Influencing the influencer: Building a culture of advocacy amongst your alumni – a UK perspective.
Aluminati was proud to sponsor the Introduction to Advancement Leadership conference hosted by CASE. Held at the beginning of November, it featured talks covering various topics, with panels of industry leaders and experts leading the conversations. Be sure to check out our previous articles in this series World Class Alumni Relations, and How to Support Your Alumni Journey
Annie Thompson, Deputy Director of Alumni Relations (interim) at University College London, UK, discussed the benefits of alumni advocacy models and how other institutions might implement their own strategies in this area. But what does ‘advocacy’ mean in this context?
Advocacy is the public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. In the context of educational institutions, advocates are your brand ambassadors. Advocates for the institution can be anyone from notable alumni, such as government or media sector representatives, to grassroots alumni and social influencers. What is important is that anyone, and indeed everyone can and should be an advocate for your institution. University College London is in the enviable position of having substantial resources with approximately 250,000 volunteering hours given, but this does not mean that smaller campaigns will be any less effective.
At the start of any engagement campaign, Annie advises thinking of a notable person in your alumni community and considering the following: Who are they? What motivates them? Have you engaged with them before? And where do you want the relationship to be in five to ten years time? There are five key areas to consider when creating long-term advocacy objectives or ‘opportunities’.
The first being ‘Brand and Profile’. Getting alumni to engage with your institution’s social media channels, sharing content, working with an alumnus who is say, a Member of Parliament, or a notable media personality, inviting alumni to speak at university events etc. Other key areas included ‘Student Recruitment and Experience’, ‘Alumni-to-alumni Networks’, ‘Supporting’ ‘Fundraising’ and ‘Strategic Advice’.
Annie also suggested that it is helpful to segment your alumni into key tiers. These tiers being Advocates, Senior Volunteers, Engaged Volunteers and finally Volunteers and Grassroots Advocates. Alumni can enter this tier system at any level but can also participate in multiple areas. The top tier Advocates can be notable donors, future donors and/or specialist advisors and should be worked with on a bespoke basis. Senior Volunteers require a more targeted approach and can include government, media, and social media influencers. Engaged Volunteers encompass all alumni but particularly those in key industries related to career development.
So how can you engage with your alumni and turn them into advocates for your institution?
As discussed in our previous articles World-Class Alumni Relations and How to Support Your Alumni Journey, it is clear that engagement is a journey best started early in order to grow the relationship over time. This will make the experience personal to each of them and instils a key sense of community and friendship.