I’m a Loyal Scot…..So Now What?

If you’re an alumnus/a of Carnegie Mellon or a student/administrator/faculty, you’ve probably heard of the Loyal Scot program. It’s a program designed to increase alumni participation and outreach. To become a Loyal Scot, you must:

  1. Update your contact information to stay informed
  2. Get involved (volunteer, attend events, etc.)
  3. Give back, i.e. donate some money
  4. Show your pride by wearing the CMU logo, liking CMU on Facebook, etc.

Once you’ve done all this, you’re a Loyal Scot. And what does that get you?

A pin.

....and a vaguely accusatory letter implying I'm a zombie, communist, or Justin Bieber Fan.

….and a vaguely accusatory letter implying you’re a zombie, communist, or Justin Bieber Fan.

That’s it. The problem with this is it’s entirely unclear what this gets you or what you’re supposed to do with it. Imagine a rewards program for a credit card where you get “Ultra Gold Platinum Level” after spending $20,000. Then they send you a letter and a pin. And you’re wondering what you get besides bragging rights.

Now, I support CMU. I went there twice (Chemical Engineering ’93, MBA ’03). My wife went there (Biology women at CMU are awesome). My nephew went there (another ChemE stud). A friend from high school went there. Most of my “adult” friends are people I met at Carnegie Mellon. My wife worked there, and several current friends work there. I’m always up for a CMU/MIT throw down over who’s geekier. I’ve volunteered for CMAC (Carnegie Mellon Alumni Council) where I’ve interviewed prospective students. (I’ve actually gotten upset when they haven’t admitted someone I thought would be great.) I’ve helped with move in, and I’ve volunteered for Management Game as a board member several times. And I’ve obviously tossed them some George Washingtons since I’m a Loyal Scot.

But if this program is designed to encourage me and others to become more involved, it’s highly ineffective. When I’ve explained it to others, the inevitable questions are a) “So….what do you get for it?” and b) “Well, couldn’t someone just claim to do all that stuff?”

Beyond a pin and the right to truthfully state I’m a Loyal Scot, there’s nothing. And anyone could say he/she is one. If challenged with the lack of a name on the CMU website for it, one could just state one took advantage of the offer to withhold a name from the list.

Now, I understand CMU wants to encourage more alumni participation. Andy’s place has only been around for a short time relative to more well known places like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, etc. The alumni base (and endowment that partially results from the base) is consequently much smaller.

But the Loyal Scot program doesn’t really do anything. I can shout “I’m a Loyal Scot” and another alumnus/a could say, “Well, I bleed plaid.” Another could say, “I’m a tilted square, dudes!” We’d all sound the same.

What CMU needs to do is add something that people like and will work for. I’m talking swag and bragging rights….real bragging rights.

How can CMU do this? My wife had the genesis of a great idea: Like a rewards program, let alumni earn points. Alumni can then cash in those points for cool stuff and the chance to brag with it.

Here’s how it works:

You must do the four things above. Update your information, get involved at least once, slide CMU some cash, and show your pride. (The last one is actually a gimme if you read the details of the current program.)

For each of these, you get some points. Say 10 points for each non-monetary action. For the money, you get a point per dollar.

Now, for everything extra you do, you get more points. Interview a student? 10 points. That student is admitted and matriculates? 50 points, dude! Volunteer for an event? 10, 20, or 50 points, depending on the event and what you do. Slide some more cash? A point per dollar. Maybe during a fundraising event, they give bonus points. Contribute $100, get 300 points. Get a fellow alumnus/a to sign up and become a first time Loyal Scot with you as the “recruiter”, and they slip you 100 points.

Ok, so you’re flush with points. What now? Trade them puppies in for cool things:

    100 points: T-shirt only available to Loyal Scots
    150 points: Cool mug only available to Loyal Scots
    300 points: Sweatshirt only available to Loyal Scots
    500 points: Free admission to alumni event up to a $50 value
    750 points: Sweet pen set with CMU logo stuff on it
    1000 points: Free taco Tuesday dinner with the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs (the one on the right)
    Edit: 1500 points: A kilt with Tartan colors (credit to fellow alum Chris Stengel for the idea)
    2000 points: Autographed picture of Subra Suresh
    5000 points: Autographed picture of Subra Suresh in a thong…..ok, maybe not. But you never know

But it doesn’t stop there. Put up a website with a leader board. People who place first for points earned during a period can get bonus points. Top point earner for the LA chapter during the first quarter of 2013? Here’s an extra 100 points. Have competitions among the chapters. If your chapter earns the most collective points for a year, everyone who earned a minimum value (say 100 points) gets an extra 10%.

And use all that social media stuff. Top earner for a month? Tweets and Facebook posts from CMU pointing out how awesome and cool you are.

This system would greatly encourage and increase participation. The cost is minimal. T-shirts, mugs, sweatshirts, towels, etc. can be bought cheap. Plus by making special ones only available to Loyal Scots, you create both scarcity and exclusivity. “Hey, where can I get a cool sweatshirt like that?” “Loyal Scots, my friend.”

