Many people now suddenly find themselves working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s more, they have their kids at home with them while schools are closed. It may take some time for families to adjust to this situation.
What is important is that when your kids are not working on school activities, you find ways to keep them engaged and learning, both for their continued development and for your own ability to get work done at home.
Here are some ideas of some learning activities you can have your children participate in while they’re at home during the duration of the pandemic.
- Virtual field trips: There are a lot of platforms online that allow you to take virtual tours or field trips of certain locations. You can go to the website of your favorite museum to start, or check out some of the National Geographic or Discovery Education videos or virtual tours, and explore some really cool sites at your leisure.
- Podcasts: Podcasts aren’t just for adults! There are a lot of great podcasts geared toward children that are entertaining and educational. Check out the Kids Listen website to find some your child might be interested in.
- Educational websites: There are a lot of free educational websites specifically meant for kids that provide all kinds of learning opportunities. Examples include Highlights Kids, the Nasa Kids’ Club, Seussville, the Sesame Street website, Funbrain, KidsReads, National Geographic Kids, The Magic School Bus website, PBS Kids, Science Bob, the Smithsonian Learning Club and so many more. A quick Google search will open up so many opportunities for virtual, kid-friendly learning.
- Books: What could be better than books? Encourage your children to spend time reading on their own. While libraries might be closed right now, you can still find plenty of children’s e-books for free on Amazon, Kindle, Overdrive or Open Library. Or, of course, purchase physical copies through online retailers.
- Video chats: It’s going to be hard for your children to be cooped up for long periods of time without a lot of interaction with others, so make sure you carve out some time regularly for video chats with grandparents, other relatives and their friends. They’re going to miss having the opportunity to see these special people in their lives face to face and in person, but it’s better than not getting to see them at all.
- Special subscriptions: Education companies are offering free or discounted subscriptions to parents right now while they have their children home during the pandemic. One great one to check out right now is ABC Mouse, which is offering a major discount. Other options include Circletime and Scholastic.
- Encourage creativity: Get your kids exercising their creativity by encouraging them to draw, paint, color or chalk. There are plenty of resources online for you to find creative outlets for your kids as well.
Hopefully, some of these ideas provide some much-needed relief during what is truly an unprecedented time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of upheaval in our everyday lives. People are understandably anxious about everything they see and hear on the news each day.
All these changes to the ways we live and work—combined with the flood of updates that pours in every day—have made for turbulent times for all kinds of businesses and organizations, including school districts. It’s important you stay in communication with your contacts and in a way that is both helpful and positive.
Here are some tips for you to consider:
- Make health and safety top priority: The health and safety of you, your family and everyone you work with should always be the first priority during this pandemic. That may mean making some difficult decisions to keep people safe. People’s health must always come first.
- Canceling events: Many of us are having to cancel events that are to happen in the next couple months, and possibly beyond that as well. We’ve linked a complimentary National Alumni Institute letter template you can use if you’re having to cancel any upcoming events. Feel free to customize it in whatever way you think works best for your organization.
- Scheduling or rescheduling events: If you know of events you’ll be holding next year, make sure you get them officially scheduled as soon as possible, because many organizations are currently in the midst of rescheduling canceled events for later in the year or next year. Get your reservation in before your preferred dates fill up.
- Double the donations campaign: Many organizations will be hurting for assistance during the pandemic. Increase your efforts in your donations campaigns and encourage people who are able to increase their support, as humbly as you can.
- Refinance your loans: If your education foundation has a loan out, now may be a good time to refinance. The fed slashed interest rates, meaning it is suddenly significantly cheaper to take out new loans or refinance existing ones. You should, of course, always talk to your financial advisors before making any refinancing decisions, but if it’s in your best interest, then it’s certainly worth investigating.
- Highlight the good: People are starved for good news right now at a time when it seems like the world is falling apart. So try to find good stories to highlight in all of your communications. Focus on medical workers, police, firefighters and first responders. Include some personal content about what you’re currently doing and how you’re making it through the pandemic. Not everything has to be dark and gloomy, even in what might feel like scary times.
We are currently in uncharted waters with this pandemic, but know that we are here for your organization, and that we will all get through this together.
We receive a lot of promotional emails all day long. Whether it’s great deals from the department store or an update to the terms of an app you forgot you’d downloaded, alumni are bombarded with messaging. If you’re managing marketing for your alumni organization, you may be wondering how to break through the email clutter.
Here are some of our favorite campaigns that your fellow alumni organizations are using to find email success.
1. Honor important milestones
Many people think about their alumni association in relation to class reunions. Capitalize on that! People want to know more about what’s happening at class reunions, what they have to look forward to when it’s their turn, and who was in attendance. Keep your alumni updated about what’s going on with these milestone classes.
Graduation years aren’t the only milestones to honor. Did football win state in 1985? How about the award-winning jazz band from 2000? Dig up old photos and recognize these important moments in school history.
2. Celebrate #ThrowbackThursday
Speaking of old photos, comb the school archive to unearth the grooviest pics from days past. People love looking for themselves and their friends, or seeing how their school has changed over the years. Asking alumni to share more information about the image is a great way to increase engagement and collect more alumni stories.
#ThrowbackThursday or #TBT is a social media trend, so if you’re actively managing social for your organization you should post these pictures here too. Don’t feel you need to send a throwback email every week; post on social regularly, then create a digest of images to share via email for alumni who aren’t following you on social.
