The Power of Swag: Merchandising Your Alma Mater

Just about every kind of organization or business, including alumni associations, can benefit from the use of swag (“stuff we all get”) as a marketing tool.

After all, who doesn’t love free stuff?

The power of alumni associations using swag is that both current students and alumni are likely to hold on to the swag, because it will contain branded images, logos and colors of their school, which is a big part of who they are. 

But what are the most effective types of swag for generating interest in your organization? Here are a few ideas.

  • Keychains: Just about everyone uses a keychain. Because it’s an item that people take with them everywhere they go, people are more likely to use one with a design that has some meaning or importance for them. A keychain with branding of one’s alma mater is a natural choice.
  • School or office supplies: School-branded notebooks, pencils, pens, folders, binders and other office supplies are all great swag choices, because they have utility as well as meaning. Every time someone uses a pencil branded for your organization, it’ll be a reminder to them to consider joining!
  • T-shirts: T-shirts with your association and school’s branding are essentially walking billboards. Everyone loves free t-shirts, and they’re highly effective at getting people to feel closer to your organization.
  • Totes: Tote bags have a lot of usage, from shopping bags to gym bags and more. Much like t-shirts, they can serve as walking billboards to alert everyone who sees them to your alumni association’s existence.
  • Water bottles: Water bottles are another extremely popular swag item because of how widely used they are. They’re relatively inexpensive to customize and purchase for your organization and are a great item to pass out if you are interested in handing out something with a bit more of a premium quality.

These are just a few ideas that you can explore as you plan out your swag for the coming school year. Good luck with your marketing efforts!

Introducing Your Alumni Association to Current Students

One of the best ways to spread awareness of and raise interest in your alumni association is to make sure current students are informed about the organization long before they graduate.

The most successful alumni organizations have a constant involvement in their school district so that by the time students graduate, they know exactly what the benefits are of becoming involved in their alumni organization and how to register.

Plus, the easiest time to convince an alumnus to join an association is within the first year after they graduate. The more time and distance between them and their alma mater, the harder it can be to get them to sign up.

Here are a few tips to introduce your alumni association to current students.

  • Have a physical presence: Get involved at the school throughout the year, and have a presence at major events. Be there for Homecoming. Have informational booths at school events, such as athletic contests, concerts and performances. The more students get used to seeing you around, the more likely they will have an interest in joining when they graduate.
  • Use email: Most school districts assign students a school email address, where they will receive information from their teachers, administration and coaches. Consider sending occasional updates and information about what the alumni organization is doing. 
  • Focus on seniors: Throughout the year, consider targeting seniors with your email or social media campaigns. Be involved in various graduation-related activities, and consider a scholarship to get your alumni organization’s name prominently involved in commencement activities. As seniors sign up, make sure to get an email address from them that is unique from their school email. 
  • Welcome freshmen: You can ensure immediate awareness of your organization by making it a point to welcome freshmen as soon as they arrive to high school. Consider sponsoring freshman welcome activities, or having informational booths at freshman orientation. Although they may not be able to sign up yet, knowing you exist early on will help drive membership when senior graduation time comes around! 

Simply put, the best way to spread awareness of your organization among current students is to be involved and to give back to them. When active students see a group of alumni who still have passion in their alma mater and want to make a difference, it can be inspiring. 

How are you going to get your organization more involved in your school district this year?

It’s Never Too Early to Think About Homecoming!

It may still be August, but for most high schools around the country, homecoming happens between mid-September and mid-October. If your alumni association hasn’t started thinking about how you’ll celebrate yet, now’s the time to do so!

We’re expecting some big celebrations this year after many Homecomings had to be canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a year off from what’s usually the busiest time of year for alumni organizations (in terms of events), you might feel a little rusty with your planning.

Never fear! We’ve got some tips to help you include your alumni in your Homecoming Week traditions and get everyone feeling the school spirit.

Here are a few examples.

  • Alumni seating at the football game: For alumni who will be returning to town to watch the Homecoming game, consider setting up a special alumni seating section. This will be a great opportunity for returning alumni to all be in the same area and to catch up. It also provides opportunities for ways to get them involved in cheers or in songs with the pep band or marching band.
  • Alumni tent: Throughout the week, set up an alumni tent during Homecoming-related events with photo areas and networking opportunities. You might also include special alumni swag in these areas, as well as photos and memories of past years.
  • Alumni specific events: While it’s great to get alumni involved in the Homecoming events you’ve already got running, consider running events that are just for alumni that week. Think alumni tailgates, or an alumni mixer on the same evening the students have their Homecoming dance (or after the football game is over).
  • Invitations: When you send out invitations via mail or email, make sure you provide alumni with a full list of events that are available to attend! Include all the information you have available, including dates, times, locations, cost (if any) and what they can expect at the event.