Plus, you can roll out the misty eyed nostalgia stuff. I’d kill for a tilted square t-shirt or sweatshirt.

So there you have it. A rewards program that encourages alumni to get involved, spread the word, and throw some cash CMU’s way. The points and rewards could all be tweaked, but at the very least, it should be structured so that the minimum gets you a shirt every year….and when alumni see all the extra cool stuff they can get, they’ll be encouraged to earn and save points for exclusive CMU swag….

….because even though I hate bobbleheads, a bobblehead Andy Carnegie available only to Loyal Scots would totally rock on my car’s dashboard.

Edit (2/10/13): You know what this program also needs? A system where Loyal Scots can award points to other Loyal Scots. Say CMU wants to have a contest called “Show Us Your Plaid” where CMU alumni show themselves with CMU stuff all over the world. (If you’re a member of Steeler Nation, this is like those great fans that show themselves with Terrible Towels in front of famous places/monuments/etc.) Each current member of the Loyal Scots gets something like 10 points to assign. They can assign them all to one person or spread them amongst people. Set up a website where people post pictures of themselves with CMU stuff and Loyal Scots award the points. Think of all the cool things that would happen. It’d be awesome to see some alumnus/a with CMU shirt in front Skibo Castle. I’d definitely award some points to that person! You just know that some devoted alumnus/a would be angling to get a picture with the President with Scotty.

  1. #1 by Joan Steven on February 11, 2013 - 7:09 pm

    I am the parent of a CMU graduate and just send a few bucks every year to the library. Am I a loyal Scot? Why would you want to waste the money I send you to send me a t shirt or invite me to an alumni event when I am not an alumni.

  2. #2 by Tinkering Engineer on February 11, 2013 - 7:14 pm

    As I understand it, the Loyal Scot program only applies to alumni, not to anyone else. Thus, you would not be eligible for participation in the program I outlined.

  3. #3 by Andy Shaindlin on February 12, 2013 - 7:03 am

    Great post, on a topic near and dear to our hearts (I oversee alumni relations, including the Loyal Scot program at CMU). I’ll post a longer comment later with more detailed thoughts, but for now wanted to say “thanks” for the creative commentary and criticism/ideas. Also, wrt to the comments above, CMU students and alumni are the people eligible for Loyal Scot recognition.

  4. #4 by Andy Shaindlin on February 13, 2013 - 8:48 pm

    Hi again from the alumni office… Thanks for supporting CMU in all the ways you describe. We appreciate (and need) the support you’ve provided, in all its forms! And thanks again for the comments and ideas about the Loyal Scot program. As you might guess, students and alumni ask pretty often, “What do I get?” when we talk about being a Loyal Scot. Thing is, it’s not a group that someone can join, or an association that administers “benefits.” Lots of universities have those for alumni. Loyal Scot is not a rewards program. It’s simply a way for CMU to recognize support from engaged alumni and students.

    Regarding whether someone could just claim to do the things the Loyal Scot program recognizes, the short answer is, “No. No they couldn’t.” We actually track three of the four “pillars” of Loyal Scotdom: donating, attending/volunteering, and keeping updated contact info. The fourth thing, “Showing your CMU pride,” is something we won’t know about. We don’t really want to have to follow people around and see if they’re sporting their CMU hoodie. So as you indicated, that’s a gimme. If you do the first three things (the ones we track), we pretty much assume you’ll be a good ambassador for the university.

    I really liked your ideas about “swag and bragging rights.” And we’ve considered the points idea before. I’m a very frequent flier and take full advantage of my hard-earned miles whenever I can. Thing is – buying a plane ticket is just that: pay to play. It’s a transaction. Our goal with Loyal Scot is that over time – maybe a long time – “Loyal Scot” will become known as much more than “something you do” to get rewards. It will become known more as…a part of who you are. Your CMU identity.

    Call us dreamers! But we see Loyal Scot as the kind of thing that a future CMU student will hear about, understand, and embrace. And then she’ll graduate, and be an alum (forever). And she’ll volunteer to help CMU, will donate (even a modest amount) annually, and will keep us updated with contact info. Oh, and she’ll wear that hoodie. She’ll be a Loyal Scot because of stuff she wanted to do anyway – even if there weren’t a name for it. Stuff that alums have been doing for a long time, because they support the university’s goals of educating top notch students, and doing useful cutting-edge research.

    About the t-shirts. We actually provided t-shirts to first time Loyal Scots, and whenever we appeared with them at an event, people would come over and try to buy a t-shirt. But anybody can *buy* a t-shirt. Only students and alumni who help CMU in the ways we’ve described can be recognized for doing so. And Loyal Scot is the way we recognize them. Not competitive, not redeemable for (much) swag, but a sincere effort by CMU to say “thank you” by recognizing your connection. Like a plaid Honor Roll. Or something.

    I do want to say, some of the things you mention are totally doable and would be fun, even without a Loyal Scot program – like people posting pictures of themselves with CMU gear in interesting places worldwide.

    Oh, one other thing…the Andrew Carnegie bobblehead is pretty much pure genius. I can’t stop thinking about that…That is going to happen.

    OK, that’s enough. Thanks again for the commentary!

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