3. Highlight your notable alumni
One benefit of an alumni network is to help alumni connect with one another. Your network is full of interesting people, but they may not know about each other. Creating a notable alumni campaign will help to feature alumni serving the community who are good representatives of your school. Alumni will be flattered and honored to be a great representation of their alma mater. If they are local business owners or have a cause they are working to advance, they will especially appreciate the promotion. It will also create an easy icebreaker for alumni looking to connect with a person in their field.
Set up a tab in your Nation Builder site to collect nominations for your notable alumni campaign. Once you’ve compiled and vetted your submissions, you can create an email campaign to match what’s on your website.
4. Collect feedback
People appreciate knowing that their feedback is valued. Send a regular (e.g. quarterly or semiannually) survey asking your alumni to share feedback on their experience with your organization. You can create a survey about a specific event like a reunion or homecoming, or use it to take the temperature of your members.
What’s most important is that you use the information you’ve received. Compile survey results into a report you can share with fellow volunteers and other stakeholders. Share a version of the results with your audience so that they know you’re listening to their input.
While you don’t want to send too many emails, and risk that your alumni will hit that “unsubscribe” button, you also want to prove your organization’s value. To build a successful community, you need to remind your alumni who you are and what you’re doing for the community. A successful email campaign can do just that.
5. Create a March Madness Bracket for your Nation!
Get the full details on how to maximize March Madness including the full template by signing in to your National Alumni Institute account here.
Not a member of the National Alumni Institute yet? Sign up today to access your March Madness fundraising potential!
Your alumni organization engages a wide variety of people, all linked by one common experience. While no two alumni are the same, there are trends with each generation that can help you employ more strategic marketing in your outreach efforts. If you are looking to create targeted marketing that reaches alumni where they are, consider these engagement strategies by generation.
Baby Boomers (Class of 1964-1982)
Baby Boomers are the largest generation of living Americans. They likely comprise the bulk of your engaged alumni. They are loyal to the institutions that helped to shape them, and many are now retired. Thus, they tend to be eager to find new channels to direct their time and talents.
The best way to engage boomers is by directly asking them to help, such as asking them to perform a specific role or task. They may be eager to pass on their knowledge and make for great mentors. Boomers appreciate being recognized for their efforts, so “distinguished alumni” and other awards are useful motivators for engagement.
The best way to reach Boomers on social media is via Facebook. They are also open to direct phone calls and print publications.
Generation X (Class of 1983-1998)
Gen Xers are likely already involved in your school, albeit in a different way—as parents. They are plenty busy with their own careers and helping their own children. Gen Xers prefer finding ways to engage on their own time that fit their schedule, ideally from the comfort of their own homes.
Gen X is active on the major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. They prefer shorter engagements, like brief blogs and social posts, and will read email updates. They will explore content on their own time. They like seeing “throwback” posts from their school days. Gen Xers are also interested in how their alumni group can help them network or develop professionally.
Millennials (Class of 1999-2014)
Millennials are motivated by the desire to make a difference. They value organizations that make a positive impact, whether in the places they work or how they spend their leisure time. If there’s an issue in your community, Millennials want to feel they are helping solve problems.
The best way to reach Millennials is on mobile. Any marketing you do should also have a digital component that’s easy to access from a smartphone. They do not want to have to come to meetings or talk on the phone, but prefer working in online groups. No matter the forum, Millennials want to feel that their input is valued.
Members of this generation can be found on many of the same platforms as Gen Xers, plus Instagram and Snapchat. Facebook has become less popular among younger users. They enjoy content that will help them advance in their early careers and that shares stories about how people are making a difference.
Generation Z (Class of 2015-Present)
Your more recent graduates comprise Generation Z. While often lumped in with Millennials, Gen Z has a different outlook and mindset. They are focused on the future and willing to work hard now for it. Like Millennials, they value social impact, but also have a realist mindset. They are looking to parlay their interests into careers.
Gen Zers are very tech-literate and often have several screens open at once. Real-time communication is key, or you may miss them. They enjoy consuming information via images and creating their own content on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
To build a strong alumni network, it is important to reach alumni where they are. Taking a generational approach will help you attract more alumni at all ages. At the same time, it's worth noting that people are different, and you may be surprised to find that their age doesn't define them!
Alumni participate with your district or organization because they want to be engaged with and give back to the schools that gave them so much. Sometimes, it’s also nice to feel appreciated. Your alumni are always there for you, but by taking the time to make them feel special, you will build an even stronger community.
Below are some of our favorite ways we’ve seen schools show alumni they are appreciated. Some of these suggestions require getting help from the school administration and the students, but they are likely also the activities that will make alumni feel most appreciated.
Have a distinguished alumni award
Notable members of your community got their start at your schools, so it only makes sense to honor those successes. Create a nomination process for selecting a distinguished alumnus or alumnae. Solicit donations from a local business for a prize and find a space in the high school for a wall of recognition.
Include alumni in homecoming or graduation activities
Large community gatherings at the school are an excellent time to take a few moments to show appreciation for alumni. Have alumni walk in the parade or invite them on the field during halftime. Invite members of the golden class (i.e., the class of 1970 at graduation 2020) to attend graduation and offer them special acknowledgement with a shoutout during the program and a special cap or corsage.
Honor winning teams
Did the 1973 football team win state? What about the 1995 soccer team? Host reunions for these winning teams in conjunction with events for that team. Plan to honor the team during halftime of the game, and then host a pizza party where students and alumni can chat about their sport together. Or, you can host an alumni versus students game. It’s a great way to bring everyone together on a smaller scale!
