Our Strategic Plan
Vision 2025: The Harvard Club of Toronto’s Renewal
Harvard Alumni in Toronto
Harvard University estimates there are 400,000 alumni around the globe. About 3,500 alumni live in the Greater Toronto Area, where they contribute their skills, talents, and energies in our local community, nationally and around the world. As proud Harvard alumni, they help to recruit new students, support recent grads and nurture fellowship, learning and community in Toronto – with a focus on Harvard University.
- The Harvard Club of Toronto (HCT or the Club) was established in 1904 and is one of the oldest Harvard Clubs in the world. The Club is reviewing its goals and activities to ensure its relevance to members and future sustainability.
- Club membership is fairly low relative to the numbers of alumni in the region. The HCT needs to (re)develop a value proposition to attract more new graduates, increase diversity and retain members.
- Executive members are devoted to the Harvard community. More volunteers, new ideas, additional resources, and a succession plan with defined roles could strengthen the Executive to ensure its future success.
- Activities changed significantly during COVID restrictions as most events were held via Zoom. Virtual events showcase Harvard University’s and others’ experts, increase flexibility, and reduce the costs of bringing together the Harvard community, while in-person social events, lectures, and networking receptions are a highly-valued feature of the HCT programming. The HCT should adopt the best of both approaches.
- Content of HCT’s programs should continue to reflect social and political changes in Canada and at Harvard University, emphasizing diversity, inclusion, and equity.
- The HCT could assist even more Harvard graduates with networks and organizational integration.
- The HCT could increase collaboration with Harvard entities to build community, leverage resources, and increase opportunities for members to connect and learn together.
The Harvard Club of Toronto (HCT) Strategic Plan was developed in 2019 following reflections by the President and Executive Board as well as a member survey and outreach. It built on the years of Club experiences and priorities that had been determined organically by previous HCT Presidents and Executive Board members.
Since March 2020 it was impossible to hold in-person events due to the pandemic stay-at-home orders, but many virtual events brought us together as a community. Alumni connected with Harvard University in a new way. In 2020, the US was challenged on race relations, equity, and justice. In Canada, we experienced our own social justice reckoning. We feel the HCT has a special responsibility to provide a forum to discuss ideas of social change and justice. Harvard alumni as well as the University itself are grappling with the obligations that come with the privilege of a Harvard education.
These are perennial challenges for the HCT and other alumni associations: we should improve communications, attract younger alumni, retain members, and host timely and relevant events with stimulating ideas. We should build on our history, through a bold and consistent vision and mission. The current context is leading us to make our commitments and values more explicit.
The Executive Board decided to update the Plan to reflect changes to HCT approaches to membership, programming, and attachment to the Harvard community. This is the “refreshed” version updated in September 2022.
Challenges and the member value proposition
The HCT faces several new, as well as long-standing, challenges that are common to many other alumni clubs. These have been identified as:
- Busy potential members with competing priorities and time pressures
- Low membership levels overall
- Low involvement of new grads
- Perceived affordability of fees for new grads
- Expectations about programs that exceed resources and capacity
- Potential members having a different view of “membership” (i.e., might prefer online communities)
- Volunteers over-stretched: fewer volunteers taking on more and bigger roles
- Focus too limited to Harvard topics, speakers, resources
- Sponsorships, partnerships: need to develop them through members’ contacts, networks
- Eliciting adequate support from Harvard Alumni Association for activities and outreach
- Supports the Schools’ Committee efforts for Harvard College recruitment and interviewing
- Builds on the success of Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) with partnership opportunities
- Partners with other Harvard clubs (across Canada, HBS, and others) where possible
- Encourages connections with Harvard of individual alumni and shares opportunities to be involved in what’s happening in Cambridge
Renewing the Harvard Club of Toronto
The Harvard Club of Toronto is a nonprofit volunteer-run organization whose vision is to create a life-long Harvard experience for Toronto-region alumni and other stakeholders by focusing on relationships, education, community-building, networking, and service.
The Harvard Club of Toronto strives to recruit and retain a range of members:
- New Harvard graduates who have recently moved to the GTA
- Harvard graduates already in the GTA
- Current HCT members
- Friends of the Club (benefactors and parents)
- Honorary members (persons who have provided special support to the HCT)
"Our mission is to provide meaningful opportunities for members of the Harvard Club of Toronto to increase authentic connection, to stimulate intellectual conversation, and to promote collaboration across generations, cultures, and disciplines to create a positive local and global impact."
"As leaders of the Harvard Club of Toronto, we will work together to provide opportunities for life-long learning, personal growth, and public service for our membership and communities."
Member value proposition
Members wish to join or remain part of the HCT because it provides the best option to reinforce their engagement with different Harvard communities for personal and career growth. The HCT provides members with opportunities to meet new people, deepen Harvard connections, learn together, and satisfy their curiosity about the city and region.
