As a way to foster stronger relationships with their former students, many schools and districts are ramping up their alumni engagement strategies. If your school district or foundation is involved in these efforts, it's important to regularly assess your tactics to ensure your ongoing success.
Below are 11 key questions to ask yourself when evaluating your alumni communication and engagement strategy:
1. Is your alumni and community engagement linked to your strategic plan?
Alumni outreach should be a key aspect of your district's communications or strategic planning process. While most schools and districts do a good job of identifying other stakeholders, including parents, staff and local community members, many forget about the value of reaching out to alumni.
2. Is there someone in the district assigned to connecting with your alumni and community?
This may be an administrator, communications manager or other staff member. While this person is often also in charge of more general district communications, he or she should be responsible for ensuring the district continues to engage its former students in meaningful ways.
3. Do you truly know your alumni?
What do your alumni think about your school district, and what do they want and need when it comes to district-related communications? Consider creating a survey that alumni can take to tell you more about how you can best reach them and provide value.
4. Do you have a narrative and targeted messages developed for alumni?
In many cases, the messages you use for parents, students and staff may be different from what you should use when speaking to alumni. When you know your alumni (see item #3), you can develop a narrative and messages geared toward them.
5. How frequently do you contact your alumni?
It's common for a school district to only connect with its alumni in the midst of homecoming season. However, you should be communicating with your former students throughout the year, providing them with updates, asking for their input and inviting them to school events.
6. How are you contacting your alumni?
Which mechanisms do you use to reach out to your former students? Is it mostly through direct mail or email? Are there other ways you might be able to reach this stakeholder group? Again, a survey can give you valuable information about how alumni prefer to get their news.
7. What value do you provide to your audience?
When you do communicate with your alumni, do you provide them with valuable news, information or resources? In general, we find alumni enjoy hearing about updates on their classmates and getting invitations to events, along with things like job boards and networking opportunities.
8. How do you measure the effectiveness of your alumni outreach efforts?
When setting out on your alumni engagement strategy, you should have clear goals in mind. Preferably, you'll have metrics to tell you if you're meeting those goals, as well. Take a look at your strategy once or twice a year to make sure you're on the right track.
9. Do you keep track of your alumni?
To communicate with your alumni, you need to have a way to reach them. It's important to have a central database with names and email addresses. It can also be helpful to have information like phone numbers and mailing addresses.
10. Why do you reach out to your alumni?
Do you only connect with your alumni during homecoming or when you need something? Your communications should be about more than asking for donations or trying to get people to attend homecoming events. Those things are important, but you should be providing value at many points throughout the year.
11. Are your efforts sustainable?
Do you have a dedicated staff member and process for alumni outreach? Do you have money allocated to these efforts on a yearly basis? It's important to ensure your alumni engagement strategy is sustainable.
Just like with any communications effort, your alumni engagement strategy may require constant adjustments, especially as the needs of your district and communications channels evolve. Be sure to ask yourself these questions as part of your assessment process.