Create a social media campaign for #ThrowbackThursday
Sometimes, appreciation is as simple as posting a photo. Scan old yearbook photos and upload them to the alumni group’s social media account. Or better yet, add them to the school or district’s accounts. Encourage alumni to tag themselves and their friends and to share the photos. Ask them to send in their favorites. This not only amuses your current followers, but also helps you to earn more of an alumni following.
Create a directory of alumni businesses
One of the benefits of an alumni organization is networking. Let alumni know where they can turn to with their business needs. Whether it’s a pizza place or a tax preparer, alumni want to support their own. Local business owners will be grateful for the free advertising for their business.
Show how you’re using alumni feedback
If you have been asking alumni to share their feedback, whether on social, blog comments or in a survey, thank them for their engagement. If they are offering suggestions, let them know that you’ve heard them and the changes you will be making.
Taking the time to tell your alumni they are appreciated will do wonders for your community. You’ll retain your active members and help to attract new ones. After all, everyone loves a nice “thank you” now and then.
The New Year brings new opportunities for starting fresh and setting goals for the months to come. The coming year is chock full of opportunities for reuniting, celebrating, learning and connecting. When it comes to alumni engagement, more is definitely merrier.
Here’s how you can boost your alumni engagement strategy in 2020:
Create a strategic engagement plan
Before you can boost your alumni engagement, you need to have a plan. An engagement plan creates a roadmap for your strategy and helps you set goals and benchmarks for success. Creating a model with clear objectives and deadlines will help you strategize for the coming year and create buy-in with stakeholders.
If your organization already has an engagement plan, be sure to regularly evaluate and refine it to fit where you are currently and where you would like to be.
Sketch alumni personas
Your audience should all have one thing in common: they attended the same high school. That’s where the similarities end. Within your alumni network, you have many segments. While everyone is different, there are patterns you can detect. Once you notice these patterns, clear personas begin to emerge.
Consider the different buckets you can use to sort your alumni. Graduation year is an obvious choice—alumni who graduated five years ago will have a different engagement level than those who graduated 45 years ago.
Commitment level is another way to sort alumni. Alumni could be:
- Connected: Follows you on social and receives emails, but doesn’t participate.
- Engaged: Attends events and participates on social.
- Committed: Regularly donates and not only participates, but also volunteers.
The tactics you use to engage alumni should vary based on the audience personas. For example, your call to action for committed alumni may not be asking them to donate. Because you know they are already steady donors, you may want to ask for more volunteers at any upcoming event instead.
Get help creating content for your community
It's always nice to hear from different perspectives. This year, make an effort to gather more crowdsourced content. Crowdsourcing not only relieves you of some of the pressure of finding something to post, but it also helps alumni feel more engaged.
An easy way to find content to share is to encourage alumni to use your hashtag when participating in activities or discussing issues related to your alumni community. You can then share these posts from your own page. Whether it’s a picture from an alumna’s front-row seats at the homecoming parade or an alumnus’ memory from his/her own graduation, find a way to share these stories and images. Bonding over shared experiences is what makes an alumni community so special.
Another effective way to engage alumni is by having them create content for your nation’s blog. Alumni can share their expertise in a variety of fields or explore their journalism and creative writing skills by writing about your hometown. Local business owners might be thrilled at the prospect of sharing information about what they do, while alumni living far from where they graduated can still feel connected.
Alumni Nations is here to help you build the alumni engagement strategy that will help you have your best year yet. Contact us to learn more about how we can help make this New Year something special.
Every education foundation has similar goals: to increase membership, secure more donations and help more students. But how do you get there?
To make all this happen, you must have a plan. Your best bet is to have concrete ideas that will help you achieve these goals. Try one (or all) of our suggestions for New Year's resolutions that are actionable, achievable and help your organization grow.
Secure a local news feature
Show everyone in your community how special it is to be part of your group. Write an op-ed or tip off a local reporter about a special alumni event. Perhaps it’s a story about the 50-year class reunion and how the class of 1970 is making an impactful donation to their alma mater. Maybe a group of alumni are volunteering to mentor students each weekend. The community is likely interested in the outcome of the teacher grants your organization provided.
Identify the human interest stories in your group to pitch to local news. The coverage not only highlights the great work in your community, but also demonstrates the value your alumni group provides.
Organize a donor event with other local organizations
There’s no need to hoard all your best donors. When another organization within your community benefits, your students and alumni benefit, too. Organize an event where other local organizations can get together to present information about their cause. It can be like a TED talk where everyone makes a short pitch, or like a conference where each organization has a booth. Each organization invites its favorite donors as a way to introduce local philanthropists to other great causes.
Invest in one tool to boost your marketing
Have you been using a free tool to manage communications, but really wish you had the paid version? Make your life easier and spring for the premium. Whether it’s a social media management tool, graphic design software or paid ads, commit to trying a service that could help you attract more donors and/or members. You may find that your investment earns a great return.
Attend two local advocacy events
You do not need to be told that education is a critical component to our community’s growth. It’s important to keep reminding others of this as well—including local elected officials. Look at the upcoming agenda for your city council or county board of supervisors to see if you can speak on your experience in the education sector. Local government is successful when people take the time to get involved.
Already doing this? Organize a trip to your state’s capital for an upcoming education advocacy day.
When making resolutions for your organization this year, make sure your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. With SMART resolutions, this can be your organization’s best year yet!
Many shoppers are spending these final weeks of the year frantically searching for that perfect gift for a loved one. There are also many thoughtful gift-givers looking for a way to support their communities this holiday season. Your educational foundation is the perfect place for these good samaritans to both find gifts and to give back.
