ALMA — Alma College’s Traditions Tree project has received an international Circle of Excellence Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Incoming first-year and transfer students are introduced to Alma College through the gifting of an evergreen tree, as has been a tradition at Alma since 1985. With the Traditions Tree project, led by Alma College’s Advancement Office, alumni and other supporters are offered the opportunity to sponsor trees with messages of welcome and encouragement.

The project received a Silver Award in the Targeted Campaigns and Appeals category, marking Alma College’s third Circle of Excellence award from CASE.

“Alma College brought together a decades-old tradition with the opportunity for giving,” CASE judges noted. “This is a great example of creating opportunities for philanthropy.”

Students are traditionally given an evergreen tree, at Traditions Dinner, an event that occurs as part of the orientation process for incoming students. The tree symbolizes growth and a connection to the community to which they now belong. Traditions Dinner programming also teaches new Scots about the history of the college, as well as its connection to Scottish heritage.

Advancement staff, noting its work with Student Life staff in its nominating materials, sought to positively contribute to the college’s first-year student retention rate through an emphasis on “belonging.” Such a project, staff stated, allowed the Advancement Office to take a longstanding campus tradition and turn it into an opportunity to support retention, as well as raise funds for Traditions Dinner.

“The incredible success of our Traditions Tree project is a testament to the creative thinking and collaborative nature of our Advancement staff, rooted in a deep love and respect for the traditions of Alma College,” President Jeff Abernathy said. “To see those efforts rewarded on an international scale is very exciting.”

Beyond the recognition from CASE, staff noted, the Traditions Tree project was very successful. More than $10,000 was provided by 217 donors. Students were asked to sign thank-you notes to those who sponsored their trees; each donor received a note from a student thanking them for their gift.

A campaign for the project ran mostly online, from the beginning of July 2022 through the end of August 2022. It was supported with several email messages and social media posts over that time span, as well as a mailer that went to alumni who had no email address on file. Two members of the Advancement staff primarily worked on the project, with planning and day-of collaboration from the assistant director of first-year engagement and their team of First-Year Guide students, in the Student Life office.

“This project signified a new year, new opportunities and new ways of thinking about fundraising appeals,” said Emalee Rose, director of annual giving. “We are deeply honored to be recognized by our industry peers and grateful to the hundreds of donors who stepped up to make Alma College a more welcoming place for our new generation of Scots.”

CASE is the global association for advancement professionals. The organization’s annual Circle of Excellence Awards recognizes outstanding work in advancement services, alumni relations, communication, fundraising and marketing. More than 4,000 entries from 583 member-institutions in 22 countries were submitted for the 2023 awards competition.

Participate in the 2023 Traditions Tree Project by visiting