5 Strategies to Boost Alumni Engagement
Build lasting relationships with alumni to strengthen recruitment, student experience, and fundraising efforts.
Students only spend a handful of years in attendance at a higher education institution. But once they throw their cap in the air at graduation, they become alumni for life.
That’s why building alumni relationships is a powerful tool for institutions. Alumni can act as word-of-mouth advocates to drive admissions, mentors to current students, and lifelong financial donors. In this article, we’ll explain why alumni engagement is important and break down ideas to build an alumni engagement strategic plan.
The importance of alumni engagement
Having a strong alumni engagement strategy benefits current students, alumni, and institutions as a whole. Here’s how:
1. Increase sense of belonging.
According to the third edition of the Salesforce Connected Student Report, only 12% of students feel they totally belong at their college or university. When asked what would help them feel more connected, they listed “having more opportunities to talk with industry reps and alumni” as one of the main factors.
Facilitating these connections between alumni and current students can help them feel like they belong and improve student retention at institutions. It can also help alumni feel like they’re making a difference, which helps them feel more connected to their alma mater.
2. Facilitate lifelong learning.
Almost half of students surveyed in the Connected Student Report feel their coursework is relevant for only five years after graduation. Staying connected with alumni by offering them career development long after they graduate can strengthen their relationships with institutions.
When career services are extended to alumni, it will facilitate lifelong learning and will increase the chances of them returning to higher education for additional learning and upskilling. There is also a greater chance that alumni will return to an institution to speak to current students about the impact of the institution on their career journey.
“We want people to connect with the university and we want to manage that relationship on an ongoing basis so we can help them in the future. We also want to thank them and give them a reason to give back.”
– Michelle Bates, Assistant Vice President for IT, CRM and Data Analytics at the Purdue for Life Foundation
3. Boost financial support.
Funding from alumni is crucial for the financial health of colleges and universities. According to a survey conducted by the Council for Advancement and Support for Education (CASE), alumni giving made up 23% of funds raised by universities in the 2020–2021 academic year.
Alumni who still feel engaged and valued by their alma mater are more likely to lend financial support. Having a strong strategy to connect with alumni and provide useful tools and resources for them will encourage them to continue giving back.
Top five alumni engagement ideas
This article will now look at five key strategies to engage alumni and build lasting connections.
1. Promote the work of alumni.
Alumni globally are doing exciting things with their degrees. In order to boost engagement and build strong alumni relations, it is important to promote their work on social media, on institutional websites, and through email.
Consider starting an “alumni of the week” series where an exciting alumni project is highlighted. This could be a novel they’ve written recently or a small business they run. Showcasing the work of alumni is a great way to make them feel appreciated, and it will also give current students tangible goals to aspire to. 47% of students surveyed in the Connected Student Report listed future career prospects as a factor when choosing a university, so showcasing what alumni have accomplished with their degrees could have the added bonus of attracting new students and boosting enrollment.
2. Take a hybrid approach to alumni events.
When planning event schedules for the year, institutions should include a mix of in-person and online events. When possible, institutions should also offer alumni who live far away the option to join in-person events virtually.
Online events can be made engaging and active by offering breakout sessions by industry, hosting virtual games, and sharing interactive presentations.
Offering a combination of events will make sure more alumni are included. Sending out polls asking what types of events alumni want to see more of, and then building more of those events into the calendar, is also a useful tactic.
3. Show where donations go.
When alumni choose to invest in institutions, they want to see what their money is going toward. It is critical to share details on upcoming and completed projects that are funded with alumni money.
Institutions can transport alumni back onto campus by offering virtual tours of a new building wing, or host a walk-through of a lab funded by alumni donations.
Furthermore, institutions can get current students involved by interviewing them on how the new building, equipment, or program has enhanced their experience. Showing these first-hand accounts will illustrate the impact alumni are making on the next generation of students.
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4. Provide professional development opportunities.
Many alumni would appreciate professional development support from their college or university long after they graduate. Between job changes and promotions, a lot can change in the careers of alumni.
It is crucial to support them wherever they are on their journey by offering professional development and career opportunities through:
- An alumni job portal where they can post and search for jobs
- Alumni career fairs for people looking to explore job options
- Continuing education classes through the institution
- Mentorship programs connecting younger alumni with more experienced professionals
- Career-focused newsletters with interview and resume tips
5. Offer holistic well-being support.
36% of students surveyed in the Connected Student Report want more well-being support. Making mental and physical wellness part of an institution’s culture, and continuing to offer this support to students once they graduate, is paramount.
Institutions could create“well-being” newsletters for alumni to show support for their mental and physical health. In a newsletter, institutions can provide links to meditations, tips from campus wellness centers, online yoga classes, advice on managing career stress, and more.
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Build stronger alumni relationships with Alum 360.
Salesforce’s Alum 360 allows institutions to keep track of alumni data on one convenient platform. Using Alum 360 empowers institutions to build multi-channel fundraising campaigns, send personalized messages, and streamline operations all in one place.
Having up-to-date data ready to go will help institutions to understand alumni and build stronger connections. This data can be used to craft a communications strategy and help alumni feel connected to an institution not just for a few years — but for life.