Funding for alumni relations programmes can be hard to come by, particularly during the pandemic where opportunities to engage in person were limited and many fundraising campaigns were paused. Many schools report a link between engaging alumni and their propensity to give back in the long-term, but if you're not in a position to prove this yet, here are some affordable options to kickstart your alumni programme:
Throwback content is some of the most popular and easy content to create. You can keep it traditional with a #ThrowbackThursday or get creative with your own hashtag. Link this back to a photo gallery or article on your alumni portal to drive traffic to your site - and make sure to tag people so that they receive an email notification and can log on to engage with the content.
Email newsletters are a tried and tested method of keeping alumni engaged, by providing updates from the school and alumni network in one place. Newsletters are a great opportunity to share links back to your online community for readers to find out more, and you can tailor your emails by using merge tags to quickly pull in personal information, or segmenting by location or ‘Class of’ to quickly and efficiently share local and relevant news.
A quick and easy way to encourage your alumni to return to your online community is by promoting your networking opportunities. Alumni can reconnect with old classmates or expand their professional network by adding people via the directory, and will revisit to check new messages, accept requests and invite others to join the platform.
Offering the chance to be a mentor or search for a mentor is a valuable but inexpensive way to connect with alumni of all ages. Younger alumni could really benefit from the support early in their career, but this could also be a useful opportunity for those looking to change their career or come back to work after some time away. More experienced alumni may also welcome the option to share their experience and advice as a way to give back to their community.
Publishing photos to your site that are ‘locked down’ so only those that are logged in can view is a brilliant way to drive registrations and engagement with your alumni platform. You can promote at events and in your follow up comms that attendees are welcome to join the site to view the images after. This tactic has worked well for schools engaging their leavers by publishing their prom/leavers ball photos exclusively on their alumni site.
For the small business owners and entrepreneurs among your former pupils, offering free promotion is a great way to show support and incite engagement. You can offer to promote business listings in an online directory format, invite them to sponsor alumni events by brokering corporate partnerships, or host adverts on your online alumni platform for a range of businesses.
Connecting whole school community members with a common interest (such as a hobby or profession) in a small group can support engagement by facilitating more intimate discussions and making it easier to organise events. By appointing club admins, you can delegate the club management including organising events, sending out emails and publishing club news to a trusted member, saving you time.
An alumni feedback survey is a powerful tool to extract insights from your alumni base, which you can use to plan your future engagement strategy. You can also use your listening survey as an opportunity to invite alumni to update their contact information or join your site, so it’s even easier to stay in touch with them in the future.
Inviting alumni along to your campus, either for a reunion event or to check out the new developments, shows alumni that they are still a welcomed part of the school community. Schedule some time with the Head to talk through upcoming plans, or with their former teachers to take a trip down memory and create a memorable experience that will keep the school front of mind.
Asking your alumni about their journey since leaving school and writing up a short article or recording an interview is a great way to celebrate your alumni achievements. These types of articles are always popular, and can be shared on social media to encourage more alumni to sign up to read about the accomplishments of their old classmates, and share their own.
What better way to show your alumni that you care than to share a message on their birthday? Make sure to request D.O.B. when asking alumni to update their details, and send a personalised birthday e-card to your alumni on their special day. Automating this process saves your team time, and ensures no alumni birthdays are missed!
An alumni ambassador programme can boost engagement; ambassadors can be used to encourage attendance at events by sending out an email ‘from’ the year group ambassador, and they can also be encouraged to be the first on board to start discussions and respond to comments in your alumni network forum. Consider your most engaged community members, and select a handful to invite to participate in an ambassador scheme.
Personalising the alumni engagement journey through tailored comms and segmentation is only possible when you can rely on your database to give you the information you need. Working with a database linked to your CRM and community portal means information can be updated automatically through forms and online activity, so you can learn more about your alumni and tailor your segmentation according to their behaviour.
Rewarding your alumni for going the extra mile is important; sending a surprise gift to an enthusiastic mentor, active club admin, events volunteer or alumni ambassador will how them that you appreciate the time they take to participate in the alumni engagement programme. Whether it’s a hamper or a personalised notebook, a token of thanks is always welcome.
The end goal for many alumni engagement programmes is to encourage alumni to give back and support the development of their school. By taking the time to offer a range of different options to support the school, for example, a bursary appeal, a capital campaign, a giving day or a regular giving opportunity, you can work with prospective donors to help bring their vision of philanthropy to life.
Thanks to the rise of online communities, it’s now much easier and affordable to engage your alumni regularly. To find out more about building your own online community, with an integrated CRM, email engine and database, speak to a member of the ToucanTech team.
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