A confidential "for internal audiences only" consultants report commissioned by Vice Chancellor of development and alumni relations Mike Leto using $24,500 of taxpayer funds discovered "Significant issues with respect to the UMass Amherst Alumni Association Board of Directors." The critique goes on to conclude "an in depth inquiry of volunteer issues and relationships would be strongly recommended in the near future."
UMass Amherst contributes $1 million annually to the finances of the Alumni Association which is independent of the University via a 501-(c) (3) non profit classification. The report found: "UMAAA's $2.3 million in revenues are significantly lower than all aspirational peers, who also have nearly twice the number of alumni."
UMass Amherst has 226,046 living alumni with almost half--110,562--residing in Massachusetts (with 46,000 of them in Boston).
In 2010 the alumni association switched from a $40 annual dues paying model to a "let them all in" model making virtually all UMass/Amherst grads members. At the time there were only 5,000 dues paying members or 2.2%, significantly below industry standard of 20% (+/-3)and well below the high water mark of 8,000 subscribing grads in 2001.
The report also sites 26,114 donating members but that figure represents anyone who ever donated to UMass for any reason most of them independent of the Alumni Association. That number (12.3%) comes closer to industry standard, thus demonstrating that, on average, UMass alumni do have affection for their alma mater.
The report also reveals a bloated bureaucracy with "more full time employee than either current peer."
Like the venerable Amherst K-12 public schools, it's not like all that extra money buys above average results: "Campus partners rated Alumni programs/events and campus partnerships as fair-to-average," even though "a higher percentage of expenditures is spent on programs and activities."
In an overview the report discloses the problems have been ongoing "for over a decade", and reaches the level of "dysfunctional," which creates an atmosphere where "there are no winners."
Bentz, Whaley, Flessner go on to recommend "visionary, respected, and energetic staff leadership" and to accomplish this the "executive director should flatten the management structure so that she has more operational oversight of the association and more knowledge of the staff operations."
The volunteer board of directors "must cease the in-fighting and hostility that has been described as its mode of operation of over a decade." Surprisingly the report does NOT recommend throwing money at the problem: "The UMAAA has sufficient revenue for an organization of its size and alumni population. Funding should be reallocated to support signature programming opportunities and reduce or eliminate funding for other programs."
The report was dated March 7, 2011.
According to a Daily Hampshire Gazette article dated March 23, 2011 the report was being kept "under wraps":
"Ed Blaguszewski, a spokesman for UMass Amherst, declined to comment on reports of conflict within the Alumni Association."
"Anna Symington, the association's executive director did not respond to Gazette written requests for comments on the report."
"Mike Leto, the vice chancellor for development and alumni affairs, did not respond to a message left with his office seeking comment on why the report was commissioned and what it found."
"Sean LeBlanc, president of the Alumni Association, said in an email message that he took part in a conference call in January with the consultant, but declined to say what was discussed. He added that he hadn't seen the report and did not know what it contained."
"Representatives with Bentz Whaley Flessner did not return phone calls from the Gazette seeking comment on the report."
A sanitized report was released on May 12, 2011 with very limited distribution
Fast forward to today:
Shorty after the consultants report was completed Executive Director Anna Symington suddenly retired. Sean LeBlanc was replaced by Ronald Grasso as president of the Alumni Association in an election with no other contestants, garnering about 20 votes out of 33 board members eligible to vote.
A former "disgusted" member of that upper echelon with "nothing good to say about the Alumni Association" reports wanting "to quit half way thru my term, and I refused to run for another."