How do you put your foundation at the top of the wish list? Here are some gift ideas that encourage alumni to connect with and give back to their alma maters:
Create a holiday-specific giving campaign
Use your existing fundraising platform to create a holiday-specific giving opportunity. Encourage donors to contribute in honor of a specific alumnus, such as a child, parent or grandparent. Offer to make something creative for alumni who raised donations, whether it be a social media shout-out or displaying names somewhere on campus. Create a graphic that gift-givers can use to print a lovely memento notifying them of the donation.
Encourage a class gift
Is there a specific need in your schools that could be funded somewhat easily? Encourage an alumni year or class to organize a class gift. If the Class of 2004 will be reuniting this holiday season, for example, have an engaged alumni collect funds for a specific project like a new classroom set of books or updating the bike racks. If the campaign is targeted at a smaller group with a specific funding goal, it may be easier for alumni to donate.
Promote school merch
Does your school sell merchandise featuring the school logo and colors? Remind your community that these items make for great gifts! No matter how long it has been since graduation, many alumni will be excited to receive a t-shirt, mug or other gear representing their alma mater.
Set up hours on campus or at a local community space where students can sell items for last-minute holiday shoppers. Gifts that give back are popular, and gift givers will feel good about buying something that supports the school’s educational foundation or athletic programs.
Tickets to the hottest show in town
If your school’s students will be putting on a winter recital, encourage alumni to purchase tickets for a holiday gift or for a special night out. Supporting local art events not only rewards the student performers for their hard work, but it also financially supports programs.
Register for Amazon Smile
If your education foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you can easily add your organization to the Amazon Smile program. Amazon donates .5 percent of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organization a shopper selects.
Once your foundation is available through Amazon Smile, encourage alumni and your community to designate your education foundation as their selected charity. They will be donating to your foundation while making their regular gift purchases. Remember that they need to use the smile.amazon.com link for your foundation to receive contributions.
This holiday season, remind alumni and your community that a donation to your educational foundation is a gift that never goes out of style!
When you have truly engaged alumni, you can benefit from a group of passionate supporters who drive your school district's goals and fundraising efforts. One of the ways you can get your former students more involved in your district is to hold one or more alumni engagement events throughout the year.
If you have not planned these types of events before, or the events you've held have not generated the results you were seeking, consider these ideas and tips:
- Create goals: Before you can start the hard work of event planning, create reasonable goals. Consider the events you've held in the past, the size of your alumni pool and the amount of money you have to spend on your event to help quantify some clear goals. Think about the amount of money you want to generate through fundraising, the number of alumni you want to sign up as volunteers or the number of followers and subscribers you want for your social media and email marketing campaigns.
- Brainstorm ideas with your alumni in mind: Consider the kind of event your alumni would be interested in attending. Use whatever information you have about your alumni—including their age, career paths, family status and interests—to help you brainstorm event ideas that will appeal to them.
- Market your event: Do as much as you can to ensure your alumni know about your event. Do both direct mail and email invitations, share information on social media and make calls to some influential alumni to generate greater attendance.
- Blend fun and purpose: If you don’t have anything fun or interesting to offer alumni who attend your events, they are unlikely to show up. Look to plan an an event at which people can have fun and communicate the goals and mission of your school district to generate support. You can do this with powerful videos, images or testimonials that are woven into the event, along with fun activities that your alumni can enjoy.
Planning an alumni engagement event can be challenging, but the outcomes for your school district are immeasurable when they go well. Take these tips and ideas into account as you work on your next event.
Thanksgiving is a time when we honor the people in our lives who make our days a little brighter. There are many people helping to make your organization and alumni group run smoothly—even if it sometimes feels like a one-person job.
This November, take a moment to reflect on those who make your community the special place it is. If you have a chance, send them a thank you to show that you appreciate their help.
Many school activities simply could not happen without the generous support of donors. These people are often alumni giving back to their alma mater. Whether your alumni group has a fundraising goal or you’re working on behalf of the district’s foundation, you’ve seen how a little donation can go a long way. When the holidays get hectic, remember all the good in your community.
Just as your schools benefit from donations, they are also positively impacted by volunteers. Classroom parents, students collecting service hours and alumni helping to manage events all power the ongoing activities that make your community so special. If you’re volunteering your time to manage your alumni group, rest assured that many people are grateful for your efforts. Take time to appreciate the volunteers who keep it all moving forward.
Much of the fun of staying connected with your alma mater is watching each new class of students grow. Students remind us of our time in school and how our school and community played an important role in shaping who we are today. Whether you’re cheering them on at homecoming or you have an active alumni/student mentorship program, students make alumni engagement joyful. If it weren’t for them, there wouldn’t be awesome alumni!
4. Teachers, administrators and staff
There are not enough thank yous in the world for all the hard work our educators put into teaching our students. They ensure young people are prepared to enter the next phase of their life, while dedicating time to making school a fun experience. Some school employees might be a great support in coordinating alumni events—and some may be alums themselves. If you haven’t done so lately, thank your teachers and staff.
Alumni of all ages are the heart of any alumni group, whether they’re from the class of 1959 or the class of 2019. No one is obligated to stay involved after graduation, so the fact that you have a community of former classmates is a testament to your strength. Your alumni are likely donors, teachers, volunteers and parents, in addition to their other roles in the community. The rich diversity of your alumni network is what makes your group unique and what attracts more alumni to join.
While we’re on the subject of gratitude, we want to thank you, our wonderful community members at Alumni Nations! Our communities depend on people like you to perform meaningful engagement. Your work inspires us daily. Happy Thanksgiving!
