One of the best ways to keep your alumni engaged long after they have graduated from your school or district is to reward them for making an impact on the world around them. This can be done through a distinguished alumni award program, through which you recognize former students who have achieved any number of positive things in the community, in their careers or in supporting your school district.
When done well, these award programs can help you tell the story of your school district while highlighting the various ways your students go on to do special things. In this way, you can showcase how a strong academic foundation within your district can lead to incredible levels of personal and professional success for graduates.
Below are some steps you can take to establish a distinguished alumni awards program for your school, district or educational foundation:
1. Establish the award
This may seem obvious, but your first step should be to establish the award. This may be done through a committee made up of administrators, teachers, staff, parents, community members and (of course) alumni. The makeup of this committee may depend on your goals and how quickly you want to get the program up and running.
You may also consider naming the award after a particularly noteworthy alumni.
2. Set up a platform
Next, create an easy way for individuals to nominate alumni for your award. (If you have an Alumni Nation, you may already have this platform ready to go). Allow individuals to quickly submit the information of those they would like to nominate, along with the nominee's contact information and what he or she has done to deserve the award.
3. Ask for nominations
Next, ask your community to submit the names of alumni they believe should be recognized. Spread the word via social media, video, a news release, email and newsletters, if possible. If you have the capacity to do so, create a mini-marketing plan to ensure you receive an ample number of nominations.
Be sure to allow plenty of time for nominations to come in. We often suggest starting at least nine months before your first recognition event (see below).
4. Develop a selection process
Working with your committee, create a sound process for reviewing each nominee. This includes having a set of criteria the committee will use to evaluate each potential award winner. Have a firm deadline of when you will name the winner(s)—usually about two months before the recognition event.
5. Hold a recognition event
Now comes the fun part. Organize a luncheon, dinner and/or banquet to formally recognize individuals selected as your distinguished alumni. This size and scope of this event may depend on your budget, but it's a great opportunity to invite your alumni and community members to a positive event that celebrates your schools.
Although establishing a distinguished alumni award program takes some work and dedication (ideally with the help of volunteers), it can be a unique and effective way to further engage your alumni and community. Consider these tips as you create your program.