There’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel with the COVID-19 pandemic, with more and more people getting vaccinated every day. But until that time finally arrives, we’re still living in a very digital world, meaning it’s difficult for us to come together for many of the traditional kinds of activities and events we’d like to have with our alumni. This includes volunteer activities.
While there are many challenges associated with engaging volunteers in a primarily digital world at the moment, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! There are plenty of steps you can take to keep your base of volunteers engaged and involved, even if it’s to a lesser degree at the moment due to our virtual environments.
Here’s a quick list of some of the steps you can take to keep your volunteers engaged while we’re still not able to gather in person for larger-scale activities:
- Sending thank you's: Even if there’s not a lot for your volunteers to do at the moment, you can still send out thank you's or other messages so they know they’re appreciated and that you’re thinking of them. Simple messages of gratitude can encourage your alumni volunteers to stay plugged in and to come back to volunteer activities as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Virtual events: It’s understandable if a lot of people are a bit “virtualed out” at this point, more than a year into the pandemic, but it can still be a great opportunity for people to come together, stay connected and have a good time. You could do a trivia night, for example, and have volunteers submit the questions and run the event. Or do a virtual happy hour or social--a low-stress activity that doesn’t require a lot of advance planning.
- Prep opportunities for next school year: There’s starting to be more positivity about what things will look like around the country for next school year. You might consider starting to prepare some volunteer activities and events, just to give yourself and your volunteers something to look forward to. It’s important to still stay as flexible with plans as possible as we can’t say for certain what the world will look like in five or six months, but you can be certain people are going to want to get together and have events as soon as it’s safe to do so.
What strategies have you been using to keep volunteers engaged during this mostly-virtual last year?
It’s hard to believe, but we’re already almost to the end of the first quarter of 2021.
Each quarter provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on the accomplishments you’ve achieved, and the path you’re on for the rest of the year. With this in mind, are you on track with your alumni association to meet the goals you’ve set for this year?
For some organizations, answering this question might be difficult if they haven’t been properly tracking their goals and their organizational performance. We strongly recommend developing quarterly progress reports, which can help you stay focused on the big picture while also helping you meet your goals and stay on task.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific items you should focus on in these progress reports:
- Sign ups: How many people have signed up for your organization this year? Does that number put you on pace to meet your goal at the end of the year? Keep in mind when you traditionally have your busiest sign-up periods when considering your pace.
- Newsletter subscriptions: New subscribers are an important metric to track because it indicates how many people are interested in getting more information about your organization. Any new subscribers who aren’t yet members are prime candidates to get involved.
- Social engagement: What kind of engagement figures are you seeing on your social media posts? If engagement seems a bit low, now’s the time to reconsider your strategy.
- Donations: The turn of the quarter is the perfect time to check your progress with donations and the pace you’re on for the year. Don’t let yourself fall behind in your fundraising!
- Volunteers: Opportunities for volunteerism might be a bit scarce to start this year due to the pandemic, but it’s still important to consider if you’re meeting your goals for volunteer sign-ups when such opportunities are available.
By tracking all of these performance indicators, you’ll be able to stay on track with your goals for the entire year. For more tips, contact us at Alumni Nations.
Alumni associations can build up some very large contact databases over time. While all of your contacts have the commonality of being alumni of your school, the types of messaging to which they are most responsive could very well differ significantly, especially when you consider the massive range of ages your contacts are likely to cover.
Therefore, segmenting your list by age and tailoring your communications to specific age segments can be an effective way to communicate and engage alumni of all ages. Here are some tips to help you accomplish this.
- Segment by decade: The easiest way to segment your alumni by age is to go by decade of graduation (1970s, 1980s, 1990s, etc.). This makes it easier to track who’s in which segment, and also ensures that there will at least be some common ties in those groups of alumni.
- Adjust your language: You shouldn’t use a “one size fits all” approach for your communications. Different age groups respond differently to different types of language or communication. That’s not to say you should try to use slang with younger alumni, but older groups might respond better to more formal language.
