By the middle of December, many college students have wrapped up their final exams and are heading back home for winter break. This offers a great opportunity to keep your alums—and especially your recent graduates—engaged in the narrative of your school.
Below are three ideas that can help you connect with your alumni during this special time of the year:
Reach out on social media
Make sure your alumni know they are appreciated through special posts to your school or district's Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles. Welcome your recent grads back to town as they visit for the holidays and invite them to any events happening over the next several weeks (see below).
Engaging your alumni through social media can help them feel a sense of connection with your school or district. It continues a relationship with the people who can be some of your most ardent supporters.
Have a presence at school events
Most schools have a variety of events happening in December and early January, including some that may take place during the winter break. While they're home from college, your alums might attend holiday band concerts, choir performances, basketball games or hockey games. These are great opportunities for recent grads to see friends they've missed over the past several months or couple years.
Consider setting up a booth specifically for alumni at these events, and get them to sign up for your school's Alumni Nation or email list. You could even organize a special "alumni night" at these events, recognizing those who have graduated from your school.
Communicate with reunion committees
It's common for these committees to hold reunions around the holidays, as they know more alumni will be in town to visit their families already. This is especially true for five-year reunions, for which many attendees may still be in college and likely to have a several-week break.
To that end, connect with these committees and ask if they can get attendees to sign up for your Alumni Nation during their reunions. You can also ask them to include references to your Nation in any email or social media correspondence they send out to alums.
Although regularly communicating with alumni is important throughout the year, the time around the holidays offers some unique opportunities for your school. We suggest working these ideas into your December alumni engagement strategy.
In many ways, your alumni can be the most passionate advocates of your school or district. However, as the years pass and people get on with their lives, they often lose a sense of connection with their alma mater. It’s little surprise that schools and districts have such a hard time maintaining up-to-date contact information for their alumni.
By establishing an Alumni Nation, you can create a digital community to find alumni, complete with a database and CRM tool that makes it easy to update and append your records. You can also incorporate social matching, tagging and filtering. Your alumni, in turn, can update their own profiles and information in your system, making matters significantly easier on your organization.
By understanding the demographics, communication methods and interests of your graduates, an Alumni Nation enables you to connect with alumni and stay connected with them for years to come. Our team also helps you develop a strategy to align your needs with theirs, with a communication plan and content marketing effort to keep them engaged. We also assist in establishing automated workflow methods so you can more easily track engagement while leveraging technology to improve your capacity.
The result is powerful member management, information tracking and event setup with RSVP and ticketing features. You’ll also foster much-improved communication thanks to an ability to send unlimited email messages.
Why is it important to maintain good alumni communication?
Effective alumni outreach is about more than just fishing for donations. Below are just a few reasons why your school should make it a priority to maintain contact with graduates:
Enhanced branding: Strategic public relations and alumni outreach help you support your school or district’s brand identity. Everything about the look and feel of your school is contained in its brand—the colors and logos, your mascot, the tone of communications and even the fonts you use. You should always have a distinct, clear brand and organizational personality.
Strong messaging: Your messaging is an important aspect of your brand. By maintaining regular communication, you can make emotional connections by using the same branding and tone they remember from their days as students. Trust, nostalgia and pride are big points of focus.
Long-lasting connections: You can get your alumni to participate in surveys and discussions on a variety of issues, news and events. This becomes particularly important if you are in the middle of a referendum or ballot measure, or if you’re raising money in a capital campaign.
Alumni make up an important stakeholder group
In an era of tight budgets and increased competition, schools and districts must market themselves like never before. As you develop the strategy for your organization, don’t forget to include alumni as you identify and think about reaching your target audience. Establishing an Alumni Nation could be the solution you need to make it happen.
One of the fondest memories of any alumni’s high school career is homecoming week. It’s typically filled with school spirit days, pep rallies and, of course, a charged-up homecoming football game. All the festivities lead up to the main event: the homecoming dance.
Although their pep rally days are behind them, alumni still enjoy the experiences they had during their own high school years. That’s why this year’s festivities are a great opportunity to reach out and connect with them.
Make a special invitation
A common misconception among alumni is that homecoming week is just for current students. However, it’s actually the ideal time for graduates to revisit their old school and take part in celebrations with old classmates.
The best way to welcome back your alumni and involve them in homecoming week is to extend an invitation. Send an email blast to active alumni inviting them to the homecoming game, set aside an alumni float in the parade or engage local alumni as speakers at pep rallies. Many will be delighted to take part.
If you do formally invite alumni to events, make sure they’re recognized. From a general shout-out at halftime during the football game to thanking them in the homecoming newsletter, a little recognition goes a long way.
Acknowledge the value of alumni
Alumni are more than just past graduates—they can also be great resources for your current students. These are individuals who received their formative education at your school or district, and most have gone on to become successful professionals. They may have a lot to share with your current students.
Consider setting up booths at homecoming events and inviting alumni to come and connect with students. Many juniors and senior looking into colleges will relish the opportunity to speak with a mentor who, not so long ago, was in their same situation.
Make the most of homecoming
Homecoming week is one of the very few times so many alumni can be gathered in the same place. It’s important to make the most of this opportunity. These are individuals who often volunteer time toward mentoring and tutoring, make financial contributions, support referenda and ballot measures and share the district's story in the community and through social media.
This homecoming, be sure to think about how you can incorporate alumni into your festivities and events. It can be a great opportunity to engage one of your key stakeholder groups.
The Menasha Joint School District in east-central Wisconsin was facing a challenge.
The district needed to make some upgrades to its athletic facilities, including it's more than five-decade-old football
/soccer stadium and the high school track. It was also in need of new band uniforms, another significant expense that was not in its operational budget.
A referendum was out of the question, and so district leadership knew that its best chance at securing the funds necessary for the renovations would be a capital campaign. That's where Alumni Nations stepped in.
After several months of planning and implementation, the Menasha Joint School District was able to raise about $3.5 million — enough to take care of most of its facility needs. The campaign, nicknamed "Menasha Strong," was a huge success. And, it involved a healthy mix of local leaders, prominent regional businesses, notable alumni and important members of the district community.
Read our full case study on Alumni Nation's work in Menasha
Social media offers a powerful tool for schools, districts and educational foundations to engage their key stakeholders—including alumni. You can use social media to connect with alumni, provide updates on events, share important stories and ensure they remain engaged with the success of your schools for the long term.
Specifically, you can leverage social media for the following:Read more
Graduation is always an exciting time for high schools. There’s so much to be done in a short amount of time, and school staff members spend weeks helping seniors prepare for their big day.
However, during this busy time, it is important to remember that this could be the best opportunity you will ever have to ask your future alumni for their contact information. This includes students’ personal email addresses—rather than their soon-to-be-discontinued school accounts. Taking these steps now can save your school or district considerable time, energy and money in your future alumni engagement efforts.
But how can you ensure you get as many graduates as possible to sign up? It may require a multifaceted approach. The following are five effective methods you can use:Read more