The Indiana University Alumni Association takes pride in all that is Cream & Crimson. Their mission is focused on celebrating and supporting IU while bringing together all who share a love for the university. With 650,000 graduates and countless other IU fans, their membership base is strong and mighty, giving the IUAA team the challenging task of designing an experience that fits all.
The Indiana University Alumni Association hired us initially to facilitate the creation of a new five-year strategic plan. During our research, we learned that no matter what values and benefits IUAA offered, all alumni desired a personalized experience. With two core campuses and six regional campuses, chapters in cities across the globe, dozens of affinity groups, and staff and alumni from all walks of life, everyone wanted to engage with IU in their own unique way.
There were endless opportunities to serve and connect, but limited resources to pull it all off, and evolving wishes across generations of members. Like many membership organizations, they saw the writing on the wall. Today’s graduates aren’t ‘joiners’ like their parents’ generation. IUAA knew this meant looking at the differences and shared values of their 650,000 living alumni to find common ground.
To better understand audience needs and unique perspectives, we facilitated more than a dozen insight sessions with a cross-section of staff, volunteers, alumni, and students. One session with IUAA’s team focused on storytelling to uncover their core values – an essential task for any organization to consider before making significant changes. Choosing “inclusivity” as a value led to a revelation: charging for membership was the opposite of everything they believed in.
This awakening nudged our teams toward a precipice: creating a meaningful, personal network of alumni meant the membership experience would need a major redesign. This initiative, outlined in the new strategic plan, meant setting aside long-held beliefs and membership revenue models and diving deep into human-centered design research.
IUAA knew these changes would ripple out across the IU ecosystem—to those who raise funds, maintain the database, and process membership dues. This was an organizational pivot in both mindset and administration. To plan the initiative and ensure success, they assembled a membership experience team – a group of IU leaders representing the alumni association, the foundation, regional campuses, as well as key admin functions like IT.
Our job was to help them meet their strategic objectives with innovative experience design methodology—teaching the IUAA team human-centered design practices while also tackling a significant organizational challenge. In the end, we sought to deliver not just a new membership experience, but also a working knowledge of design thinking, including hands-on practice with empathy research, synthesis, ideation, prototyping, and testing methods.
To accomplish this, we customized our design thinking 101 workshop for the specific needs and goals of the IUAA membership experience project. Over the course of 9 months, we dove into the five steps of the design thinking process, teaching methods to the team and then working alongside them to plan their research and work.
Beginning with empathy research, we created a plan and set the IU team loose to immersing themselves in the current membership experience. With a vast and highly engaged social following, all we needed to do was ask. The team employed a variety of research methods to collect insights and alumni were incredibly generous, open, and creative in their responses.
After empathy research was completed and synthesized, we facilitated an ideation session with 60 of the most engaged member volunteers. Not only were we able to crowdsource ideas straight from our audiences, but we were able to create member buy-in for the organizational changes coming soon.
With additional ideation sessions, the membership team was soon loaded with research-backed ideas that they could move into prototyping and testing. Reimagining an entire membership program is no small task, and we’re so excited for the team as they work on a plan for rollout.
Stay tuned for more details on where they ended up – especially if you wear Cream and Crimson!