are the University’s greatest advocates and ambassadors, and our volunteers are a source of great pride to Cambridge.  

With over 300 Groups, serving over 215,000 alumni, this is the furthest-reaching alumni network of any university in the world and we are deeply committed to building strong and enduring relationships with this global community. Our network of volunteer Groups is this community’s cornerstone. 

If you would like information on starting an Alumni Group of your own, please read our guide here and contact the team. We have collated everything you may wish to know about setting up and running an Alumni Group below. This includes content to help you with specific queries about running and maintaining a Group.

Resources have been developed with newly-formed Groups in mind, but some long-established Groups may find the information helpful when a new committee takes office and is thinking about reviewing the activities of the Group.

Together we strive to continue to strengthen the worldwide Cambridge alumni network and support for Alumni Groups. As such we would be delighted to hear your ideas as to how we can best support your Alumni Group.

The relationship between Alumni Groups and the University is a formal agreement between both parties.

The University and Alumni Groups work together to ensure mutually beneficial outcomes for both parties. In order for this to happen, we ask new Alumni Groups to complete an application form, and for all Groups to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU outlines how the University and Alumni Groups can best work together, establishing expectations for both the University and the Group in order to secure a bilateral and supportive relationship.  

We feel that it is beneficial for Groups and the University to understand and recognise the relationship they are entering once they become officially recognised:  

  • the University relies upon Alumni Groups to act in the best interests of the University, as its key ambassadors, advocates and supporters for Cambridge
  • the University has the discretion, at all times, to remove an Alumni Group should they act in a way that could be construed as prejudicial to Cambridge
  • the University has no responsibility for the financing of Alumni Groups, however, the Development and Alumni Relations Office can offer funding through the Alumni Groups Grant Scheme
  • the University is not able to intervene in disputes between alumni, or between alumni of other universisites
  • Alumni Groups are independent entities and are responsible for their own governance

Memorandum of Understanding

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been created to define the relationship between the University and its officially recognised network of Alumni Groups. Official recognition is granted to an Alumni Group upon agreeing to the terms, expectations and standards outlined in the MoU. 

To become an officially recognised Alumni Group of the University, the Group must agree to and sign the Memorandum of Understanding. In return, the University provides a range of services to support and promote the activity of officially recognised Alumni Groups. You can find out more about the services the University provides for Groups on these pages. 

Licence agreement 

In addition to the MoU, Groups can sign a licence agreement that allows them to use a specific logo containing the University name and crest. For Groups that have signed the MoU and the licence agreement, we can create a special recognition mark that all recognised Alumni Groups can use as they see fit. 

The University’s coat of arms is a valuable asset and for this reason, the logo and coat of arms are registered trademarks. The University, therefore, reserves the right to contact any Alumni Groups who are using these trademarks inappropriately or without permission and either ask them to remove them from their branded materials or provide guidance on the correct use.

Advice for helping you decide on the format of your Alumni Group

The University doesn’t require a specific format for Groups, however, new Groups may wish to consider the following definitions:    

Society or Group  

A Society or Group focuses on supporting alumni in their region or special interest and have a committee of volunteers helping to run the Group. These Groups usually offer three or more events per year and work as an active partner of the University, supporting their initiatives. A Society or Group are able to make use of the services available from the Alumni Engagement team.  We would generally want a Group to have at least 50 contactable alumni within the region and/or area of interest.

Area Convenors or Representatives  

Usually, in cities or regions with a smaller number of alumni, Convenors may act as a source of advice and recommendations for alumni and University members who may be moving to or visiting the area.  

All recognised Groups must support the objectives and safeguard the reputation of the University.

Membership  

The University’s nature is to be as inclusive as possible and to welcome not only alumni but also friends and supporters to take part in its activities.  

These might include: 

  • partners and family of Cambridge alumni 
  • staff and former staff of the University 
  • parents of current Cambridge students 
  • visiting academics and scholars 

Alumni Groups are encouraged to follow the same principle when determining their membership criteria, however, the key principle is to enable those who feel a close connection to the University to enjoy alumni activities.  

The University requires each Group to nominate a Primary Contact who should be in regular contact with the Development and Alumni Relations office. They are responsible for keeping the University informed and up to date on the activities of the Group. 

View potential roles you could have within your Group

A constitution can help provide a framework and clarify the purpose of your Alumni Group

It is recommended that Groups create and agree on a constitution in order to help provide a framework and this should be made available to all members.   

A constitution can also help to clarify the purpose and objectives of the Group. It can be useful when setting out formal procedures for dealing with any issues that may arise, and also provide a structure for succession planning.   As a minimum it is recommended to include the following:  

  • Name and remit of the Group  
  • Object / purpose of the Group  
  • Membership criteria  
  • Subscriptions  
  • Resignation of members  
  • Officers  
  • Terms of service  
  • Management of the Group  
  • Meeting information  
  • Quorum  
  • Notices  
  • Amendments of rules  
  • Dissolution  
  • Disputes and expulsion of members  

Further information and examples can be provided to Groups on request.  

General advice to help Groups be self-sufficient with their finances, insurance and risk assessments

Finances

Groups are entirely self-financing and do not pay any fees to the University. It is up to each Group to choose how they finance their activities: some charge annual membership or a one-off joining fee, while some Groups choose to add a small amount to their event ticket prices. 

We advise Groups to keep a written record of all their income and expenses, together with a balance sheet. You may wish to nominate or recruit a member with experience in handling basic accounts to act as Treasurer. Many Groups have their own bank account for dealing with income and expenditure related to Group activities. It is recommended that Groups have more than one signatory to Groups funds, and that access is handed over as committee members change. 

