Father's Day Offers a Chance to Engage Generational Alumni

Nowadays, people seem to move around a lot. It is quite common for children to move beyond their hometown to attend college or enter the workforce after graduation, settling in a new community away from their high school alma mater. Some may return to their hometowns after some time has passed, while others may not. 

Although this may seem to be the trend, it's important to remember that your alumni community is likely made up of many families who have multiple generations who have attended your schools. Father's Day is a great opportunity to engage all families—especially those who have long histories in your school district community.

Collecting intergenerational stories

During the time around this summer holiday, consider reaching out to your alumni and see if you can get some stories of multiple generations of family members who have made notable achievements while attending your schools. 

For example, you may find that a recent graduate, her father and her grandmother all had perfect attendance throughout their four years of high school. Or, perhaps a father and his son both received all-state honors in basketball. 

Another example may be a family so committed to service that multiple generations can be found volunteering in the community in various ways.

These types of stories can be excellent fodder for your alumni appeal, newsletter and other communications throughout the year. By telling stories, you can bring your alumni community closer together and amplify your level of engagement for the long term. 

As you think about connecting with your alumni this Father's Day, consider the power of intergenerational stories. If you need some assistance in getting started, contact the team at Alumni Nations today.

National Alumni Institute members have access to our annual giving brochure template, which features generational chairs. As Father’s Day approaches, it is a great reminder to showcase your alumni through multi-generations with your annual appeal. Different generational chairs will connect with different audiences and class years.  Having a family chair with multigenerational alums, is a great way to connect to a larger audience. To learn more and access this template visit http://nationalalumniinstitute.org/


Summer is a Great Time to Reach Out to Alumni Donors

Summer has arrived! Schools are officially out of session, and while some might still have virtual activities, it tends to be the slower time of the year. 

Much of the summer for educational professionals (teachers and administrators alike) is spent recharging and preparing for the next school year. However, this is also a great time for you to emphasize your fundraising campaigns and to boost your communications with your donors.

A good general rule is to send out messages to your donors at least once a month, including over the summer. Just because school is out of session doesn’t mean the fundraising stops.

Below are a few fundraising strategies you should consider implementing over the summer months.

Wrap up the year

The end of the school year is a great time to send updates to your alumni and donors about how the school year went, as well as to create a roundup of any special achievements your school earned or events that occurred. Ideally, you will have been keeping your alumni updated about these occurrences throughout the school year, but the end of the year is a great time for a wrap-up to showcase everything you accomplished over the course of the school year.

Give thanks

The summer is also a great time to show appreciation to your alumni for all of their contributions. Send handwritten thank yous, or get creative with thank you videos or artwork. You might even consider having a special event specifically for donors to honor them.

Build relationships

You can use the warm weather as a way to get your alumni involved and focus on relationship building over the summer. This is a great time to have cookouts and other outdoor gatherings that bring people together, as long as the situation surrounding COVID-19 allows it. Create meaningful connections at these events so you can establish relationships that you can maintain throughout the school year, even when things get busy.

Update your communications

The downtime associated with summer is a great time to analyze the communication tools you’re using and figure out how you can improve them. If you have a newsletter for your alumni, figure out what you can do to make them more interesting and informative. Spend some time analyzing your online presence and try to find more opportunities for engagement. 

Keep the information coming

Finally, just because school is out for the summer does not mean there won’t continue to be important information and updates to share. Continue to send updates about goings-on at the school, local policies or issues like referendums your alumni will be interested in knowing about and opportunities for them to get more involved.

For more information about the steps you can take this summer to stay in communication with your alumni donors and to keep them plugged in to what’s happening at your school, district or foundation, contact us today.


Ideas for Honoring Alumni Serving in the Armed Forces

With Memorial Day just coming to a close, your alumni association may be interested in finding ways to honor alumni who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces.

It is important to remember that Memorial Day is not the same as Veterans Day. While Veterans Day exists to honor all veterans and service men and women, Memorial Day specifically honors those who gave their lives in service to the country.

To that end, celebrations of Memorial Day generally have a bit more somber tone. It is important to respect the intended spirit of the holiday and to primarily pay respects to the fallen, while also giving nods to living veterans and current men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces.

With that in mind, below are a few ways you might consider honoring your alumni who are serving or have served for this Memorial Day.

Create an alumni wall 

If you can gather a list of alumni who have served in the armed forces, and in which branch they served, you can create a special wall honoring them. Be sure to give special attention to those who gave their lives as part of their service. These types of memorials are often found in parks and public places around communities throughout the United States, but you could make one specific to your school to place on school grounds to serve as a nice reminder of those alumni who sacrificed for their country. 

