Alumni engagement is essential for the long-term success of any university or college. Both institutions and past students benefit from an engaged and connected alumni network.
When looking at the bigger picture around alumni engagement, it’s important to realise that the student experience doesn’t end with graduation.
Implementing an engagement strategy to keep alumni connected will boost student success over the long run. It will also help you as an institution maintain a good reputation for generations to come.
Here is a quick overview of everything you need to consider for successful alumni engagement.
Understanding Alumni Engagement
Firstly, what is alumni engagement?
Alumni engagement is the term used to describe how institutions maintain and nurture relationships with previous graduates (or alumni) to build a strong professional network.
Alumni engagement strategies should start well before students graduate. This helps to build more effective relationships and long-term networks.
As communications and networking landscapes change, maintaining alumni engagement has become challenging in recent times.
Many former students are not interested in engaging with their universities after graduation. Generally, this is because institutions implement alumni engagement strategies too late, or do not fully understand their users, thus do not target and engage with them effectively.
In some cases, not using sufficient technology, or rolling out technology in the right manner for the people it was designed for also hinders engagement.
Get the fundamentals of your alumni engagement strategy right, however, and you can generate great interest and connect with your alumni community.
Why is Alumni Engagement Important?
A practical alumni engagement strategy benefits both the institution and students. When executed properly, you can:
1. Inspire substantial financial support
Great alumni engagement programs can bring various tangible benefits to your school and the student body.
An example is reputational benefits – Ivy League business schools are often judged on the strength of their MBA programmes since networking is so valuable.
Strong alumni connectors can assist in spreading the word in support of fundraising campaigns, thus increasing donations to your institution.
Fundraising is a major advantage to maintaining an engaged alumni community. The institution can also garner support for causes that are beneficial to the university.
2. Develop a Community Of Global Connections
When alumni are engaged, they become more willing to lend their time and resources to their alumni community.
This can be beneficial for past students and institutions alike, in that it creates a network of individuals who can contact, support or collaborate with each other for business-driven ventures.
After studying together, graduates might know of the perfect opportunity for their former classmates and refer them on accordingly. This relationship can be the start of internships, graduate programs, and scholarships for past and current students.
3. Lend To Teaching or Mentorship Opportunities
Former students who keep close ties to their colleges over the years may be eager to return to take up teaching or mentorship positions.
This can benefit current students as they get expert insight from former students who have had experience in the working world.
With a strong network in place, current students can access valuable career guidance from alumni. This adds more value to your institution as a whole.
4. Create Brand Ambassadors
Proud alumni can serve as effective brand ambassadors for your university. They will share positive reviews and recommendations with their peers, the outside world, and the internet at large.
As a result, having a large, engaged alumni network can be a valuable asset for increasing awareness of your institution’s brand to help recruit the brightest students.
Alumni Engagement Across the Student Relationship Lifecycle
Your college should start priming students for long-lasting relationships long before they graduate. Start spelling out the benefits of being an active alumni member from the moment they join the institution.
At this point, you can lay the foundation to activate engagement within the alumni community.
To do this effectively, it’s important to understand the three stages of the student lifecycle.
1. Admissions and Recruitment
Engagement starts at the early stages of recruitment and admissions. The institution communicates and engages with prospective students to help them make an enrollment decision.
Personalized communications at an early stage can make a big difference.
Your educational institution receives enormous amounts of information from prospective students. By using the right technology and data practices, you can deliver the right communications and support when needed.
This starts the process of developing student relationships and future alumni engagement.
2. Existing Students
Once a person transitions from the pre-enrollment phase to being an active student, it’s the perfect opportunity to continue nurturing the relationship and create a lasting bond.
At this point, your institution has a tremendous amount of data to help gain insights into students and boost student success.
This includes information like what the student is studying, society memberships, sports teams, where they are from, and what background they have, and any other interests they may have.
This data is necessary for implementing an effective communication strategy.
3. Graduation and Joining the Alumni Community
It is imperative to be highly present at graduation ceremonies as this is a fantastic opportunity to physically engage with an entire cohort at the precise time of transition.
Register them on your database, acquire details, opt-ins, consents and engage them with university branded merchandise to help sustain their brand connection (this could be in the form of hoodies, caps, etc).
Continued strategic communications and networking post-graduation are necessary for building and maintaining a strong alumni network.
This should include connecting alumni to other graduates and creating a space for networking.
How to Increase Alumni Engagement
Wondering how to build an evolving alumni engagement strategy?
Here are four alumni engagement best practices:
1. Start Engagement Early
As mentioned above, you can begin engagement at the start of the enrollment process.
Students spend a relatively short time at your institution in relation to the number of years they will spend being part of an alumni program.
This means that it’s integral to engage with students as early as possible to build the foundation for long-term alumni engagement.
As part of their student experience, introduce networking with alumni, either alumni speakers or mentoring. This will help to show them the benefits of the network; which will encourage them to join to give back themselves.
This should include networking through social media, and communications via email and text messaging to develop an effective framework for alumni engagement.
2. Segment Your Audience, understand their needs and Personalize Communication
Firstly, understand where the different alumni members are in their journey so that you can communicate with them more effectively.
Take time to actually speak with them to understand the needs of each group. These will change over time, so this exercise would be repeated regularly.
A current student will not have the same interests as a person who graduated two decades ago.
You can apply these insights to the content and communication you engage your community with.
Whether the communication is via text messaging, email, or other channels, segmenting your audience to send personalized messages will make a big difference. This can be done according to interests, faculties, student location, and age, for example.
By using graduates’ data, you can customize the communications sent out to ensure the right people are sent the right messages at the right time.
The needs of graduates change over time. So, it’s important to develop an alumni engagement strategy that meets these evolving needs and expectations.
3. Add Value To The Alumni Community
It is critical to show alumni community members what’s in it for them when they engage with the network. The benefit has to extend both ways to ensure that everyone is incentivized to participate.
Adding value to the alumni community can take many different shapes and forms. These can include organizing events and get-togethers where past students can reminisce, discuss, their current projects, or future opportunities.
Spotlighting personal or business success stories in your newsletter or community platform can also help to elevate engagement within the network. Encourage people to share the content on their social profiles for their networks to see.
Another way to add value to the community is to connect past students with their teachers, professors, or mentors. Here, using a platform for networking where people can connect in a private online space can add immense value as they progress in life and their career.
4. Maintain Current Data
To effectively maintain alumni engagement, it is important to keep your alumni database up to date.
Collect students’ contact details, personal information and preferences before they graduate. After that, use an advanced community engagement platform that collects information online and from social platforms to synchronise all profile data.
Regularly check in with your community members to make sure their information is up to date and your online interactions are still adding value.
Investing in alumni engagement offers many opportunities for institutions.
A mature institution will have hundreds of thousands of alumni, meaning that an engaged network can be one of the most powerful tools for institutions to continue their growth and add value to existing students.
An effective alumni engagement strategy will help to maximize the relationships with students, both past and present.
By using a platform like Aluminati, developing a strong alumni network becomes a far easier and more manageable process.
Aluminate, our alumni engagement software, with its exclusive Community Builder, is also the only platform that lets you instantly adapt your user experience to fit membership’s needs. Get in touch with our team today and see how we can arrange a free customised demo of the platform for you.