Engaging male alumni can present a challenge for development offices: often, men will make larger donations to their alma mater for a number of socio-economic reasons, but may require a different tack to engage regularly in alumni activities.
Recently, ToucanTech hosted a webinar panel with top Australian boys’ schools to discuss what has had the biggest impact on engaging men in their alumni programmes. Hosted by Merryn Parks, Head of Australia & New Zealand at ToucanTech, with panel guests John Groom, Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations at the Hutchins School, David Miles, Old Boys Manager at Churchie Old Boys' Association, and Paul Harapin, President at Sydney High School Old Boys’ Union. The panel shared their tried and tested ideas for engaging men in alumni programs, from steakhouse dinners to sports talks.
When it comes to events, making it regular and local is the way to go, according to Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations John Groom. The Hutchins School Old Boys Association (HSOBA) holds an annual golf day for those still residing in Tasmania, Australia, but they also hold many regional reunion events across the globe.
Digital engagement is a new method for the HSOBA, which has brought a whole new cohort to the table. As an alumni community that is dispersed across the world, with approximately 5-6000 alumni living outside of their resident Tasmania, creating a digital community is key to maintaining strong connections. During the last year, digital engagement has soared and the HSOBA has developed innovative ways to keep alumni coming back for more: a new podcast launched early last year with one old boy interviewing inspirational alum and staff, with these shared exclusively on their bespoke alumni website.
For Sydney High School Old Boys Union (SHSOBU), engagement looks different compared to 12 months ago, as an events-led programme was disrupted by the pandemic. Despite this, Paul Harapin shared how their ‘Flying Higher’ magazine had been a great success. As a combined school, alumni and parent produced publication, old boys are given insight not only into alumni activity, but also what is happening at the school. In the recent publication, this also included how the school dealt with the sudden shutdown due to the pandemic, and how the generous donations for technology from old boys had enabled the school to create an exceptional home schooling environment.
Looking to later in the year, events are back on the horizon and SHSOBU will continue with their popular sports lunches, with over 1000 attendees at the final pre-COVID event, including Old Boys who left in 1948!
The Churchie Old Boys Association has created a special memento for those aged over 70 in their community, naming them ‘Vintage Vikings’ and sending out a branded tie and keyring. They also host a morning tea event for their older alumni, with their school band and a guest speaker - previously they have hosted over 100 attendees! David Miles shares that older alumni often prefer these events to their annual dinner, as attendees know that they will meet people of the same age there.
During the pandemic, Churchie OBA established their ‘Viking Care programme’ to check on the welfare of alumni over 90 years of age, by phoning over 100 alumni to see if they needed anything or just wanted someone to chat to during the months of lockdown. As a result, a few of these much older alumni re-engaged with the school and many appreciated the great conversations with the alumni relations team.
When you’re engaging with male alumni, no matter their age, it’s important to give regular touchpoints for alumni to get involved. Creating a digital community is one way to help your old boys stay connected, keep up-to-date with school news and make donations to their alma mater. Hear from a ToucanTech engagement evangelist to find out how you can stay in touch with your school community from afar. Get in touch today.
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