2020 saw huge changes to our lives and work. We faced difficult times and hardship. But in spite of all of this, we managed to stay creative in the face of challenge and so have institutions. Institutions that have adapted to serve their alumni in new and innovative ways.
We met with a panel of speakers who all gave insights into the peaks and pitfalls that came about from the need to do things differently.
Live in Lockdown
Louise Strong, Campaign Events Manager at the University of Durham, UK said that the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of many alumni events, and they had to find a new way to support their global alumni community. Louise said that it was more important than ever for their institution to maintain a sense of togetherness and with that, bring together their most important resources. The outcome of this was Durham Inspired: Live in Lockdown, which brought together students and alumni from across the world from the safety of their own homes. Since December 2020, Durham University has hosted over 50 online events, with 5500 registrations and 1500 newly engaged alumni across 84 countries.
The content was curated around the university’s four key pillars, Learn, Develop, Network and Industry and focussed on career advice, guidance, support and social networking with conversations around industry insights and outcomes.
30 Under 30
Jonathan Goode, Head of Alumni Relations at the University of Bournemouth took inspiration from Forbes Magazine and put the call out to their alumni The aim was to find the thirty most notable alumni under 30 years of age.
The university chose the ‘under 30’ age bracket as these alumni were only a maximum of ten years on from their graduation and could offer more relatable experiences to the institution’s current students. The university launched their appeal, asking for self-nominations online and the shortlisted individuals even saw their employers becoming engaged in the competition to show support. Bournemouth University saw a 296% increase in web traffic during the competition with an astounding 8702% increase in social media engagement across their platforms.
The Alumni Podcast
Glynis Gardner, Alumni Relations at Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland wanted to be able to connect with students and alumni and offer content at a time and place that suited them. After much collaboration with the university’s student engagement office, the team developed a six-episode podcast series and a social media strategy to support it.
The whole project cost in the region of €4500 along with a small investment in recording equipment. They were also given a generous donation of €1000 from the university’s engagement office. The project generated a huge buzz on social media.
Homecoming from Home
Gerard Kennedy, Development and Alumni Relations Manager at the University of Swansea was in the middle of the University’s centenary celebrations and wanted to try to keep the momentum going. Many of their events had already been planned and had people booked in to attend from around the world so Gerard decided on a different approach, the ‘Homecoming from Home’.
The university called on Alumni to dig out old photographs while they had time on their hands at home. Gerard argued that the most important factor in reunions is a sense of nostalgia and for one week, the university shared the images on their alumni platform. The event generated a huge level of engagement with over 300 uploaded photographs and over 400 new registrations to their alumni platform.
A New Way of Connecting
There are so many positive ways to engage with students and alumni, and digital platforms provide a huge advantage to institutions. Community platforms can furnish institutions with great opportunities to connect that might not have been possible before.