Colleges and universities have always emphasized and invested in alumni engagement, but many K-12 schools are just now scratching the surface in this area.
Schools and districts that effectively engage their alumni realize greater levels of support from their former students long after they graduate. This can come in the form of monetary contributions, successful capital campaigns, an improved brand image and more volunteers and mentors for your current students.
Why alumni outreach is so important
K-12 students are shaped by the schools they attended while growing up. The instruction, personal development and extracurricular activities offered to them in school pave the way for their future success, and most students feel a connection to their schools even after they graduate. When you engage these alumni, you tap into their loyalty and personal support of your school or district and inspire them to volunteer, attend events, spread the word about what you’re doing and make charitable donations.
An effective alumni engagement strategy turns your alumni into ambassadors for your district. Here's how you can make that happen:
- Know your audience: Before you can launch a successful alumni outreach campaign, you need to understand your target audience. Take into account the year that your alumni graduated, whether they moved to a new area, what kinds of career they have and whether they went onto higher education after graduating. All this data and demographic information can help you segment your campaigns and target groups with specific messaging.
- Form your narrative: The best way to make your outreach stand out is to tell a powerful story. Your content should be completely distinct to your school or district. You can use testimonials from alumni, personal stories from students and messages from staff to tell a story about what your district is doing and where it’s headed. Create a narrative and use it as a framework for your outreach to make a meaningful impact.
- Develop relationships: You should not only send out communications to your alumni once every few months during a giving push. Rather, you should be developing relationships with them on an ongoing basis. You can connect with alumni through regular email newsletters, engaging and active social media strategies and planned alumni events. All these tactics allow you to develop meaningful connections with alumni and cultivate a strong sense of engagement and loyalty.
- Get feedback: No matter where your alumni engagement strategy goes, it is important to consistently re-evaluate your strategy and make adjustments based on the response you get. Send out yearly surveys to ask alumni for their feedback on your communications efforts and use their suggestions to constantly improve your strategy.
Your long-term alumni engagement strategy will not be perfect right out of the gate, but by taking the right steps, you can cultivate a community of more engaged and supportive former students. And that can pay off big time in the years to come.