Giving Tuesday began in 2012 as a response to the shopping mania that has for years taken place on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Occurring the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, it’s a great time for people to embrace the giving spirit of the holiday and support their favorite causes. It’s also an excellent time for school districts and educational foundations to join in on the fun and conduct a fundraising campaign.
If your district has a foundation, you can use Giving Tuesday to draw awareness to the work it’s doing and most importantly to drive donations. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for this year’s Giving Tuesday.
Begin your campaign early
The first mention of your Giving Tuesday campaign should be weeks before the actual date. Give people time to consider your campaign and whether they would like to donate. There will be many other well-deserving causes competing for their attention—and possibly requests from other alumni groups, including colleges and universities. Let your alumni know sooner than later that an opportunity to donate is coming soon. Use your website, social media and other channels to spread the word.
Prepare a list of donor types
You may want to try a different approach for each type of donor. Your messaging for a recurring donor may not be the same as it would be for someone who has never donated before. If you have the information available, sort your email list into three smaller lists: recurring donors, one-time donors and non-donors. Make a different pitch to each and see if donations increase among each group.
Harness social media
Social media is one of the best ways to alert people to your cause thanks to the #GivingTuesday hashtag. Just as you need to prepare alumni for the upcoming ask, you also need to prime your social media profiles. Share a few posts updating alumni on district happenings. Demonstrating your value to alumni will make it easier to make an ask of them later on.
Offer an incentive
Offer potential donors an incentive for making a contribution. See if you can secure a matching donation from a local business. Show donors what the fundraising goal is, such as a new soccer field or lab equipment. Use social media to keep donors informed of the campaign’s progress. Even though you are always willing to take donations, setting a goal of X dollars in 24 hours creates a sense of urgency and encourages people to avoid putting it off.
Engage fellow alumni to promote your campaign
You’re not the only one who cares about reaching your campaign goal. If you have active alumni who are well connected in the community or have a large online presence, ask them to spread the word. Enlist them to post on social media that they’ve just donated and to post the link so others can donate, too. Send local businesses a flier to post over the big shopping weekend. Alumni (and non-alums) may be more likely to donate when they know their friends are also giving.
The holidays are the perfect time to promote the good work your district and/or foundation performs. Be prepared for #GivingTuesday so that you can maximize donations that support your students.
If you've ever hosted an alumni event, you know event planning is not as simple as setting up a Facebook invite and hoping people actually show up. Successful events can take months to plan and require a significant amount of coordination.
Whether you are planning a reunion, tailgate or fundraiser, these tips will help you to make your next event a smash. Here's a timeline as you begin the planning process:
Three to four months prior
- Develop a roadmap: Hey, you’re doing that right now! Gather your leadership group or committee to work backwards from the event and set key deadlines.
- Set a budget: Determine your available funding for the event and whether you’ll need to charge for tickets or perform other fundraising.
- Reserve a venue: Identify and reserve a venue that fits your event and your anticipated capacity.
- Save the date: If you anticipate people will need to travel, as for a reunion, share the save-the-date information for the event across your platforms, including email and social media.
Two months before
- Contact vendors: Start securing vendors for food, rentals, entertainment and whatever else your program needs.
- Confirm expenses: Make sure you are clear with vendors what the amount will be and how/when you will pay.
- Create a program: Design a rough timeline of events for your internal team.
- Share event info: If you have not already, remind invitees to save the date.
One month prior
- Post event details: Share information like time, address and events across multiple platforms. Use tools like Facebook to collect RSVPs.
- Send an email: Remind folks about the event with an email linking to your registration page, if applicable.
- Confirm the schedule: Finalize the program for the event.
One to two weeks before
- Contact key personnel: Email any vendors, speakers or volunteers to confirm they are still attending and verify last-minute details.
- Check the venue: Verify details, including a final headcount.
The day before
- Collect all necessary materials: Gather any decorations, giveaways, tables or other items you’ll need for tomorrow in one place. If you can, drop off items at the venue now.
- Remember to print: Print anything you need, such as signage, programs, nametags and registration sheets. Don’t forget the pens!
The day of the event
- Arrive early: If you are leading the event, make sure you’re prepared to help set up, coordinate volunteers and answer questions.
- Set up: Put out any tables, tents or food. If you’re working with an event planning company or other vendors, be available to answer questions.
- Create a check-in spot: Have a welcome space with a sign-in sheet for collecting names and emails, and have name tags out to make networking easier.
After the event
- Pay vendors: Make sure all payments are finalized with vendors.
- Say thanks: Send a follow-up to any speakers, performers or volunteers, thanking them for their help. Leave reviews for vendors.
- Enter emails: If you collected emails, add them to your system for future communications!
Events are a large part of what make alumni communities so successful, as they allow classmates to reconnect. While they can be time-consuming to plan, the work is worth the memories.
You are reading this blog post because you’re committed to building a thriving, connected alumni community. That’s fantastic! Without people like you, there would be no reunions and fewer opportunities for old friends to connect.
What about the people who are perhaps a bit more reluctant? Chances are, there are alumni out there who are open to engaging in some capacity, but are unsure how or may not have ever thought to reconnect. In other words, how can you engage the unengaged?
Create diverse experiences
While high school is what unites alumni, not everyone wants to show up to a homecoming game or volunteer to mentor young students. Some are happy to grab a brew on the other side of town without having to relive their high school days. If you’re looking for true engagement and active participation, create diverse opportunities for people to engage in what interests them.
You were not all the same during school, so you shouldn't expect to have the same interests now!
