Getting Your Alumni Involved in Teacher Grants

If you know anything about the world of public education, you know there’s only so much money to go around. Funding for anything from new technologies to textbooks to simple classroom supplies can be hard to come by, and many teachers end up needing to either pay for certain items out of their own pockets, or look into grant opportunities to get the funding they need.

For teachers or school districts looking to find success with their grants, it can be helpful to get alumni involved in the process. Here are just a few ways you can do so:

  • Statements of support: Some grant applications may ask for references or personal statements/statements of support from community members who can speak to the need for the grant money for a particular initiative. Alumni are well positioned to serve in this capacity as they have gone through the schools and can speak from direct experience to how the grant money and a particular project or initiative could be invaluable to current students in their education.
  • Professional perspective: Depending on what you’re seeking the grant for, you may have alumni who can provide a unique, professional perspective in a related field. Say, for example, you’re looking to bring in new technology for STEM classes. An alumnus who works in a related engineering field could help you frame your application to better explain how the new technology could directly benefit those students later in their life, should they proceed to seek an education and a career in that field.
  • Direct giving: You may have alumni who wish to contribute to micro-grant initiatives or fundraisers. There are a variety of tools available for schools and teachers to raise money for needed supplies and items for their classes, including the website DonorsChoose. Working your alumni networks to raise awareness of these fundraising and grant initiatives can be effective, as the people who are members of your alumni networks are already engaged and looking for ways to stay connected and support their alma maters.
  • Networking and connections: In some cases, you might have alumni from your school who are connected with (or are) people in positions of influence with regard to grant applications and awards. You may be able to leverage those connections to increase the odds of receiving a grant for your initiative.
  • Communication: Finally, at the very least, you should make it a point to keep your alumni up to date about your schools’ needs and the grant and fundraising initiatives you have in progress. You never know who will be able to help you out.

For more information about how you can get your alumni involved in teacher grants, contact us at Alumni Nations.


Tips for Raising Unrestricted Funds for Your Alumni Organization

In the world of fundraising, the term “unrestricted funds” refers to money that can be used by your organization for any areas of need, at your discretion. Compare this to specific fundraisers geared toward raising money for a certain identified need or project—unrestricted fundraising involves general asks for donations.

Alumni organizations, like any other type of nonprofit organization, must be successful in raising unrestricted funds to achieve success. The challenge is that donors are generally more willing to give money for something specific, because it gives them a concrete idea of where their money is going. 

So how do you encourage your alumni to donate in an unrestricted manner? Here are a few tips.

  • Add an “unrestricted” option: If you have a list of specific causes to which alumni can donate, you should add a box that says something along the lines of “use my gift for any organizational needs.” This will at least give your donors the option of “unrestricting” their gift.
  • Make unrestricted the default: You can opt instead to make it clear that you are raising money primarily for unrestricted funds, but still give donors the option of using a gift exclusively for a particular project. If donors do not check that box, then the money you get will be unrestricted. 
  • Talk about the use of unrestricted funds: Even if you don’t give specific causes to which your alumni can donate money, you should still talk about how you will use unrestricted funds. You can mention money raised will be put toward planning and organizing alumni events, supporting school district initiatives and outreach to non-member alumni. This helps to contextualize what gifts from your alumni will accomplish, even if they don’t have a specific project they’re supporting.
  • Always include disclaimers: Any time you’re raising money specifically for unrestricted funds, you should be upfront that the money being raised is for general support of your organization. 

Interested in learning more about the best strategies you can employ to find success in raising unrestricted funds for your alumni organization? Contact the team at Alumni Nations for more tips and guidance.


How to Create a Pandemic-Friendly Virtual Homecoming

High schools all over the United States are now entering the start of homecoming season. However, the realities of a nation dealing with COVID-19 mean many traditional homecoming celebrations will not be happening this year. 

Some schools have canceled their football seasons, or moved them to the spring, while those that are playing on might not have fans in the stands. Many dances are canceled, meaning schools’ Homecoming Kings and Queens won’t be sharing their dances in the spotlight. And of course, many alumni will not be physically returning to their hometowns this time of year.

Despite all this, there are still ways to create a pandemic-friendly virtual homecoming that will help alumni share their school spirit and reconnect with their alma mater. We've compiled some ideas and suggestions you might consider incorporating:

  • Still send invitations: Whether or not you're holding any kind of actual scheduled event, it can still be meaningful to your alumni to receive personal invitations or some kind of correspondence about homecoming. This year’s celebration may be different than normal, but that doesn’t mean you should let your ongoing relationship with your alumni suffer!
  • Ask for video submissions: One idea you can expect to see implemented in a lot of school districts this fall is the use of video submissions from alumni. These can be shared on social media and other channels. Alumni can send in videos of themselves talking about their favorite high school experiences—or even videos of those experiences themselves. You can then take those videos and share them individually, and/or create one large supercut of all of them to showcase the impact your school district has had on alumni of all ages.
  • Encourage support of local Homecomings: For alumni who still want to take a more hands-on role in Homecoming celebrations, there are plenty of options for them to find ways to support local Homecoming celebrations in areas they now reside. 
  • Coordinate online reunions: Using tools like Zoom or Google Meet, set up online reunions to allow alumni to still gather virtually and connect with old friends. Open it up to allow them to come and go as they please. You may find you actually get many alumni who wouldn’t normally attend due to distance to participate in an event in this format, as it will be more convenient for them!