Host a flag ceremony

 Alumni associations will often hold flag retreat ceremonies honoring current and past military service members. At these ceremonies, you may wish to have a military speaker and a horn player to play “taps” when giving a salute to the fallen. 

Get teachers and classes involved

 If schools have alumni who served who are still living in the area, it may make a good school project to have students interview those alumni to learn more about their experiences and stories from their time serving. Teachers may also wish to put together special in-class Memorial Day lessons or programs that honor veterans—and invite alumni in to speak or to take part in the activities. 

Host a cookout

 If you are looking for something a little lower key and easier to plan, you might consider hosting a cookout in a local park or even on school grounds, and find a way to honor alumni veterans while also enjoying each other’s company. Memorial Day barbecues are a fixture in communities across the United States, and you may get great engagement from alumni coming back for such an event.

 For more tips about ways you can honor your alumni who served this and next Memorial Day and to learn more about creating a sound alumni engagement strategy, we encourage you to contact Alumni Nations today.


How to Connect With Alumni Who Have Children of Their Own

As your graduates go on to start their own families and have children, you may notice it becomes more difficult to keep them engaged in your alumni events and activities. In many cases, however, this lack of engagement is not due to a lack of interest in your alumni, but instead due to the challenges associated with attending events when they have kids. They might not wish to take time away from their families to participate in the event, even if it’s one that interests them.

One of the best ways to keep your alumni with children engaged is to host events that are family friendly and invite alumni to bring their partners and children. You may well find that opening up your events to include family members will increase your attendance at events, as well as increase the appeal of your alumni association.

Below are a few tips you might consider to improve engagement among alumni with children:

  • Pick the right time: You’ll have much better luck having events during the day on the weekend if you are trying to attract alumni with families than you will by having events during evenings or on weeknights.
  • Keep it simple: When planning an event in which children will be in attendance, it’s a good idea to keep it simple and avoid making it an overly planned-out affair. You should make it easy for families to show up or leave at their convenience. This is especially beneficial for families with young children who may not be able to realistically make it through an entire afternoon. It could be something as simple as a picnic.
  • Choose the right setting: Not every event venue is going to be ideal for children, so if you’re planning a family-friendly event, you are going to need a family-friendly setting. Think parks, zoos, museums and things of that nature. Avoid halls and ballrooms—while these may be good sites for other types of events your alumni association holds, they are not going to be of much interest to children.
  • Hold events on a smaller scale: Not all your alumni events have to be big blowouts. In fact, holding some events on a smaller scale may be attractive to some alumni. Having more intimate, low-key events can also be attractive for alumni with families, who may prefer to avoid more potentially overwhelming environments.
  • Have activities for children: When planning activities with families in mind, make sure you have specifically planned activities for the kids. Maybe all children attending get a coloring book or small package of games and activities. Perhaps there’s a playground reserved for them or a scavenger hunt set up. Taking the initiative to give attending children something to do can encourage alumni with kids to come out to the event.

When planning alumni events throughout the year, consider the needs and preferences of your alumni who are at the age when they have children. You may find interest and attendance in your events tick up considerably.

National Alumni Institute members have exclusive access to our Legacy Program Template to engage your multi-generation alumni! Click here to access the template or join today!


Ideas for Engaging your Environment Conscious Alumni

COVID-19 has given us a unique opportunity to see our effect on the planet, inspiring many to consider their carbon footprint. Although we can't gather together at the moment, here are some tips for engaging your eco-conscious alumni: 

Trash pickups

Trash clean-ups are a great community activity, and they can either be performed around your schools or throughout the surrounding community. Make sure you provide plenty of disposable gloves and garbage bags.

This is one example of an activity that is easy to organize, gives people a chance to socialize while they’re working and makes a clearly visible impact on the community when complete. It can also be a good idea to take photos of all the bags of trash collected when completed to raise awareness of how much trash is actually lying around the neighborhood and to encourage people to avoid littering.

Plant a tree

Host a tree planting ceremony, and consider inviting alumni back to take part. A few years back the Earth Day Network set a goal of planting nearly 8 billion trees by the end of the end of 2020, marking one tree for every person alive. Even planting just one tree will help you to hit this goal. Trees aren’t just important for creating beautiful landscapes—they also soak up carbon dioxide and expel oxygen, helping to alleviate the effect of greenhouse gases on the climate.

Have a recycling competition

Get representatives from recent graduating classes to compete to see which can gather up the most recyclable materials like cans, bottles and recyclable plastics. Nothing like a little bit of competition to generate enthusiasm and participation, and you can channel that energy and class spirit for a good cause!