To support the Vision and Mission, the HCT Executive identified the need for a governance structure supported by concise by-laws, indicated positions, terms and role expectations. With an increase in members of the Executive, the HCT will adopt a new structure, with clearly defined roles and term limits:
- President: Two-year term. Focus on the future of the Club and the strategic plan implementation
- Past President: Focus on recruiting Executive members, with responsibility for governance and historical “wisdom”
- Vice President and Programming and Outreach Chair: possible successor to the President. Focus on annual “operational” issues, development of a two-year special event and educational calendar
- Assistant Chair, Programming and Outreach: Help the Chair implement education calendar, recruit event chairs. Possible successor to the Chair (with event champions/ committees)
- Membership, Partnerships, and Alliances Chair: Focus on attracting new members and retaining older members; Recruits mentors from established career members
- Treasurer and Sponsorship Chair: Maintain the financial integrity of the Club and establish sponsorships
- Schools’ Committee Chair
- Schools’ Committee Vice Chair
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair
- Ad hoc committees (as needed)
Bold and ambitious goals
The HCT is a volunteer-led organization that must balance its aspirations and its resources: people, time and finances. There are opportunities to:
- Set a bold objective of 300 members by 2025.
- Develop interactive educational programs in partnership with Harvard University and other organizations.
- Create a mentoring program with new and older members (i.e., “mini-networking” opportunities.)
- Develop the “Virtual HCT” using the talents of our members and Executive Committee.
- Expand networking beyond Toronto.
- Plan major programs and events two years in advance
- Develop a governance structure that includes Executive and Board committees to recruit new members through participation.
The Membership of the Harvard Club of Toronto must reflect the vibrancy, diversity, and size of the Harvard alumni community in the Toronto region.
- Post this strategic plan on the HCT website for members’ comments.
- Distribute a brief survey to HCT members and other alumni to assess recent programming. Incorporate this feedback in plan.
- Develop an action plan with implementation measures, timelines, and resources to attain these goals.
- Communicate progress to the Executive and members regularly.
History and Context
The Harvard Club of Toronto (HCT) was founded in 1904, is one of the oldest Harvard Clubs in the world. Today the HCT endeavors to foster a spirit of community among graduates and former students: it promotes the interests of all alumni/ae in Harvard’s academic and extracurricular activities, and encourages educational and social activities for its members and their families.
Members include alumni/ae from the College and almost all Harvard graduate and professional schools: the Business School, School of Dental Medicine, Division of Continuing Education, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Divinity School, Graduate School of Design, Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Kennedy School, Law School, Medical School, the School of Public Health, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Active membership in the Club has fluctuated over the last 40 years: in the 1980s there were 50 members, while in 2000 there were 240 members. With 130 members in 2022, the HCT is the largest Harvard Club in Canada.
Events draw between 20 and 200 participants. They include networking receptions, brown bag lunches with authors, arts visits, sports events, high-profile experts presenting at formal lunches or dinners, and gala “Veritas in Spring” celebrations. Most speakers are from the Toronto area, but Harvard Presidents, Harvard Alumni Association executives, faculty deans and professors have also visited.
In May 2003 (then) President Lawrence Summers helped to launch the Club’s centennial year at a luncheon attended by +600 alumni. The Harvard Global Series was held in Toronto in 2007 with Harvard deans, professors and +1000 alumni from around the globe. In April 2016 “Your Harvard: Canada” welcomed (then) President Drew Faust to Toronto with + 500 Canadian alumni. The HCT has initiated many programs but has also co-hosted events with other clubs. Some but not all HCT events are free.
From spring 2020 to spring 2022 all HCT events were virtual: panel discussions, presentations, and networking via Zoom. We have held smaller, outdoor events in 2022 and are now planning a combination of in person and virtual events.
Changing technologies have shaped HCT communications. The 1980s newsletter consisted of articles on club news written by the Executive and mailed to members. Later rebranded as “Veritas North”, it included club events, news from Cambridge and the achievements of local alumni/ae. Today, email updates are sent to members every two months, and the website is updated by the President and Communications Chair.
HCT members support recruitment and outreach to local schools, and events to celebrate newly admitted students to Harvard University.
Admission interviews to Harvard College are an important part of HCT activities. The Harvard Admissions Committee in Cambridge and the School’s Committee in Toronto direct the process; they have an arm’s-length relationship with the HCT. The Schools’ Committee connects with alumni interviewers, assigns to them applicants and sends their reports sent to staff in Cambridge. Currently about 150 alumni interview +300 applicants to the College.
There are 15 to 25 Canadian students in the Harvard College class each year and 100 to 200 Canadian students in the graduate and professional schools.
The HCT is launching a bold and innovative plan to increase membership and to refresh programming. We believe, with the assistance and participation of our members, new and old, that we can be the finest example of Harvard’s Clubs.
The Harvard Club of Toronto welcomes your input and participation; WE NEED YOU!