Graduation ≠ Disengagement
Are you struggling to keep your alumni engaged?
Imagine for just a second how a student feels when their teacher doesn’t show any interest in them. The teacher doesn’t check on the student to make sure they know what’s going on in the classroom, doesn’t care if they’re succeeding outside of their four walls, doesn’t call on the student when they raise their hand.
In fact, the only time the teacher pays attention to the student is when they fail to hand in their homework.
The teacher might ask, “Why didn’t you hand this in? Why don’t you understand how important this is to your grade? Why don’t you care?”
I think we can all agree that this doesn’t sound like a very good teacher.
Let’s switch it up real quick. Replace “teacher” with your school, and “student” with your alumni, and go back through the example.
Does this sound like you? Do you only pay attention to your alumni when you’re looking for donations (the “homework”)?
If you answered “no” to the above question, you’re off to a good start! Jump down for creative ideas to keep your alumni engaged.
If you answered “yes,” start below with our top 4 tips on how to re-engage your alumni.
Graduation doesn’t equal disengagement! Get your alumni involved with your school by following some of these tips.
1. Keep them in the loop.
One of the easiest ways to re-engage your alumni is to share updates about the school. Social media is the best tool for this. Don’t hold back! Share updates about a variety of topics – your sports teams, your arts programs, cool projects your students are working on, assemblies, etc. Remind your alumni of the time they spent at your school and stir up all of those good feelings. They’ll share your posts, you’ll get more followers, and pretty soon your engaged alumni base will have grown exponentially. Even sharing new courses will show your alumni that you’re continuously looking to improve your school and that you’re worth investing in.
2. Acknowledge their success after graduation.
You want your alumni to continue to care about your school once they graduate, so you should continue to care about them. From sharing articles and congratulating alumni on social media or in your newsletter to mailing personal, handwritten notes from the development office and/or principal/president, there are a ton of ways to acknowledge their accomplishments. Think outside the box! Invite successful alumni back to campus to speak to your students or put an ad in a program book if an alumnus is going to be honored at an event.
3. Actively seek and listen to their ideas and suggestions.
Let your alumni know that you appreciate their opinion, even if you disagree. By responding to comments on social media, asking for feedback after alumni events, replying to emails and asking alumni to participate in surveys on various school topics, they’ll feel like it’s not just their donations that matter to you. You’re not always going to agree with your alumni, but if you keep the line of communication open, they’ll respect you.
We know this can be tricky territory. You’re going to run into some hard-to-handle alumni, and you’re never going to please everyone. Always be kind but make it clear that you are the ultimate decision-maker.
4. Invite them to alumni FUN-raisers.
The internet can only go so far in your plan to re-engage your alumni. Face-to-face interactions are still the best. Bring them back to campus by holding alumni sports nights, career days and reunions, or hold happy hours or networking events at local institutions.
While you can bring a fundraising aspect to some of these events, keep it small. You want them to feel like you’re interested in more than just their money. For example, charge a small fee for a happy hour that covers a couple of drinks and appetizers, but also includes a donation to the school. Give a quick update on the state of the school, and then let your alumni have fun!
1. Hold alumni shadow days.
Who wouldn’t love to experience a day in the life of a student?! Let alumni come back to campus to experience some of your classes. This event would be especially successful for a high school or college.
Some quick tips on this type of event:
- Be selective. Your alumni should shadow students who are a good representation of your school. If you have student ambassadors, that would be a great place to start.
- Show off. Pick classes with engaging teachers/professors. If you’ve added new classes to your curriculum, add that to your schedule.
- Keep it exciting. The worst thing you could do is bore your alumni. Bring your alumni around to two or three classes during one class period to show them as much as possible and keep them interested.
- Keep it short. The “shadowing” part of the event should last no more than two hours. End with either a luncheon or happy hour, depending on your start time.
You can reverse this, too, and have your students shadow your alumni at work.
2. Offer travel abroad trips.
You plan travel abroad opportunities for your students, why not extend that idea to your alumni? There are a lot of travel companies out there that offer pre-planned group trips to Europe or the Caribbean, etc., but wouldn’t you rather go with a group of people who aren’t complete strangers, and have more than just a desire to travel in common? Some companies that work with teachers/professors to plan student experiences would help you plan an alumni trip. Just do a little research to find the right partner company for you!
3. Meet your alumni where they are, geographically and otherwise.
An easy example of this is to hold events in all of the states where your alumni now live. It’s also good to think about who you’re hoping to engage. If you’re targeting younger alumni, odds are that they’d rather go to an event at a local craft brewery than an event at the bar their parents frequent.
4. Stay in touch.
Ask your alumni questions about their time at school. For example, you could ask them to share their favorite cafeteria meal. You might be surprised to see how many people will respond or share.
Another great way to stay in touch is to send a monthly e-newsletter and/or quarterly alumni magazine. Keep alumni up-to-date on school news and events and share important alumni updates. You can use the e-newsletter or magazine to recognize successful alumni, share news on life events (births, weddings, etc.) and so much more.