Alumni Engagement & Giving with “Fantasy Reunion”
In the late 1950s, Oakland businessman Wilfred Winkenbach organized a contest for his friends and colleagues in which individuals selected a “team” of professional golfers and tracked their scores over a period of time. When the tournament ended, the team with the best score won. This was the earliest record of what’s known today as fantasy sports.
Online fantasy sports have exploded in recent years. Players assemble virtual teams of real professional athletes and compete based on the statistical performance of those athletes in actual games. Today there are over 57 million participants, as reported by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Players tend to be younger and better educated, and have higher household incomes than non-players, according to the Association. On average, participants spend over $556 each on league-related costs.
Johns Hopkins University came up with a way to capitalize on the fantasy sports craze, engage volunteers, and mobilize alumni to support class programs: Fantasy Reunion. Led by captains, alumni organized themselves into affinity-based teams of eleven and then earned points for participating in various activities including:
- Registering for reunion, with extra points granted for registering early or from out-of-state
- Donating to the reunion class gift campaign
- Providing information about participant interests and affinities
- Communicating with one another
Teams that earned the most points between mid-January and the end of March were awarded prizes (e.g., Apple watches, event tickets, swag). There was also a prize for the individual with the highest score. While most participants were motivated by the competitive nature of the activity, these extra incentives did a lot to keep people engaged and excited.
Fantasy Reunion proved to be a great way to engage volunteers, boost registrations, and encourage support for the university. And while nothing beats the personal interaction that former classmates experienced during reunion weekend itself, the fun and competition that was built online in the weeks and months beforehand definitely helped make the celebration even more successful.
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