Lessons from the Business World on High School Alumni Engagement


In the world of K-12 education, alumni relations is the term schools, districts and foundations use when engaged in an effort to reach out to its graduates and turn them into lifelong supporters.

However, many businesses and corporations engage in this same sort of alumni relations, using tactics that can also be applied to educational institutions. Many companies today are developing campaigns that specifically focus on building engagement among their former employees. The main purpose of these programs is for employers to demonstrate to their staff that they value their people and recognize their importance—even after they’ve moved on to other opportunities.

Below are a few lessons school leaders and communication professionals can take away from analyzing these corporate alumni relations programs:

There must be value to your alumni relations

Schools can leverage their alumni’s nostalgia to a greater degree than most businesses can, but both must emphasize offering some sort of value to their target audiences.

A company, for example, might offer regular webinars with alumni who have gone on to achieve unique or interesting milestones in their careers. Or, perhaps they hold networking events and curate job leads.

Schools should also focus on meeting the current needs and desires of alumni, rather than tapping into nostalgia alone. A good alumni relations effort offers alumni opportunities to get plugged in so that it will enrich their lives. Nostalgia will build initial interest, but these opportunities for engagement are what will keep them coming back.

Don’t get too heavy handed

Most corporate alumni programs send out a quarterly or monthly newsletter that includes all event listings and interesting stories—and that’s about it with regard to communication. The goal is to provide alumni with the information they need, while not flooding them with messaging. There’s a fine line between providing value and becoming a nuisance.

Schools should follow this example. Engaged alumni will connect with your school or district on their own time, outside of their already-busy professional and personal lives. Therefore, communication should be limited, but also efficient and effective. Focus on quality over quantity.

Accept that strategies will not always work

Corporate alumni relations programs are a relatively new concept. There has been a lot of trial and error, with businesses constantly trying new things to see what sticks.  

The same is true for school districts. Consider which of your strategies and tactics get the best results and take a close look at those not meeting your expectations. It does not make sense to waste resources on outreach efforts that are ineffective. A regular examination of these outreach efforts can be incredibly helpful in maintaining a robust alumni relations program.

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