Reach out to our team at Alumni Nations for more tips and recommendations for how you can get the most out of your Homecoming with your alumni!

Join Campaigns: Tips for More Effectively Attracting New Members to Your Alumni Organization

The start of a brand new school year is always a great time for you to kick off a new “join campaign,” or an initiative meant to drive increased membership in your alumni association. With everyone being in the “back to school” mindset and feeling refreshed and invigorated from the summer, it’s a great time to activate on that renewed feeling of school spirit and raise awareness about your organization and its benefits.

If you’re preparing a “join campaign” of your own this fall, here are a few tips to help you maximize its effectiveness!

  • Incentivize: If you really want to convince members to sign up now versus another time of the year, find ways to incentivize joining during this membership drive. Consider providing unique swag that only those who join or renew their membership during the drive can receive. Perhaps offer a special discount during the drive for first-time signups. 
  • Update your database: Make sure you’ve recently updated your database so you have a current list of targets to communicate to. This should include your recent graduates, as well as any new contacts that have expressed interest in your organization.
  • Multiple channels: Use a variety of communication channels to connect with would-be members, including email, social media, mailers, flyers and word of mouth. The more you spread out your communications, the more people you will reach.
  • Get help from alumni: Recruit ambassadors from each graduating class or each decade to help you do the heavy lifting in spreading the word, so the drive doesn’t fall on a small group of volunteers. This will also make it easier for you to reach people who might not have otherwise gotten the word!
  • Communicate with current students: Don’t forget about current students! While they aren't quite alumni yet, you should make sure they know about the alumni association before they graduate so it’s something they’ll have already thought about by the time they’re getting their diploma. This will make future membership drives even more effective, because the awareness is already there.

Contact us at Alumni Nations for more tips about running successful membership drives!

Tips for Setting Membership Tiers for Your Alumni Organization

Alumni organizations are always focused on doing everything they can to attract and retain new members. Getting these memberships is crucial because a) more people means more engagement and more successful events and initiatives and b) membership funds are a great way to bring in sustained support for the organization, so new memberships can mean new sources of revenue.

Many alumni organizations establish membership tiers, where higher-paying members receive additional perks as a way to thank and reward them for their contributions. But how do you know if the tiers you’ve set are appropriate?

Here are a few tips for setting the right membership tiers for your alumni.

  • Make sure membership is accessible: You should never make membership unaffordable to anyone who wants to join. You could, for example, offer free membership for a limited period of time for new members, or for alumni within their first several years after graduation. Paid membership tiers on the lower end of the spectrum should be reasonably affordable for people who may not be able to or want to pay for higher levels of membership.
  • Don’t underestimate large donors: On the other end of the spectrum, it’s important to remember that large donors may be willing to pay more than you think. Even if your top tier or two only get a few members, it might be worth it if the value is high enough. 
  • Offer a steady progression of tiers: Don’t jump straight from a $10 membership to a $100 membership, for example. You should set a number of steadily progressing membership tiers so people can choose the option that makes the most sense for their financial situation.
  • Make it worthwhile: Remember that increasing levels of membership should have increasing value in return. Consider the kinds of swag you can give out that will sweeten the deal, as well as exclusive perks and events. You might be able to work with the school district to find tickets to school events as well.

Contact us today to learn more about how you can establish the best membership tiers for your alumni association!

How to Make Time for Alumni Engagement

Alumni engagement should be a key aspect of the work of any alumni association. However, it’s understandable for it to be difficult to make time for it with everything else your organization has to accomplish, especially for people working with these organizations in volunteer roles. 

The good news is there are ways you can make it easier to accomplish. It all comes down to having the right tools. 

Here are a few examples of some of the tools and strategies you can use to enhance your alumni engagement to keep alumni plugged in and active in your organization.

  • Database: Having an up-to-date alumni database that allows your alumni to both update their own records and also reach out to fellow alumni. It makes it easy for people to find and catch up with each other, which is more likely to build engagement with the organization and events you hold. The databases Alumni Nations develops for all of our Nations are often considered one of the most beneficial features of our websites! 
  • Email: Get in the habit of using regular email communication with your alumni. These messages don’t have to be extensive. In fact, short and sweet is probably your best bet. This way you still keep your alumni organization top of mind with members, but you don’t have to take the time to write overly long messages. Short messages are ideal for encouraging them to take some sort of action, such as visiting your blog or registering for an upcoming event.
  • Managing expectations: It becomes much easier to make time for alumni engagement if you don’t pressure yourself into doing too much throughout the year. A single large alumni event and one large newsletter per year might be sufficient for you to get started with. You can add more from there if you are able. Setting and sticking to manageable goals like this will help you feel more accomplished and also make the task of alumni engagement much less intimidating.