Engage alumni at different entry points
You may assume that because someone is not currently on the email list, doesn’t attend events or lives out of the area, that person does not want any connection to the alumni community. That may not necessarily be the case. Use your current active network to identify alumni who may be able to help with specific roles. Someone may not be able to donate to your drive or volunteer on the reunion committee, but could still be interested in hosting a student for a career research project, for example.
Maybe you’re looking for fun ideas for alumni events, and a previously unengaged alumnus owns a yoga studio and would be happy to host (while getting new business). Even currently unengaged alumni may be able to find a niche that allows them to get more involved.
Offer useful content
Create an intentional social media plan with goals for who you want to reach and clear messages you want to send. Whether it’s school-specific content or alumni spotlights, take time to learn what your community expects from your group.
Not sure what you should be sharing or don’t have time to implement your plan? Perhaps a recent graduate wanting some experience or a marketing expert looking to volunteer would be happy to help.
Open the door to new opportunities, but respect where people are
Take some time to understand why people are or are not engaging. If an alumna is less engaged because she now has small children, consider what programming you could provide to serve her interests. New grads probably won’t have the money to donate to a campaign, so offer different points of entry for getting involved, such as volunteering their time to help with bond measure mailers.
An out-of-state alumnus may not be willing to fly back for reunions, but would still like to know that the school district was ranked at the top of the state or that the soccer team went to regionals.
If people still are not interested in participating, respect that decision. It’s not personal. They may decide to change their minds later, so keep trying!
Engaging alumni requires hard work from volunteers, but is worthwhile for building community. Alumni Nations is here to support you along the way.
There’s nothing quite like the excitement and nostalgia homecoming generates in a community. Besides class reunions, homecoming is the most important time for engaging your alumni.
With all the hullabaloo surrounding back to school and the end of summer, it’s easy for homecoming to sneak up on alumni groups. To ensure you take advantage of all the great opportunities for alumni engagement at homecoming, check out the following tips:
Refresh your email list
Before you start promoting your homecoming marketing plan, make sure your email list is in tip-top shape. Remove any emails that are bouncing or seem like spam. Re-engage with any silent alumni by sending a one-time followup asking if they’d like to continue receiving emails. Hold a mini-campaign on social media encouraging alumni to sign up for your mailing list to receive all the latest news on homecoming. You’ll feel better sending messages to those you know actively want to hear from you.
Create a homecoming webpage
Working with your school, create a page either on their site or yours (or both!) specifically devoted to sharing information about homecoming. A web page is much easier to locate the week of than piecing together Facebook posts. Content could include a schedule of events, maps and information like the school’s fight song and other spirited traditions. If your school sells merchandise for fundraising, this is also a great place to share the link. Create a registration form for alumni events to get a rough headcount and add some more names to your email list.
Generate excitement and tap into nostalgia
Homecoming brings back a lot of memories for alumni—memories the community would love to hear! Create a social media campaign leading up to homecoming encouraging alumni to share photos and their favorite memories. Work with the school, district and even the local newspaper to share the best submissions.
Host an alumni-specific event
Have your alumni association host an event during which alumni can interact with each other and meet the team behind your group. Designate a spot on the parade route or in the stadium stands for alumni to gather. Offer school swag like pencils and hold a raffle for larger school-themed prizes for alumni who sign up to join the group. Homecoming is a prime opportunity to show fellow alumni the value of your organization and the connections it forges.
Use the homecoming spirit to drive other events
Homecoming is a happy time for students, alumni and the community at large. Tap into the excitement to add off-campus events to the schedule, or as an opportunity to generate buzz for future events. Host a charity event like a blood drive or a restaurant night during homecoming week. Or, host a more grown-up homecoming event with an alumni happy hour during the week. If your alumni group is hosting future events, share a flier with information and how people can learn more.
Send a survey after homecoming
How successful was your group’s homecoming efforts? Did attendees enjoy the events? Why didn’t some attend? Email a survey with these questions shortly after the event to learn more about your audience and better plan for next year.
Whether you’re a Spartan, Falcon, Tiger or Bear, we hope you’re heading into homecoming week with major school spirit!
As you likely know, colleges and universities have been leveraging the support and generosity of their alumni for decades. In recent years, K-12 schools and districts have become increasingly invested in developing and maintaining a pool of engaged alumni who support their efforts, as well.
Although many schools focus on using alumni to help with fundraising efforts, you can also leverage the experience and knowledge your alumni have to coordinate an impactful student-alumni mentorship program.
It takes time and effort to design and implement a program like this, but the potential benefits of student-alumni mentorship are well worth it.
How to design a mentorship program
The best mentorship programs are carefully designed to offer the best possible benefits for students and alumni. You should think about who you want to participate in the program, how you will facilitate mentorship for students and what your goals are to help you design an effective program. You can decide whether you want to match students and alumni in one-on-one mentorship sessions or assign an alumni to mentor students in groups.
Create a plan for how you will select alumni, how you will match students with mentors, how meetings will be conducted and what the timeline for mentorship will look like.
For a mentorship program to work, you need to generate interest from potential mentors and potential mentees alike. Identify alumni who would be good mentors and reach out to them via email or phone to tell them about your program and ask them to participate. You can encourage participation by highlighting mentors in your social media and email marketing campaign and offering incentives to mentors who volunteer their time.
It’s always important to screen mentors and provide them with some training and guidelines to help them make the most positive impact possible on the students they mentor.
Your alumni represent some of your biggest supporters as a district, and a well-planned mentorship program can help you leverage this resource to the fullest. With some planning and development, you can cultivate relationships between students and alumni that encourage academic growth and shape positive career paths.