Have a bike event

Try organizing a bike tour through your community, maybe hitting a certain number of district schools along the way! This can encourage more people to use bicycles for commuting or pleasure to get more cars off the road. Make sure you work with the proper authorities in your municipality to ensure you get the permission you need for such an event.

Host a swap, yard sale or craft day

These types of events can encourage people to find treasures among other people’s trash. Rather than allowing perfectly good items to be sent to the landfill, your district can organize a swap or sale of items that families no longer use, or a craft day featuring items made out of recycled materials or old items that had just been lying around.

These are just a few examples of some environment-friendly activities that could be a big hit in your school district and with your alumni. For more ideas, get in touch with Alumni Nations!

National Alumni Institute members get exclusive access to our recycling fundraiser template, sign up here today! 


How to Collect the Best Stories from Your Alumni

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to build connections between groups of people. Fortunately, alumni organizations are home to a host of fascinating stories that members both relate to and understand. Alumni stories are an excellent tool for demonstrating the value of your school and the value of your alumni organization.

If you’re unsure how to collect alumni stories for your organization, here’s how you can get started. 

Find compelling alumni

If you’d like to start collecting stories from alumni, begin with people in your network. If there are alumni who are actively involved in the community, the school or your organization, begin by collecting their stories. As active participants they won’t need much convincing to help.

While you are working on collecting the stories from the people in your immediate network, begin broadening your outreach efforts. Create a form where alumni can nominate each other (or themselves) to be featured in your marketing. Make the form available on your Nation Builder site and post it regularly on your social channels. Be sure to include it as a call to action when you begin posting stories from the series.

While there are likely some impressive alumni in your network, make an effort to include everyone’s stories. A notable alum might not just be a local politician or a business owner. Featuring many types of people will help others to see themselves in your organization.

Conduct an interview

Once you’ve found an alum to interview, you’ll need to collect the story. Depending on your resources and the alum’s availability, you have a few options. You can prepare a standard list of questions (more on that below) and have the alum submit the answers via email. If you’d like to have more of a conversation, you can ask the questions via phone or in person and record the meeting. Another option is to create a video series to share online. This would be a great way to get your school’s media or journalism department involved.

An even easier option is to keep a form posted on your Nation Builder site. Alumni can submit their own stories at their leisure. As with the nomination form, be sure to feature this link prominently and promote it often.

Ask the right questions

One it’s time to interview an alum, you want to use your time effectively and ask questions that will elicit the best responses. Sample questions you can ask include:

  • How did you spend your time during your school days?
  • What was your most memorable year?
  • What was your favorite class? Who was your favorite teacher?
  • What did you learn in school that helped you after graduation?
  • What advice would you give to today’s students?

Add your own questions to better fit the alum and your school.  

With a little work, you can easily pull out the best stories about your school and your community to share with your members. These stories will help you share more about your organization, connect alumni with each other and teach current students about shared experiences. It’s also a great way to preserve a piece of school history at a certain point in time.

Don't forget to check out our St. Patrick's Day template for National Alumni Institute members! 

Not a member of the National Alumni Institute yet? Sign up today to access exclusive templates!  

Click here for additional blog topics. 


Activities for Kids at Home

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.


Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic in a Helpful, Positive Way

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.


5 Ideas for Breaking through the Email Clutter

 

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! 

 

Click here for additional blog topics. 


Engaging Alumni from Every Generation

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!

Click here for additional blog topics.


6 Ways to Show Appreciation for Your Alumni

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.

Click here for additional blog topics.


How to Evolve Your Engagement Strategy in 2020

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. 

Click here for additional blog topics.


New Year's Resolutions That Will Benefit Your School Community

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!


Make Sure Your School is at the Top of Every Alumni’s Wish List

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!

Click here for additional blog topics.


Ideas for Planning Your Next Alumni Engagement Event

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. 

Click here for additional blog topics.


5 People You Can Be Grateful for This Thanksgiving

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. 

1. Donors

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. 

2. Volunteers

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. 

3. Students

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.

5. Alumni

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!


How to Host a Successful Giving Tuesday Campaign for Your District or Foundation

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. 

Click here for additional blog topics. 


A Clear Planning Timeline for Alumni Events

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.

Click here for additional blog topics. 


How Can You Better Connect with Unengaged Alumni?

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. 

Click here for additional blog topics. 


Are You Making the Most of Homecoming for Engaging Your Alumni?

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!

Click here for additional blog topics.