Remember: we at Alumni Nations are here to help you do all the heavy lifting with your alumni engagement efforts. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organization.

Ideas for Engaging Your Alumni This Summer

Summer has finally arrived, and with it comes the season of class reunions and alumni events! With cities and businesses starting to open back up there is an increased opportunity for alumni groups to once again safely gather in person.

Of course, it is still beneficial to find ways of engaging alumni no matter where they’re located, and no matter what their comfort level is with in-person events. So beyond the typical barbecues and beach days that often occur in the summer months for alumni associations, here are a few examples of some other ways you can keep alumni across the country engaged this season.

  • Virtual happy hours: Virtual happy hours have been a staple of the COVID era as a way for people to still get face time with friends and colleagues. The benefit of this type of event is that it’s both casual and versatile, allowing people from anywhere with an internet connection to join and participate with minimal commitment. If you’ve had success with these types of events over the last year plus, there’s no reason you can’t continue them even as people are also gathering again in person.
  • Social media campaigns: Summer is a great time to come up with some fun social media campaigns while there’s not a whole lot happening in the schools. These could include alumni stories and “tell us where you are now” features, as well as throwback photos and videos that feature alumni of all years.
  • Fun runs: Fun runs are easy-to-organize events that can be held in person or virtually (or both). You can have participants join you in person for runs, ideally around or at the school (or at other predetermined routes) or you can have people sign up but participate from home on their treadmill or in their neighborhood. These events can be run as fundraisers or simply as alumni social events.
  • Summer reading lists: A lot of people like to increase their reading load over the summer months, so consider putting together a summer reading list and organizing virtual or in-person book clubs. This can produce a lot of great conversations, and you can get alumni involved in the list building!

What ideas do you have to keep your alumni engaged this summer?

Alum/Alumni/Alumnus: Which Should You Use?

As you’re developing your newsletters, social media posts, blogs and other communications for your alumni association, you might be wondering which form of the word you should use in a given situation.

Should it be “Alumni?” “Alumnus?” “Alumnae?”

There are several forms of the word, all used to describe a graduate of an educational institution, so which is the correct word to describe the type of graduate you’re talking about?

Here’s a quick and helpful overview for you to reference.


The word “alumni” is probably the most frequently used word to describe graduates. It is a plural noun, referring to a collection of male or male and female graduates.

You might say, for example, “John and Jane are alumni of George Washington High School.”


The word “alumnus” refers to a single male graduate of an institution. A group of male graduates would be referred to as “alumni.”

You might say, “Joe is an alumnus of the University of Michigan.”


Just as “alumnus” is used to refer to an individual male graduate, the word “alumna” is used to refer to an individual female graduate. 

You might say, “Katie is an alumna of Springfield High School.”


The word “alumnae” is used to refer to a group of female graduates. Compare this to “alumni,” which is used for groups of male graduates, or groups comprising both male and female graduates.

You might say, “Ashley, Susan, and Lindsay are alumnae of the University of Tennessee.”


The word “alum” is meant to be a more informal reference to an individual male or female graduate. This is a helpful word to use in informal communications when you might frequently forget the above rules!

In addition, you can also use the plural “alums” to informally refer to a group of any male, female or mixed graduates. 

Again, this word is only meant for casual conversation and communications. Grammar and etiquette experts suggest using the above proper Latin words in professional or formal settings, such as in invitations, at graduation ceremonies, on resumes and at awards banquets.

Regardless of what you call the group, the most important thing is that your alums all share the same sense of pride in their background! But we hope you find this a helpful language guide for your communications moving forward.

Social Media Engagement Ideas for Your Alumni Association This Summer

The school year is just beginning to wrap up. It’s been a challenging year, to be sure, but at least there is the promise of a return to some semblance of normalcy over the summer and for next school year.

Over the next few months, you might find that your sources of content and engagement to place on your alumni association’s social media pages will start to be challenging to find! With school out and fewer activities happening over the summer, there might not be as much news to share. 

That being said, there are still some ways you can keep your followers engaged on these platforms. Here are a few ideas to help get you through the summer months of the year!

