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Articles > Building Your Community > Three unconventional tactics for optimising an alumni event

Three unconventional tactics for optimising an alumni event

You probably haven't thought of these ideas, but they could be quick wins to boost your next event!
At the end of August, Concord College, a top-ranked international school in Shropshire in the UK, celebrated a big birthday weekend – 70 years since its launch. With alumni dispersed across the world and a requirement to run the event outside of school term time, the Concord team were facing a challenge to attract high numbers and engage the larger diaspora who wouldn’t be able to make it to the party in person.

The weekend attracted nearly 300 people to the College, with 260 attending an evening ball, including 136 alumni. The event generated a sizeable amount in ticket sales, corporate sponsorship, £15,500 from an auction and, importantly, increased engagement with the Concord community both locally and overseas.

The challenge
Of Concord’s 2,200 alumni community members, only 300 are based in the United Kingdom.  The marketing team consists of just three, including Sara Eastwood, a part-time Alumni Officer working 2.5 day per week term time only. They decided to focus their budget on one big event at the College, complemented with online engagement activities (using their ToucanTech website and CRM) to reach others. Here are three of their simple, stellar engagement tactics:

TACTIC 1 - 70th Birthday Stories

Sara emailed everyone on their database who left the school 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 & 60 years previously (so 2009, 1999, 1989, 1979, 1969, 1959) and asked them to share a 70th Birthday Catch Up story.

Result: 10 new stories published on their alumni website

TACTIC 2 – 70 Mini Reunions Around the World

Sara emailed their entire database and asked them to organise a mini reunion in their home country – they would organise the venue and Concord would invite people living in that town/country to attend.  Concord advertised each event in the Events section of their alumni website and emailed everyone living in that country to attend.  Sara then followed up by sending a short Q&A to attendees and wrote a story about each gathering to publish in their News Section.

She then invited everyone to be ‘at’ the 70th Birthday Party without having to be ‘AT’ the party itself by emailing and suggesting that in 2019 whenever they ‘gathered’ with two or more alumni they send in a photo of that gathering to add to ‘70th Birthday Mini Gathering’ Photo Gallery. This linked in with the more formal reunions but encouraged people to simply ‘get together’ and involve the College.  Concord also put these photos in a Photo Gallery and tagged the Gallery to a News Story on their Alumni website.

Result: 30 mini reunion photos shared from across the world!

TACTIC 3 - Targeting Specific ‘Difficult to Engage’ Age Groups

Concord set up online groups (or ‘clubs’) to encourage more of the 30 -50 yr age group to attend the main Reunion – an age group who, because of busy lives, often do not attend these types of onsite events.  Sara found influential/ engaged Alumni from these year groups to invite their peers (the emails were sent from the ToucanTech system but signed from the alumni).  She also set up private groups for these year groups to encourage them to chat amongst themselves and generate buzz about the event. As an alumna of Concord in the late 1990s herself, Sara was motivated to get as many people from her year group there as possible!

Result: Of the 136 Alumni who attended the reunion event, 40 were from the 1985-1990 year groups, many of whom said they would not have had the courage to come if it hadn’t been for the personal email and informal chat in the private group.  30 people join the 1985-1991 chat group – not all of them attended in the end but it was a fantastic engagement exercise.

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