In today's educational environment, schools and districts often must seek additional funding and support for programs beyond the money they receive from federal, state and local sources. This means engaging stakeholders, and especially their alumni, to garner support and encourage financial contributions to a district or foundation.
For this to be sustainable, you must constantly engage your alumni and other supporters into the challenges and opportunities of your schools. You must highlight what is going well, where you need to improve and where additional support is needed. Below are several messages to share with your alumni on a regular basis.
Highlight the best things about your schools
We find it beneficial to start with the positive. What is it about your schools that make them special? What makes graduates feel a sense of pride in their alma mater?
On a regular basis, check in with your alumni and supporters to share all the positive things happening in your schools, such as recent milestones, student achievements, faculty awards or new programs and services. Your alumni want to hear about how their former schools continue to innovate and provide current students with an engaging, high-quality educational experience.
Share your school district's goals
You should also be very clear about where you want to be in terms of your district's financial situation, enrollment, test scores, program offerings and the closing of achievement gaps. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have a vision for the future. You may have some challenges in front of you, but with the support of your alumni and community members, you can reach your goals—to the benefit of the children and families you serve.
Do not be afraid to get repetitive here. Throughout the year, as you reach out to alumni via email, social media and other channels, keep reinforcing your goals and vision. It may take some time for the message to stick.
Drive home the need for continuous improvement
Even if your school or district is already very good, it is still important to communicate that you are not resting on your laurels. Explain how you are working to continuously improve so that you can ensure you are offering the best possible academic and co-curricular experience to every student.
Here, you can start by outlining some of the ways in which your organization is currently falling short of its goals and expectations. Then, introduce the strategies in place to help you improve.
Discuss potential roadblocks to success
Any school or district committed to improvement will have some obstacles in the way of achieving its goals. Often, these obstacles are substantial and require the input and buy-in of alumni, parents, staff, students and an entire community.
Be clear about the challenges that lie ahead and how you plan to overcome them. Share how your alumni and supporters can make contributions, whether they take the form of monetary donations, volunteering or simply spreading the word about your school or district.
Speak to the importance of alumni
When engaged in these efforts, it's important to highlight exactly how alumni can help. While many college graduates generally understand how they can get involved with the higher education institution they attended, fewer really know that they can make an impact on their former K-12 schools.
This is where you can start making an "ask." Encourage your alumni to get involved by inviting them to events, sharing news and updates and profiling former students who have achieved great things. As you continue these efforts and foster this greater level of engagement, you can eventually begin to ask for financial contributions.
As you work to continuously improve the programs and services available to your students, families and community, remember the importance of alumni in your efforts. Work to have these conversations throughout the year, and you'll likely see positive results as time goes on.