  • Throwback Thursdays: This is a great regular social media feature throughout the year, but especially in the summer when there may be less happening. This started as an Instagram hashtag trend, but it’s expanded to all social media. Each Thursday, post a throwback photo featuring members of a graduating class from years passed. Encourage people to guess what year the photo was taken, maybe with a few hints!
  • Alumni profiles: You can develop alumni profiles at any time of the year, and they’re always going to be of interest to your audience. Make them a regular feature over the summer months. You can develop a full profile to post on your website, and then link to that profile from your social media pages.
  • Reunion news and updates: Summer is the most popular time of the year to hold class reunions, because people already tend to be traveling and because the weather is nice, allowing for a wider range of potential activities. Connect with class reunion committees and share news of their reunion updates throughout the summer. You can then share photos and stories from reunions that occurred!
  • Welcomes to new alumni: You will very soon have a fresh new class of alumni joining your ranks. This is a great time to welcome them and recruit them to your alumni association, while they still have a stronger connection to their school community. Find ways to welcome and feature your new alumni, especially right around their graduation ceremony.

What other ways do you keep your alumni engaged throughout the summer?

Tips for Capturing the Best Alumni Story

Sharing alumni stories on your website is a great way to provide content your target audience is interested in, which helps you drive engagement across your digital platforms. Your alumni stories should profile notable alumni and their achievements in a way that connects their current life to the time they spent in your school district.

To craft the most interesting alumni story, it’s important to interview the alum and have some thought-provoking questions for them. After you cover the basics (professional journey, current career and accomplishments, family, other general background topics), here are a few examples of some of the questions you should ask to get the best story and to approach the article from the perspective of your school and alumni association.

How did your time at [your school] influence you in your life?

Questions like this help you to establish a connection between your school and the accomplishments of your alumnus. You’re particularly looking for certain skills they learned in school that they took with them, or a mindset they gained that helped make them a success.

Did you have any teachers or coaches who influenced you?

This question helps you probe a bit deeper than the prior question. It’s always interesting to hear stories about particular individuals within the school that left the largest impact on a person, even into their adult life. It shows the power that these people have to shape and change lives, and for your purposes as an alumni association, it also helps to build school spirit to profile not just your successful alumni, but the staff within the school who helped mold them.

What was your favorite thing about attending school at [your school]?

With this question you can allow the alum to spend a bit of time reminiscing and getting nostalgic. Keep this open ended and see what first comes to mind, then ask follow up questions to get some specific stories or experiences you can add to the narrative of your story.

What advice would you give to current or future students?

This is a great way to wrap up your alumni story. After you’ve discussed your chosen alum’s journey and successes, look to the future, and encourage them to provide advice to current or future students. This advice can be about anything--education and academics, social life, work ethic, etc. But it’s a great final way to tie your alum’s present success back to your school.

Be Sure to Thank School Staff for What’s Been a Crazy Year!

It’s been a difficult year for everyone. We’re now past a year and counting of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in some parts of the country schools still aren’t back in session in person. 

Students, parents, teachers and school staff have all had quite the year! School staff, from teachers to admins to secretaries and more, have had to change up how they do their jobs and quickly adapt to education online. Even those that are back in person have had to work around numerous new challenges to make sure students are able to learn in a safe environment.

With the end of the year approaching, it would be a great kindness to show your appreciation, and have your alumni show their appreciation, for everything school staff have done for students this year, amidst a challenging environment.

Here are just a few examples of some of the ways you can show your appreciation.

  • Send notes of appreciation: Have your community members and greater alumni network send in thank-you notes written to teachers or other staff to thank them for their work over the last year during this unprecedented circumstance. Even a small note with words of appreciation or encouragement can mean a lot to the folks who have worked so hard to keep education happening during the pandemic.
  • Put together thank you videos: Your alumni association might consider reaching out to alumni, students or parents and asking them to film individual thank-you videos, directed toward the entire school’s staff. You can submit these videos individually, or ideally you could combine them into one single, large video to make a big impact on the hard-working school staff.
  • Be kind: This is a good rule to follow in all circumstances, but it’s especially an important one to remember and practice during the pandemic and as we come out of it. Being kind to teachers and staff is so important to help keep morale up during a difficult time.

For more tips about how you can show your appreciation for school staff, contact us at Alumni Nations.

Engaging Volunteers in a Digital World

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? 

Is Your Alumni Organization on Track to Meet its Goals for 2021?

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.

Tips for Tailoring Your Communications to Specific Age Segments

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!

3 Tips for Getting Sponsorships for Your Organization

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!

Show Your Alumni Some Love!

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!

New Year, New Members: Membership Drive Dos and Don’ts

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.

Alumni Engagement Ideas for 2021

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.

Reflecting on 2020: Did You Meet Your Goals?

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! 

Tips for Communications That Will Boost Alumni Giving This Holiday Season

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!