For more tips as you plan virtual homecoming celebrations this fall and establish a strong alumni engagement strategy throughout the year, contact us at Alumni Nations.


Tips for Welcoming Back Alumni for Homecoming

Fall is just about here and school is back in session, which means homecoming is not far off for high schools across the nation. 

While these celebrations may look a  bit different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still important to maintain strong connections with your alumni. After all, “homecoming” is all about welcoming alumni home, and the way your alumni organization goes about doing so will heavily influence the success of your homecoming events and your ongoing engagement.

With this in mind, below are some tips to help ensure your alumni feel invited to come back and are enthusiastic about paying a visit to their alma mater:

  • Start early: Give your alumni plenty of advance notice about all the homecoming activities you have planned. For most schools, homecoming weekend changes every year, so you cannot simply have your alumni block off the same weekend every year. As soon as the dates are set in your district’s calendar, make sure alumni know about them—even if you do not yet have detailed plans in place for specific events.
  • Maintain communication: Regularly update alumni about your plans and remind them of the events you’ll have in store for them. Email newsletters are a great way of sending short and simple updates that summarize all the necessary information.
  • Personalize invitations: If you really want to go the extra mile and make your alumni feel wanted, you can send out personalized invitations in the mail that ask them return home for the weekend and give them a full overview of the alumni-friendly events that will be happening, including football games, formal gatherings and tailgates.
  • Make it family friendly: Alumni who have been out of high school for a while likely have families of their own now. Make sure they know their families are welcome to attend and offer family-friendly events where kids will also have a good time. 
  • Offer participation opportunities: Your alumni should feel like active participants in the weekend—not just a backdrop because it’s homecoming. Find ways to get them involved in school traditions and help them connect on a deeper level with their alma mater. You can also find ways to honor and recognize alumni who have accomplished great things in their personal or professional lives.

For more tips about how you can make the most out of your Homecoming weekend and give your alumni a reason to keep coming back year after year, contact us at Alumni Nations!


Creating a Singular Alumni Brand for Districts with Multiple High Schools

If your alumni organization is to have success in recruiting new members and keeping existing members engaged, it is important that you are able to create a single unifying brand for your organization, even if it encompasses multiple high schools.

This can be challenging, of course, as the experience of attending one of those high schools may have been very different than attending one of the others. In addition, each high school has its own mascot, colors and slogans, which means an alumni organization that comprises multiple high schools will need to develop its own brand from scratch.

One example of an organization that has done this quite well is Philly Alumni, based in Philadelphia. A look at the organization’s website (www.phillyalumni.com) should give other similar large alumni organizations with multiple schools some excellent ideas for creating a unifying alumni network.

The following are just a few of the components that stand out:

  • The introduction: The first thing you see when you visit the page is the “We are the Class of Philadelphia” introduction. Right off the bat, this is an organization stating it is for all Philadelphia alumni, and not geared toward any particular school. The use of the Philadelphia skyline is a nice touch—it’s a reminder that it’s an organization for everyone who had the shared experience of attending a Philadelphia high school.
  • Strategy: The organization makes it clear that its purpose is for all public school alumni to “stay connected, support students, and most importantly, show off that public school pride.” It’s not just about being an alumni of a specific school—it’s about having pride in all Philadelphia public schools and supporting future generations of public school students.
  • Events: The organization features information about its citywide alumni Homecoming weekend, an event geared toward alumni of all schools to bring them together in their hometown.
  • Featured grads: The home page features profiles of graduates of Philadelphia public schools and their achievements.
  • Merchandise: The organization sells “Philly Alumni” and “Class of Philadelphia” merchandise, using brand colors and fonts.

You can follow Philly Alumni’s lead to create a unifying branded experience for alumni in your network. See if there are any elements you can integrate into your alumni engagement efforts moving forward.


Preparing for Your Fall Alumni Membership Drive

School districts across the country are gearing up to begin classes once again, whether they are online, in-person or delivered through a hybrid approach. As the new school year starts, now is a good time for your alumni organization to begin reaching out to alumni to generate new membership for your Nation.