- Feature content specific to that segment: Customize your communications to each segment by featuring content that appeals to them. For example, you could find some pictures from the past and a few facts about “a day in the life of a student of the 80s,” including things that might have been happening at school and in the world in general. These topics can make for simple, quick newsletters that are fun and create engagement.
- Track your success: Be sure to track your successes with your email newsletters to each segment, including open rates and clicks through to your website or other call to action, so you can determine the success of your tailored messages and see what does and doesn’t work for you.
For more tips about improving your alumni association’s communications, contact us at Alumni Nations!
One of the best ways you can make your alumni association financially sustainable is to get sponsorships from businesses and other organizations. This can help take some of the pressure off your organization to rely solely on memberships and donations from individual alumni.
Of course, actually finding those sponsorships is not necessarily going to be easy. With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you find and secure sponsorships for your organization that can make a big difference.
Connect with alumni who own businesses
A natural first step is to solicit sponsorships from alumni you are already connected with who own their own businesses. These are people who already have some “skin in the game,” so to speak, with your organization, and have already seen its benefits firsthand. Your pitch to them won’t need to be as thorough or formal as it would be with a business you aren’t already connected with.
Targeting fellow alumni is a great first step because it will help you fine-tune your sponsorship processes and methods, and those alumni will also potentially be able to connect you with other business owners in their communities who might be interested.
Make sure the sponsors get some value
Sponsorships shouldn’t just be a one-way street. You can’t expect a business to give you a good chunk of cash without getting anything in return.
You need to be able to promise something of real value to your sponsors. The biggest thing you can offer is brand awareness; you can place their logos on your website, apparel, communications and signage at events. Depending on the type of business, you might also pledge to use their products as part of your operations or events.
Whatever you offer, make sure it’s something that actually would entice potential sponsors to give you money.
Create the opportunities
You never know what the answer will be from a potential sponsor unless you ask. Put together a strong sponsorship package that you can present to business owners. Start with those in your local community. Because alumni organizations are very much local in nature, it makes sense to approach local business owners with sponsorship opportunities.
Target your pitches to business owners you might already have a relationship with, or those who you have legitimate reason to believe will actually donate. Maybe they have a history of sponsoring other community organizations, or maybe you’re a frequent customer who’s on good terms with the owner.
Be proactive and seek out opportunities rather than waiting for them to come to you. The worst they can do is say “no.”
For more tips about getting sponsorships for your alumni association, contact us today at Alumni Nations!
You’ve spent a lot of time and energy building up an alumni association, but you’re finding ti difficult to get your members as engaged as you’d like them to be. Why is this?
When lack of engagement is an issue, one of the most common reasons is that you’re asking too much out of your members, and not giving enough back in return.
Before you ask your members to contribute their time, talent or money to your association, you should be able to answer what’s in it for them, and make sure your organization is doing everything you can to show them some love at every opportunity. Members are much more likely to be engaged when they know their efforts will be rewarded and appreciated.
So what can you do to provide some value to your members, before you start asking them for more? Here are some ideas:
- Send thank yous: This is the simplest tip on this list, but also one of the most effective. Some simple gratitude goes a long way in showing your members just how much they’re appreciated. A handwritten thank you note after a member donates to your organization or volunteers their time will be very much appreciated by them, and shows your own gratitude for their contributions.
- Offer membership rewards or giveaways: If you’re going to have a tiered membership system, make sure that each tier has increasingly attractive incentives. This could include some alumni apparel or gear, tickets to school events or alumni association events, recognition in publications or other giveaway items your members might enjoy.
- Provide useful features: Make sure you emphasize to your current and prospective members the useful features that come with membership. For Alumni Nations associations this includes access to alumni databases, fast and easy information about volunteer opportunities within the district, and a newsletter that keeps members updated about events and opportunities.
- Organize fun events: Alumni events shouldn’t just be for raising funds; they should have a focus on creating a fun atmosphere for people to come back to their hometown, reconnect with other alumni and have a blast. When people have a great time at these events it makes them want to be more engaged with the organization in general.
What are you waiting for? Get in the Valentine’s Day spirit and find a way to show your alumni some love today!