Groups who choose to charge annual membership or a one-off joining fee may wish to consider the following when determining an appropriate fee:  

  • The cost of any key communications or website fees  
  • Average expenses for guests speakers, including travel, accommodation and subsistence  
  • Subsidised events e.g. Fresher’s Events  
  • Discounts you may wish to offer e.g. reduced ticket prices for students and recent graduates  
  • Contributions to financial award schemes that the Group currently runs or may wish to set up
  • We advise Groups that charge a membership or joining fee to make it clear to members how these funds are used. It is also sensible to highlight any benefits associated with becoming a paid member of a Group e.g. discounted tickets for Group events, or the opportunity to vote at the Group’s Annual General Meeting.  

We recommend that Groups try to run their events on a break-even basis, meaning pricing tickets at around the cost of the event. Groups may decide to subsidise certain events, especially Freshers’ Events, and therefore may choose to slightly increase the cost of other events in order to support these subsidised activities.  

Membership or joining fees and event ticket prices should generally be kept to a reasonable level in order to make Group events as accessible as possible.  

Recognised groups are eligible to apply for additional financial support through the Alumni Groups Award Scheme. This is designed to support Groups that would like to try a new activity in order to attract a new audience, or for events that otherwise may not happen. Please note that Groups wishing to apply to the Grant Scheme must have a Group bank account.

Insurance 

As each Alumni Group is legally independent of the University, Groups are not covered by the University’s public liability insurance. It is recommended that Groups investigate whether acquiring insurance is necessary. You may wish to consider insuring the Group’s assets and activities or insuring members of the committee against personal liability relating to issues such as negligence claims.

Risk assessments

The law doesn’t expect Groups to eliminate all risks but does expect you to manage them and protect people ‘as far as reasonably practicable.' This means completing a risk assessment for your activities, which helps you to identify and limit the risks where possible.   We can provide a risk assessment template on request.

Data protection recommendations for Alumni Groups, Clubs, and Societies

Following the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation that came into force on 25 May 2019, the following documents provide some guidance and recommendations for holding and processing members' data. Unfortunately, we are unable to share alumni data with Alumni Groups as alumni have not given their consent to this. 

Data protection recommendations for Alumni Groups

Download generic data protection statement template

Further information  

If you have general questions about data protection, please contact risk assessment template on request.

We are unable to discuss issues specific to a particular Alumni Group, Club, or Society.  The information and recommendations provided on this page are based on research we have undertaken to ensure the University’s compliance with relevant legislation. However, please bear in mind that these recommendations do not constitute legal advice.  

Benefits of using the enhanced online services

If you decide to use our online services and choose to use the University's online booking system for your events, you will be able to access the list of attendees for your event. You will also be able to export this information and add the participants to your mailing list.

From lectures to annual dinners, Group events provide the chance to reach out and connect with your Alumni Group

A varied events programme can help strengthen a Group’s membership by retaining existing members and attracting new members. Below are some event ideas that you could build into your Group’s calendar:

  • Academic – lecture or presentation by a visiting academic. Our new Speakers' Bureau service can help you source potential speakers for your events if required.   
  • Collaborative events – joint with another Group. This can include another Cambridge Alumni Group, or a Group from another institution e.g. Oxford, Harvard, Yale etc
  • Cultural – local museum tours, historic houses, gardens or art galleries  
  • Family – picnics, visiting a local park or family show  
  • Freshers’ events – for new students, engaging future alumni  
  • Networking – making connections and finding out more about career opportunities and experiences   
  • Outreach events – encouraging applications to the University  
  • Social – drinks receptions, informal dinners, events associated with prominent dates

University support 

  • All Group events can be listed on the University website
  • If required, you can request an email to be sent to alumni in your area to promote your event to an audience beyond your own mailing list

Tips for making our event stand out:

  • Keep the event title short and snappy
  • Provide a contact person who can assist with inquiries
  • Use a short informative description to attract people to book
  • Be sure to note if there is a cost for the event  
  • We recommend sending a reminder or 'last chance to book' email to members around 1-2 weeks before the RSVP date of the event  

Social networks are a great way to bring a Group community together and can be an excellent tool to reach new members

Two of the most useful channels for Groups to use in engaging with alumni both socially and professionally are:

Facebook 

  • Groups – Place for communication and for people to share common interests. They allow people to come together around a common subject matter. A group can be made private or public
  • Pages – This works as a public profile specifically created by organisations

LinkedIn – mostly used by active professionals, using the platform to keep in touch with their professional network 

  • Groups – Enable the Group to keep an up-to-date network of alumni. The Group would also be able to search and see alumni who live close by. 

If you have any questions about social media, please risk assessment template on request

Images and copyright  

Using images in your Group’s online materials makes them visually more appealing but it can be difficult if your Group does not have a budget to pay for images, which is a common way to establish that you have permission to use the picture from the copyright owner (i.e. a ‘licence’).

Unsplash and Stock Snap are both good examples of sites where images can be downloaded and crediting isn't required.

There is also a non-profit organisation called Creative Commons which has made licensing images without payment much easier by creating some standard licences describing the terms under which photographers, artists, designers, etc. are happy for a work to be used. 

For events, some venues may have approved images that can be used in your event marketing – this can be established by enquiring directly with the venue. 

Support from the Alumni Engagement team

The Alumni Engagement team provide a variety of services to support you in running your Alumni Group. You are welcome to access as many of these as you like.

To access the full list of services the Alumn i Engagement team can provide, please click here.

If you have a specific question that is not addressed, please contact us.

Get in touch with the Alumni Engagement Team