Annual donor event makes a virtual pivot

Author: Linda Spice '89, M.Ed. '19

Published Date: 11/6/2020

Categories: Alumni


Old Main Society Virtual Event
Want to learn more about the Old Main Society or interested in becoming a member? Visit our website or contact Lindsay Schoettlin, Senior Advancement Officer for Annual Giving, by email, lschoett@carrollu.edu, or call 262.951.3018.

Inside the home of President Cindy Gnadinger and her husband, John, a crew assembled large monitors, cords, cables, and a connection to members of the Old Main Society (OMS).

An elegant affair that is usually held in person on campus during Homecoming & Reunion Weekend, the OMS dinner took a sharp pivot this year to a virtual format—like many other events under the crowd restrictions of COVID-19. The change did not deter the university’s faithful donors from joining the festive celebration, even if the only way to get there was through a screen this year.

Read more stories about how the Carroll University community has persevered through COVID-19 >

“Community is very important at Carroll University. We continually look to find new ways to bring our valued constituents together for meaningful engagement. The pandemic provided us an opportunity to pivot and look at our traditional annual event through a different lens,” said Katherine Bingham, Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations, who is responsible for orchestrating the details and logistics of several Carroll events, including the Old Main Society Dinner.

Livestreamed via Zoom, this year’s virtual OMS event drew a crowd of 200 attendees, roughly the same number of people who attend the annual event on campus. Of the 200, about one-third of the members marked their first OMS event with the virtual option attracting some donors from out-of-state who might not otherwise have an opportunity in other years to come to campus for the event. Members of the Old Main Society are individuals who give $1,000 or more to support Carroll on an annual basis.

“In these unpredictable times, it was wonderful to harness the technology that can bring our community together, whether they lived in California, South Carolina, New Jersey—or right here in Waukesha, Wisconsin,” Bingham said.

Bingham said it was important for Carroll to replicate the connections, conversations and celebrate the wonderful friendship and relationships that exist within the OMS membership.

Part of the plans in the weeks leading up to the event involved the creation of a decorative box containing small gifts that included a pin, chocolates, and champagne glass to be opened, used, and consumed during the event. Boxes were personally delivered to members' homes by staff from the Office of Institutional Advancement. The event featured live remarks from President Gnadinger, engaging stories from grateful students, and updates from campus as Carroll moves forward through the pandemic together. Attendees were also able to engage in conversation and ask questions and viewed videos that included stories from OMS members Glenn '58 and Gail (Ardis) Schilling ’60 as well as a “Thank You” from senior Jasmin Mateos ‘21.

“We wanted to provide the venue for people to connect and be part of the community.  Our donors are critical to our continued success and growth,” Bingham said. She shared that noted within Carroll’s Strategic Plan that the growth of Old Main Society membership is essential to “capitalize on opportunities, partnerships and experiences that strengthen and more definitively establish our role as a higher education leader in our region.”

Members who attended the event appreciated the opportunity to connect.

“I am still smiling this morning thinking about yesterday’s virtual meeting for the Old Main Society. It made me feel ‘connected' to see many of the familiar alums and staff. I have missed visiting them in person,” wrote Don ’71 and Tina (Anderson) Peters ’71. “The presentations were excellent in communicating the current status of the University, the impact on students, introducing Carroll’s new vice president for Institutional Advancement Victoria Dowling,  student engagement, and future plans for the campus. I am so proud of my alma mater!”

Bingham said the event helped Carroll to realize the value of integrating a virtual component into future programming in order to continue to engage people near and far.

“Many who have been sheltering at home or missed not being able to come to campus appreciated the fact that we extended the opportunity to still convene as a community despite these unpredictable times,” Bingham said.

Want to learn more about the Old Main Society or interested in becoming a member? Visit our website or contact Lindsay Schoettlin, Senior Advancement Officer for Annual Giving, by email, lschoett@carrollu.edu, or call 262.951.3018.

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