The calendar has turned over into a new year, and if you haven’t begun already, it’s time for you to start thinking about your goals for the year with your member registration!
Many alumni associations will perform membership drives at specific times of the year to encourage people to register in greater numbers. But the best practices you follow when developing membership drives can be used all year long, regardless of whether you are working on any specific membership drive promotion.
Here are a few dos and don’ts for you to consider when organizing your membership drive:
- DO - Incentivize joining: You’ll find it much easier to convince people to join your organization when you’re able to clearly demonstrate what’s in it for them. People aren’t going to want to become members if it doesn’t feel like they don’t stand to gain something. Some of the most important incentives you could advertise include access to alumni events, opportunities for volunteering with their alma mater, networking opportunities, access to features like the alumni directory, and the ability to support their alma mater and give back.
- DON’T - Make it feel like a fundraiser: While it’s certainly okay (and encouraged) to share opportunities for your alumni to donate and make a financial impact on your organization and their beloved alma mater, your membership drives should be primarily about how they stand to benefit, not how others stand to benefit from them.
- DO - Offer tiered and free options: Make it clear that you have membership options available for every budget, and provide a full list of the membership benefits that come with each tier. You should also offer a free option for new graduates, who aren’t as likely to be able to afford membership dues.
- DON’T - Wait to contact people: As soon as a class graduates, invite them to become members! Get them while they’re still plugged in to the school and the community, before they all go their separate ways and have a million other things to think about. Alumni associations don’t have to be for people who have been graduated for years!
- DO - Advertise!: Make sure people know your organization exists. Spread information far and wide across the internet, via mail and through other platforms about your organization, how people can become members and the kinds of benefits you offer.
For more membership drive best practices, contact us today at Alumni Nations.
Most of us are ready to put 2020 behind us. The pandemic cast a long shadow of the year, and people are ready to turn to a new chapter. However, while there may be a light at the end of the tunnel, COVID-19 is still expected to have a significant effect on our lives through most of the coming year, which means people will still need to find alternative ways to gather, communicate and socialize.
For alumni associations, this means a continued need to get creative, especially with virtual platforms, to ensure you’re able to keep your alumni engaged even when you can’t see each other in person.
With this in mind, here are a few alumni engagement ideas for you to try out in this new year.
- Let them tell their stories: Give your alumni a platform to share their stories from the last year. This could be in blog posts or articles you post on your website, videos you compile to share on social media platforms, or in audio formats, such as podcasts or short interviews. The last year brought many challenges, but also many opportunities, and you might be surprised at how many interesting stories your alumni might have to share with you and their fellow alumni.
- Virtual networking events: Though in-person events still likely will not be happening for some time, you can gather people together virtually for various types of networking events. Consider organizing them by class year, areas of interest or occupation to get groups of people together who have some things in common.
- Virtual reunions: Your virtual events don’t just have to be for networking purposes; they can also be for fun. You can help classes from your alma mater develop virtual reunions to allow people to still come together from all over the country and get caught up on what they’re doing now.
- Livestreamed events: Many schools are still hosting sporting events, performances and other activities, but with limited attendance opportunities. Your alumni association could sponsor livestreaming for some of these events to make sure alumni are able to stay plugged in and watch what’s happening at their alma mater.
While 2021 will have plenty of challenges coming our way, things will only get better throughout the year, and by keeping your alumni engaged through this difficult time you’ll be able to hit the ground running with activities for your alumni association in a post-pandemic world.
It’s been a difficult and unusual year for most of us for so many different reasons. But with 2020 about to be behind us, it is still important for leadership of your alumni association to spend some time reflecting on the year that was, your successes and areas where you would like to improve.
Here’s an overview of the metrics you should consider, and how you can define success in what was an unusual year.
- Sign-ups: How many new alumni did you have register for your association? This is one of the most basic metrics you can track, and a good measurement of your success during the year. Most alumni associations will set a goal for a calendar year (or a school year) for the number of people they want to get registered that year. This number is a good starting point for how well your organization performed for the year.