Below are a few tips to help you find success in your membership drive this fall:

  • Delegate: Don’t try to handle all the work yourself. Form a committee tasked with reaching out to alumni to encourage them to join and get involved. This will prevent burnout, and also help you connect with more potential members in a shorter period of time.
  • Diversify: Committee members should cover a wide range of demographics: different generations of alumni, different lengths of membership, different stages of their career and different areas of residence. By diversifying your committee, you will also diversify your search and reach more potential members.
  • Have a value proposition: You should be able to communicate the value and benefits of membership in your organization in a clear, concise manner. This includes having core group values, and being able to clearly describe what makes your organization interesting or unique.
  • Strategize your phone calls: Personal phone calls both to prospects and lapsed members can be a good way to encourage people to get involved in the organization. Encourage them to join, discuss benefits of membership and end by asking them if you can send them the application information.
  • Advertise: Online advertisements are a cost-effective method of connecting with a broad range of targets. Social media is particularly effective, as it reaches alumni where they are already at. You can look into other forms of digital advertising as well, including display and retargeting ads.
  • Offer incentives to existing members: You can start up a referral program to incentivize existing members to get other alumni involved. Benefits can be just about anything, from discounts on membership to free tickets to events. Even if the incentive is small, it gives current members added reason to spread the word. Getting members involved in the search is important, because word-of-mouth advertising is more powerful than any other kind of advertising you can invest in.
  • Never stop the hunt: Even though your official membership drives may only occur once or twice a year, you should constantly be focused on acquiring new members for your Nation. Your recruitment should be a year-round effort, with specific targeted bursts in the form of your membership drives.

Interested in learning more about how you can get the best results out of your fall membership drive? Contact us today at Alumni Nations for further guidance on ramping up these efforts.


How Foundations Can Help Class Reunion Committees Plan Events

Planning a class reunion can be a major undertaking, especially if the graduating class was large or if the event being planned is grand in scale. Often, these reunions are planned by a small group of people from the graduating class in their spare time, and in most cases they will need as much help as they can get to plan a successful event.

Educational foundations are well positioned to assist these committees planning class reunions. Below are just a few of the ways these foundations can provide considerable assistance.

Providing contact information

One of the most difficult and frustrating tasks of planning a class reunion is figuring out how to get in touch with alumni. Over time, classmates will gradually lose contact with one another and may not have updated contact information. The internet and social media have made it easier to stay in touch, but some level of disconnection is still natural and expected.

Educational foundations usually have databases of alumni information that former students have opted into over the years. This means they should have updated contact information on hand for a large portion of alumni who might be interested in attending the event. Foundations can pass along this information to reunion-planning committees.

Helping fill out committees

Not only do educational foundations have databases filled with alumni contact information, but based on the events they’ve held over the years and the engagement they receive from their communications with these alumni, they will also have a good sense of who will be the most likely to be interested in helping serve on these reunion-planning committees.

Foundations will often have information about the kinds of work alumni are willing to help with, as well as the amount of time they are able to commit to events and volunteering.

Spreading the word about events

Educational foundations stay well-connected with alumni through email newsletters and social media platforms. A small planning committee will only be in touch with so many of their fellow alumni. Foundations, on the other hand, can use their reach through their various digital platforms to spread the word about the reunion to a much broader range of people.

While the committee will likely still want to send out its own communications and invitations, having the foundation’s assistance with publicizing the event can be highly beneficial.

If you run an educational foundation, consider the many ways you can supplement the work of reunion committees in planning these important events. Doing so can give you opportunities to expand your alumni base and gain greater overall support for the work you do.


Keep Your Alumni Database in Tip-Top Shape!

One of the most important elements of keeping alumni engaged is to make sure your database is constantly organized and updated. With a well-maintained alumni database, your school district or educational foundation will find it much easier to stay in touch with alumni to inform them of events, update them with recent news and ask for contributions.

With this in mind, below are a few strategies to help you keep your alumni database in great shape.

Be smart with your software decision

You can find a variety of database and CRM software on the market. Your chosen CRM should be able to collect and store all the information you get from sources like your website, your social networks, your email campaigns, any online fundraising platforms you use and any additional sources.

Never add names without permission

Not only is this simply good manners, but it can also be a legal issue. People must actively opt in to being placed in your database through a field on your website, telling you in person at events or when making donations.

Track donor preferences

There are a variety of donor preferences you should track, including the preferred method of communication, whether they wish to receive direct mail or solicitations and whether they are interested in being invited to events. This will better help you tailor your campaigns to make them more effective.

Purge your list occasionally

Every now and then, go through your database and remove the names of people who are completely unengaged. If they are not interested in engaging at all or have never opened any of your messages and it has been an extended period of time since you added them, don’t feel as though you need to keep them on the list.

However, avoid removing anyone who has given in the past, even if they do not wish to do so again in the future. Simply mark them as someone to whom you should not solicit in the future so that you can maintain records of their giving in your database.

Mark your VIPs

If you have alumni who are well connected in their communities (such as business owners, government officials or other big names) or have been significant donors, make sure you have a way to mark them off as VIPs on your database so you are able to give them special treatment and address them appropriately.

Double check all entries

Routinely go through your database and verify the accuracy of all information, including addresses, spellings and honorifics.

Need more tips on managing your alumni database? Contact Alumni Nations for further guidance.


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! 

 

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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