Three Years In: Homeward Still Has It

Posted more than a year ago.

Prior to 2012, none of us had ever heard of a little program called Homeward. In fact, the very idea of an alumni participation brand seemed crazy. Why would you invest time and money in a sphere of philanthropy that had seen two decades of nationwide decline, with next to no solutions or best practices to be found in the field?

You wouldn’t. The pitch for Homeward in 2012 was nuts. It’s hard to believe anyone let us do it.

But, looking back now, it’s equally hard to believe Homeward’s only three years old…that it’s new to our DNA. It has felt so natural, so fitting, so iconically OC from almost day one—and it has been so successful to boot—that Homeward has become a redefining, pacesetting brand for our team. We don’t go a day without talking about it.

Grad Givers 2015

I dream about Homeward. Seriously.

It all makes me think that maybe, just maybe, a little Homeward pride has always pumped in our Eagley veins (that’s what I call a Homewardism)—we were just waiting for someone to tap it.

Believe me when I say that other schools want to tap the magic, too.

They want to understand what you (our grads) did and why. According to the Council for Aid to Education’s annual survey, only 8.3 percent of graduates nationwide gave back to their alma maters in 2014. That’s down again from 2013 and from every year before that for more than twenty years. For the second year running, though, OC grads doubled the national average: 17.4 percent.

Like last year, that’s a stat no one even believes on first blush. I get blank stares, raised eyebrows, and questions that imply I’m bad with math problems.

“No, really, our participation isn’t going down.”

“Yes, those numbers are real.”

“No, you can’t have our grads.”

I truly believe we have the best graduates on earth. (And I guess I never learned to share.) How else would you explain the Homeward Pride: Club Competition, which helped bring in 807 new grad givers and raised $33,908 for student passion projects, including scholarship funds, mission trip efforts, clean water initiatives, and more? How would you explain the club pride of Psi Epsilon, whose graduates took the Homeward Pride mantle this year with an insane 57.5 percent participation rate?

And then there’s Homeward overall. 2,040 graduates giving this year. Up from 860 just a few years ago. Who does that?!

You do.

I was recently asked how I felt about missing the mark on our 2015 goal. We had hoped to break a new campus record with 2,300 grad givers. We were 260 shy. The person asking me wasn’t expecting devastation on my part, I don’t believe, but he wasn’t expecting a smile either. And that’s what he got.

I’m pushing cloud ten, actually. In 2012, all of us would have told you that inspiring 1,500 grad givers would be ambitious. Inspiring 2,000? Probably impossible. And yet you’ve done the impossible... twice.

We’ve set outlandish goals with Homeward precisely because you’ve proven the impossible possible. You’ve inspired us to aim incredibly high, to charge boldly into risky but worthwhile plans, to be a little crazy. And judging by our second straight year of doubling the national average, that ambition is paying off. I’m far from disappointed. In fact, I’m beyond proud.

Watch for more on Homeward 2015-2016 this fall. Until then, go ahead and bask in your awesomeness.

We love you.

-Will