- Subscriptions: How many people did you have subscribe to or unsubscribe from your communications? This is one of the best tools you have to keep in touch with your alumni and send out information about everything happening within your organization and the school district. Hopefully you have increased your subscription totals. But if you saw significant numbers of unsubscribers, it’s important to investigate why.
- Donations: It’s been a tough year financially for many people, so if you saw decreases in your donations for this year, that’s not necessarily a cause for concern. However, it’s still important to consider how you can improve your messaging and fundraising operations if you didn't quite meet your goals this year. Do you need to personalize your messaging more? Do you need to get more specific with your campaigns? Are you being consistent enough with your communication throughout the year? These are all important things to consider.
- Events: The pandemic probably prevented you from putting on many of the events you would normally have held for your alumni this year. But if you held any virtual events, consider how those went and whether or not they could potentially be successful or beneficial in the future, even once the pandemic subsides. Is there anything you need to do to invest more heavily in creating positive, enjoyable virtual events?
Once you’ve reflected on the last year, you can set some goals for 2021. The coming year may be unpredictable, but we've all seen just how adaptable we can be this year. Your organization can certainly find ways to achieve success, even if it’s to different degrees than you are used to.
For more tips, contact us at Alumni Nations and have a happy new year!
The holiday season is the biggest time of year for charitable giving. During this time of year, it’s important to have a strong campaign to engage your donors and encourage them to give. For alumni associations, this means connecting with your alumni and maintaining good, open lines of communication and strong relationships.
Here are a few tips to help you improve your communications this holiday season to boost your donation numbers.
- Be consistent with your communications: If you’re only reaching out to alumni during the holiday season to solicit donations, you probably won’t see great results. It’s important to be consistent with your communication all year long, to build strong relationships with your alumni and to send them information about a wide range of opportunities and items beyond just donation opportunities. If your alumni feel like you’re just using them for donations, then they’re not going to be as willing to give.
- Create a theme for your campaign: Having a single, unifying theme for your campaign during the holidays can help increase engagement. Given the nature of schooling this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, one theme might be supporting specific online education initiatives. But whatever you go with, having a theme or a purpose behind the campaign will be more effective than just putting out open-ended calls for financial support.
- Analyze your donor segments: If possible, split up your contacts based on certain donor criteria so you can send more personalized messages, which will increase your yield. You should be able to divide your list based on gift frequency, donor age, average gift amount or previous campaigns to which they have contributed. Using this information, you will be able to see who is most likely to donate this time around, and which messages tend to encourage them the most.
- Change up call to action messages: If you send out multiple messages through the holiday season, be sure to change up your call to action messages so it doesn’t feel like you’re hammering away at your alumni to donate. You can still include messaging about your campaign, but specific calls to action can include following you on social media, supporting specific programs or connecting with/joining your alumni association.
Need some more tips to find success in your holiday season fundraising? Contact us today at Alumni Nations and we’ll be happy to lend you a hand!
It is the season of giving thanks! Today we want to spend some time talking about the importance of showing your thankfulness to your alumni. Alumni who get involved in an alumni organization will, at the very least, be donating money to your organization. Many others will get more heavily involved through volunteerism or attendance at events.
Finding ways to show your appreciation is important to ensuring a healthy long-term relationship with your alumni. There are a couple ways of doing this, including actually saying “thank you” and showing your gratitude through certain services and offerings.
Sending thank you's
Any time you have an alum who contributes time or money to your organization, it is important you show your appreciation by sending a thank you note. Ideally this note would be handwritten and come from the heart; sending out stock thank-you's in bulk doesn’t have nearly the same sort of personal touch or showing of appreciation.
Most alumni who contribute in some way to your organization do so because they care about their alma mater, and many will not expect anything in return. But still, even just a simple thank you note can go a long way toward showing your alumni that you are grateful for what they give you. It’s not just polite--it also encourages future giving and volunteering.
For people who join your alumni association, the types of services you provide will both show your appreciation for your members and also show them that they’re getting something worthwhile in return for their support.
