Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

PSU Alumni: Why we sell grads' info to marketers

"Alumni who prefer not to take part may simply choose to do exactly that... We hope they will find the program financially advantageous"

Roger L. Williams, executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association, writes to explain why the group agreed to sell its 360,000-member mailing list to a Philadelphia-based electric-power marketer, and why he won't disclose terms of the deal. This is a follow-up to my item yesterday. Writes Williams:

"The Penn State Alumni Association is delighted to be in a new partnership with Energy Plus; it's an arrangement that we know will have tangible benefits for our alumni and for the Alumni Association.

"Some perspective: The Alumni Association is a non-profit entity, a 501c3. Notwithstanding that status, we are pretty much a tub on our own bottom, financially speaking, earning most of what we spend through various revenue-producing programs, such as this new one with Energy Plus.

"This financial underpinning is beneficial  not only to the Alumni Association but also to our University, as it is freed from the burden of having to support the Alumni Association entirely, as is the case at many other institutions that do not have dues-paying alumni associations.

"As you know, revenue programs ebb and flow, come and go, and so we are always looking for new ventures that will provide the financial underpinning we need to continue, and enhance, our service to alumni, students, and alma mater. We also know that in the years to come, the University will come to rely on us to do more, not less, and so we are in a constant struggle to find  the means to serve those ends.

"I am the Alumni Association officer charged with responsibility for administering our alumni records and lists. In the main, our policy permits use of those lists only for alumni- or student-related purposes and not for political or commercial purposes – with the exception of the Association's official corporate partners – such as Bank of America – that administer major revenue-generating programs for the Alumni Association.

"Because of the confidentiality clause in our agreement with Energy Plus, I cannot give you the information you seek.  But suffice it to say that we are looking to this program to provide substantial revenue to the Alumni Association as it builds out over the next several years. Other revenue programs and sources may not be reliable in the years ahead, due to changing conditions and circumstances, so we need to be ever vigilant to new opportunities such as those presented by Energy Plus.

"I would add that this is an opt-in program. Alumni who prefer not to take part may simply chose to do exactly that. For those who do opt in, we hope they will find the program financially advantageous, which is a big consideration for everyone in the current economic climate. In sum, we're offering, not forcing, this program to our alumni in the de-regulated states.

"We will continue looking for additional partnership programs in the months and years ahead, as the financial base they provide enables us to continue offering our programs and services to the benefit of our alumni, students, and alma mater."