When building engagement with your alumni community, you want to create an all-ages approach that generates interest from a wide spectrum of graduating classes. With so much of our marketing happening digitally these days, it can be easy to forget about older alumni.
Older alumni are a crucial group to keep active in your organization. They hold a wealth of knowledge about your school or district. They are also more likely to be well-connected and well-respected community members with more time to give, making them a tremendous asset.
It’s tempting to fall for the narrative that seniors are not online, but doing so ignores a sizeable chunk of your audience. Baby Boomers have long been the largest living adult population, with its youngest members now at around age 55. Of the 50-65 age bracket, 70 percent are active online; 38% of people age 65 or older are online, and more than half of that group are on social media.
If you want to engage more seniors in your alumni group, consider the tips below for your outreach efforts:
Speak their language
Any marketing messaging should be clear to a broad audience, but what’s clear to one age group may not be to another. You don’t need to alienate younger alumni by only using cultural references from the 1970s, but if you are trying to court an all-ages demographic, don’t rely on the hottest memes from TikTok either.
Choose the right platforms
We noted above that many seniors are on social media, especially Facebook. If you’re trying to decide which channel(s) to use to engage with alumni, look to where most of your community is already spending their time. Additionally, more than 90 percent of people age 50 or older actively use email, making it a fantastic tool for engagement. Consider a multiplatform approach to reach as many demographics as possible.
Make it easy to contact your organization
If an older alumnus wants to get involved, but is not very tech savvy, how can he or she reach your group? Is there a phone number or address on your website? Is a contact person listed? While some people may be online, it doesn’t mean they are always comfortable communicating that way.
Representatives should make themselves available to alumni at least via email, and offer to follow up by phone if it seems appropriate to do so.
Learn what they want
If you are unsure about how older alumni want to connect with you, don’t make assumptions. Ask active older alumni or members of the demographic you hope to reach what kinds of programming they would enjoy and how they would like to hear about news and events. Take the extra step to find alumni who may be disengaged to learn what you can do to help reconnect.
Don’t rely on digital alone
The purpose of this post is to encourage you to reach older alumni online, but if you want to truly be inclusive, you should still consider how you can reach people offline. If you really want to reach an older group, like for the 50-year reunion for the class of 1970, use a mix of online and offline marketing efforts. Mailing fliers and posting at community centers are still great ways to reach many members of your target audience.
For any organization, surveys offer a valuable tool to learn more about a target audience, especially when it comes to better communicating and engaging with that audience.
If you’re looking to generate greater interest from your alumni community, consider using a survey to learn what you want to know straight from the source. These surveys can help you gather key information, such as:
- Learning more about your alumni community, including their age, where they live and their average income.
- Evaluate how active they are in the alumni community, which events they have attended, what they thought of those events and which events they might like to attend.
- Measure their attitudes about the school district and their satisfaction as a student with academics, sports, extracurriculars and other experiences.
- Gauge interest in programming and communication efforts from the alumni organization.
- Learn about their interest in fundraising and support efforts for the school district.
The success of your survey depends on several factors. Alumni are ultimately taking the time to help you, so you need to meet them halfway and make the survey simple and easy to complete. Below are a few tips to help you design an effective alumni survey.
Clearly define your goal for the survey
Your questions should be brief and focused to encourage a higher response rate. Before you even write the questions, be clear on what you wish to learn about your alumni. Each question should serve the purpose of your survey, whether it’s evaluating an event or gauging interest in future programming. You do not necessarily need to share these survey objective(s) with the audience, although it may make them more inclined to participate.
Avoid numerical scales
Instead of asking participants to rate the event on a scale of 1-5, 1-10 or an obscure scale like 1-7, phrase the question as: “How much did you enjoy the event?” Answers may ranging from “very much” to “not at all.” This will give you a clearer understanding of participants’ feelings. Numbered ratings are too subjective to provide sound data.
Create questions chronologically
If you are creating a survey about an event, move from questions relating to before the event (e.g., “How did you hear about the tailgate?”), during (“Which activities did you participate in at the tailgate?”) and after (“Overall, how much did you enjoy the tailgate?”). This will help the participant move logically through your survey.
Save open-ended questions until the end
No one wants to click open a survey only to discover they’ve been tricked into a writing assignment. Start with the easy questions first, like name and age, and work up to the more extensive questions. People who have already started the survey will be less likely to bail once they get to the open-ended questions at the end.
There are many online tools that make it easy for you to collect and analyze information about your alumni and, more importantly, make it easier for them to participate. With an email list for your alumni community, you can easily send a link for participants to complete at their convenience. Whichever tool you pick, whether a Google Form or SurveyMonkey, you’ll be able to see results in real time.
Although not every alumnus will participate, surveys are a great opportunity to learn more about your community and provide them with the service and support they desire from their alma mater or alumni group.
A successful alumni organization relies on a strong marketing plan. Gaining new members, hosting events and encouraging regular interaction all require high levels of engagement to inform members of what’s happening within your network.
If your organization is playing it by ear when it comes to marketing, it’s worth taking the time to perform some exercises borrowed from the business world to create a strategy that will guide future communication efforts.
Let’s explore some of the key components to a great alumni marketing plan:
Form a marketing committee
Bring together a team committed to developing marketing goals and improving the organization’s reach. Use your network to find some help by tapping alumni who work in marketing, or those who are interested in getting more involved with the organization.