Some examples of the services we provide through Alumni Nations include:
- Thorough, easy-to-use alumni directories to make it easier to find and connect with fellow alumni
- Volunteer portals to make it easier for alumni to find ways to get plugged back in to their alma maters
- Tiered membership statuses, which you can fully customize to provide various benefits at different membership tiers
You can also provide a wide range of alumni events, newsletters or other offerings that you think will add value to the alumni membership experience and show your appreciation for the people supporting your organization.
For more tips about how you can show appreciation for your alumni in this season of Thanksgiving, contact us today at Alumni Nations.
Veteran’s Day is a great opportunity to pay special tribute to your school’s alumni who went on to serve in the United States armed forces. While it might be too late to establish a strong veteran alumni network for this year’s Veteran’s Day, there’s no better time than now to lay the groundwork for a strong veteran alumni network moving forward.
Here are a few tips to help you get better connected to veteran alumni.
- Establish a directory: The first basic step to getting better connected with veteran alumni is to establish and maintain a directory of your alumni and what they go on to do after high school. You should make it a point to include information about alumni who go on to serve, and in which branch they do so. Then you can easily sort through your directory by military service and determine which alumni are veterans.
- Hold Veteran’s Day events: Every year, make it a point to invite all veteran alumni to a Veteran’s Day event at the school or somewhere in the community. This event can take on just about any form you want, from a school assembly to a large banquet to a simple gathering at a hall with drinks and snacks. Whatever format you choose, make sure to honor your veterans and make it a patriotic, celebratory affair to give them the thanks and respect they deserve.
- Get veterans plugged in to other events: There are lots of ways to get veteran alumni connected with your school or alumni organization other than by holding a once-a-year Veteran’s Day event. You could have them on hand for the national anthem at sporting events, or honor them at various other games and events. You could ask them to come in and speak to classes about their experiences to provide some firsthand education about the military experience. Find creative ways to welcome them into your schools and get them plugged in.
- Maintain lines of communication: This is a good tip for connecting and maintaining any kind of alumni network, but it’s worth mentioning here for veterans. You can’t expect your veteran alumni to stay plugged in to your school and your alumni organization if you don’t maintain consistent lines of communication. Only reaching out to them at Veteran’s Day, for example, isn’t going to indicate a sincere interest in keeping them connected. Be willing to put the effort into maintaining the relationship all year round.
For more tips about connecting with your veteran alumni, contact us at Alumni Nations today.
Nonprofit organizations of all types create annual appeals, often around the holiday season, to bring in some much-needed funds for their organization. The holidays are the season of giving, and people often use this time of year to donate to charitable organizations in need.
This means now is the time for your alumni association to focus on completing the planning for your annual appeal so it is ready to launch by the time the holidays kick off. Here are five tips for you to keep in mind that will help you maximize the success of this year’s appeal.
- Add some interest to your campaign: You’ll find you’ll have much more success with your campaign if you give it a theme and add some creative elements to make it interesting and appealing. That theme can influence everything from the messaging and language you use to the design of your envelopes and landing pages. Having a simple, unifying theme makes it easier to market your campaign, and gives one message for potential donors to focus on.
- Clearly explain why you need the funds: Potential donors need a reason to give to your organization. For alumni associations, it is important to go into detail about the kinds of work you do, including arranging alumni events, supporting educational initiatives within the school district and recognizing notable alumni for their achievements.
- Tell them where their money will go: It can be beneficial to have a specific project or initiative for which you’re raising money, as it gives the potential donors something tangible to latch on to. Otherwise, you can go a more general route, tell your donors all funds will be put toward the various initiatives you support, and give some specific examples.
- Connect with people who have given in the past: Past donors should be a top priority in your campaign, because they are the most likely people to give to any campaign. Customize your letters to past donors to thank them again for their past support, tell them how the support they provided helped your organization, and inform them of the new needs you have and how they can help.
- Make it easy to donate: You should make it as easy as possible for people to donate to your campaign. Set up a secure online portal for people to donate with credit card or PayPal. If you will be accepting physical checks, send them a pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelope for them to put in a check and send back to you.
For more information about how you can find success with your alumni association’s annual appeal this year, contact us at Alumni Nations.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.