Running an engaging alumni program can be costly and time consuming, commanding resources that many institutions feel should be allocated elsewhere, like marketing and recruiting. We say, however, that investing in your alumni is an investment in every other facet of your institution.
Alumni are one of the most important yet underutilized assets an academic institution has. How your alumni relate to your school after graduation can have a major impact on your success as an institution. From reputation to fundraising, happy alumni yield better results for all your initiatives.
So why do so many schools leave this well of opportunity untapped?
The truth is, the value of happy, engaged alumni is becoming common knowledge. Many institutions simply don’t understand what alumni want from an alma mater after graduation.
So here it is: the four simple things that will keep your alumni active, engaged, and ready to support you.
- Value: Alumni tend to be bombarded with fundraising requests for which they receive little of value. There are few things more annoying than hearing from someone only when they want something. Really, it’s degrading.
Your outreach to alumni should create value for them. Even if you’re motivation is fundraising, open up by offering something beneficial to your audience. It could really be anything from life hacks to job listings to recipes.
Also, don’t limit your outreach to fundraising. Mix it up. Send out some fun and helpful correspondence just to show you care. You do care, don’t you? Your alumni will be more invested in your success if they feel you’re invested in theirs.
- Efficiency: If you did a good job while they were with you, your alumni will be happy to hear from you. Still, they lead busy lives – even busier now than when they attended your school. And they are likely acutely aware of that fact.
Be considerate of your alumni’s time. Condense your content as much as possible. Reinforce your message with images. Writing isn’t always the most meaningful or efficient way to get your message across, so use other mediums, like infographics and slide shares, to make your message stick.
Your content should be tailored to your medium, and your medium should be tailored to your target audiences’ preferences. If you do your homework, you’ll know just how to speak to each generation of graduates.
- Community: A sense of community is a basic human need. You were the center of your alumni’s world when they were students, and you can be still. All you have to do is continue fostering the same sense of community.
Create a network of alumni that helps them find each other around the world. Offer a platform that allows your graduates to keep in touch with their classmates, or even meet new peers they missed while on campus.
Happy alumni make great recruiters, and they love doing it. Build a stronger community by matching new and prospective students with alumni mentors. Keep alumni invested in the success of future students while building newbies’ appreciation for your school.
- Opportunity: Yes, making a monetary donation to your program is an important way to steward the success of your institution. But your graduates get tired of being asked for money. And besides, they have so much more to offer.
Your alumni need opportunities, and you have more of them than you might notice. Your graduates want to be mentors, speakers, and ambassadors. They want to show their pride in you by sharing it themselves. What a tremendous benefit!
So, create opportunity for your graduates. Give them chances to put their names to your success and watch your institution grow.
It’s that simple. Now infuse it with your knowledge of your graduates and spice it up with a little of your own personal brand and voilà! You’re on the road to exceptionalism.
Not every generation of students will speak the same language, however. Understand your intended audience acutely, and segment your message accordingly. A tailored message will yield better results than one that is unrelatable. You can achieve that by crafting each message according to your persona profiles.