Evaluate other alumni organizations
Take a look at what other alumni organizations are doing to increase their marketing presence. Visit their websites and social networks to see how often they post. Watch other alumni groups you are a member of to see how well they engage you and your fellow members. Even if you’re representing a small school district, there’s plenty you can learn from exploring a large university’s alumni association website.
Know your value proposition
What do alumni gain by serving as an active member of your network? How will their lives be better as a result of participating in your events? To gain members, host successful events and maintain the organization, you need to be able to clearly articulate the answers to these questions. The answers will drive your marketing plan.
Create alumni personas
This is a fun exercise borrowed from the marketing world. With your team, brainstorm the types of people you want to engage (or don’t) through the alumni network. Think about the age, gender, location, career and level of interaction of different types of people in your network. Once you’ve created the personas, consider how you can best reach each persona through effective marketing.
Set SMART goals for growth
Set three marketing goals you can realistically achieve over the next year. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. For example, increasing your Facebook followers by 25 percent by next year is a terrific SMART goal. As you evaluate your plan and your goals each year, it will be easier to determine what realistic growth is for your organization and how well your efforts are succeeding.
Make your plan
It’s finally time to forge ahead with your marketing plan. Highlight events in the upcoming year, times when you want to push for membership and a schedule of how often you’ll post and where. Don’t forget to use your goals to drive your plan. Evaluate your plan regularly, and go through these exercises each year to refresh your strategy.
A school district referendum is not just about a pass/fail vote. It is also about creating buy-in with the public and raising the conversation around educational issues in your community.
An effective referendum communication plan is based on telling the truth, being transparent and working to engage every member of the community. It’s an important time for school and district spokespeople to establish themselves as credible sources of information who can be trusted with executing the referendum, if passed.
When you’re heading into a referendum, it’s safe to err on the side of over-communicating. It’s especially important to focus on sharing the district’s financial or facilities needs, and how the referendum will help address those needs.
You may feel like a broken record—or that your message is falling on deaf ears. Many voters may not seek or pay attention to referendum information until just before Election Day, no matter how strong your communication strategy.
Offer plenty of details
Taxpayers want to know what their money is being used for and how it will help the district and the community. While they may be satisfied to know their vote and their tax dollars are supporting children, you still owe it to them to provide a comprehensive overview of how the funds will be used. Make detailed plans available for those who are interested.
Refrain from advocacy
If you are creating communications on behalf of the school or district, it’s important to know what you can and cannot say. While your job is to inform the public about the benefits the referendum will provide and to encourage them to vote, it is not your place to tell people how to vote. Your communications will imply that you believe voting “yes” on the referendum will be positive, but you must not explicitly tell others to vote "yes."
Use all available channels
You already have plenty of channels for communicating district news, so use them! Send letters home to parents and share updates on social media. Engage your alumni network with posts on referendum details and progress. Write to the local newspaper detailing the work the referendum would allow.
Engage your alumni
One important target audience you might not immediately think to tap are alumni. Your alumni are likely parents, staff and community members, making them stakeholders in the referendum process. Mobilize this group of people who have a strong connection to your school district by making them a priority.
Focus on trust
Communicating about a referendum is a great way to build relationships and trust with the community. Being transparent in messaging, answering questions honestly and operating with integrity will strengthen not only the referendum’s support, but also the district’s image within the community.
The future of public education is uncertain in many communities. This will likely not be the only referendum from your district. Pass or fail, you may be back in five years asking the same community members to support another referendum. Establishing a solid communication plan will make future efforts easier.
One of the best ways to keep your alumni engaged long after they have graduated from your school or district is to reward them for making an impact on the world around them. This can be done through a distinguished alumni award program, through which you recognize former students who have achieved any number of positive things in the community, in their careers or in supporting your school district.
When done well, these award programs can help you tell the story of your school district while highlighting the various ways your students go on to do special things. In this way, you can showcase how a strong academic foundation within your district can lead to incredible levels of personal and professional success for graduates.
Below are some steps you can take to establish a distinguished alumni awards program for your school, district or educational foundation:
1. Establish the award
This may seem obvious, but your first step should be to establish the award. This may be done through a committee made up of administrators, teachers, staff, parents, community members and (of course) alumni. The makeup of this committee may depend on your goals and how quickly you want to get the program up and running.
You may also consider naming the award after a particularly noteworthy alumni.
2. Set up a platform
Next, create an easy way for individuals to nominate alumni for your award. (If you have an Alumni Nation, you may already have this platform ready to go). Allow individuals to quickly submit the information of those they would like to nominate, along with the nominee's contact information and what he or she has done to deserve the award.
3. Ask for nominations
Next, ask your community to submit the names of alumni they believe should be recognized. Spread the word via social media, video, a news release, email and newsletters, if possible. If you have the capacity to do so, create a mini-marketing plan to ensure you receive an ample number of nominations.
Be sure to allow plenty of time for nominations to come in. We often suggest starting at least nine months before your first recognition event (see below).
4. Develop a selection process
Working with your committee, create a sound process for reviewing each nominee. This includes having a set of criteria the committee will use to evaluate each potential award winner. Have a firm deadline of when you will name the winner(s)—usually about two months before the recognition event.
5. Hold a recognition event
Now comes the fun part. Organize a luncheon, dinner and/or banquet to formally recognize individuals selected as your distinguished alumni. This size and scope of this event may depend on your budget, but it's a great opportunity to invite your alumni and community members to a positive event that celebrates your schools.
Although establishing a distinguished alumni award program takes some work and dedication (ideally with the help of volunteers), it can be a unique and effective way to further engage your alumni and community. Consider these tips as you create your program.