Alumni Engagement Apps: Pros, Cons, and Best Alternatives

Christina Balotescu

January 18, 2024

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

Searching for the best alumni engagement app? You're not alone. When higher education institutions and nonprofits reach out to 360Alumni, the first thing they often tell us is, "We want a mobile app." 

Everyone wants a community that can easily fit in their pocket. But is a mobile app currently the best avenue to robust and efficient alumni engagement? 

In this article, we’ll be uncovering the pros & cons of one well-known alumni engagement app, plus providing expert tips for finding a good platform provider, and cost-effective alternatives.

We hope you’re ready to rethink your assumptions about what it takes to effectively engage alumni—let’s dive in! 

Why the Interest in Alumni Engagement Apps

The key factors shaping the demand for alumni engagement apps vary, and we consistently inquire about the driving forces behind this need. As we’ve been building alumni communities for over a decade now, and we typically find that it’s one or two of the following reasons:

To Engage Younger Alumni

Everyone uses mobile apps these days. Younger alumni are not primarily engaged by technology format, but by messaging that is relevant to where they are in their stage of life. Every organization needs an engagement platform that embraces young and old alumni alike - one that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design and is designed to let their brand’s voice shine through. The stakes for accessibility are even higher now for Higher Education, due to increased scrutiny from the DOJ and OCR. 

To Establish Your Brand on Alumni's Phones

This is a great aspiration that is attainable when using an app. Branding also starts in the App Store with what you tell your alumni to search for. But even if you choose an alumni software provider that doesn’t offer an app, you can always invite alumni to save the community to their home screen for easy access. 

To Ensure Alumni Receive Notifications on their Phones

Not all apps provide push notifications. Even if they do, users can always disable them in the app's settings. Users have the freedom to opt out of updates from their organization.

To Deliver a Modern and Clean User Experience

This is indeed crucial. A well-thought-out app is native, and designed to leverage the features of the phone or tablet. It should be a separate product from an organization’s web app and will require its own team and resources to develop and maintain. Beware of hybrid apps (aka “wrapper apps”) which are often used as shortcuts to get an app to the market. 

How to Research Alumni Engagement Apps

If an app is a must for your community, thorough research is essential before settling on an app provider. Here are five steps for researching alumni management apps:

Investigate in the App Store

  • Search the app store for the provider(s) you’re considering
  • Survey the provider’s presence, previous apps developed, and overall rating

Check the Reviews & Update History

  • If you do nothing else, read the reviews from other users of the alumni app to understand their experiences and potential issues
  • Check the date of the latest release to ensure it’s updated at least a couple of times a month
  • Review the Version History to ensure release notes are frequent and detailed

Download & Discovery

  • Take the next step by downloading the alumni app for a firsthand feel

By following these steps, you’ll conduct an all-around assessment that will prevent costly pitfalls of time, money, and goodwill. You’ll also be making sure you align your institution with a provider that truly meets your needs.

"Company G" Alumni App Analysis

Now that we've covered what to look for in alumni apps, let's put the process into action.

In the world of alumni engagement providers, "Company G" is a mainstay. But is the app they offer worth it - even when given away free? We tested it and here’s what we found.


  • Offers a mobile app that is branded (post-installation) 
  • Easy setup/log-in with social media
  • Allows for alumni networking & engagement on the go 


  • There are no mobile push notifications
  • Alumni must search for Company G's name, rather than the institution's name to locate and download the app. Once they look up your organization, the app rebrands to reflect your logo and background image.
  • Suboptimal login and settings page design with unlabeled and confusing buttons. A few screenshots:
Landing page for Company G's Alumni App:  The main button has no text in it.
Start Page of Company G's App

Login page for Company G's alumni app:  There is no visible button to sign in.
Page of Company G's App
Notification settings page of Company G's Alumni Engagement App. It's impossible to tell if settings are on or off. In either position, no mobile push notifications are ever sent.
Notification Settings Page of Company G's App. Mobile Notifications are never sent.

Company G's alumni community app is a "wrapper app", meaning it is simply a gateway to their mobile responsive website and does not offer any additional capabilities that are unique to the native mobile experience. This puts it at risk of being removed from the app store whenever Apple enforces its app requirements, which read: “4.2 Minimum Functionality: Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store.”

App Reviews & Updates

At the time of publishing, "Company G's" app had a 2.7 out of 5 star rating, and 19 out of 23 reviews were negative. The app’s web page only shows 10 reviews but all 23 reviews can be seen from the app store on your mobile device. 

The version history shows the app was last maintained 4 months ago, and there are no detailed product update notes.

Ask the Right Questions Before Committing to the App Route

A great alumni app has the potential to amplify online engagement and become another major source of community traffic. Before engaging providers, it's crucial to define your institution’s needs and understand the strengths and weaknesses of existing apps. Here are some questions to consider before choosing a provider based on their app offering:

  • Will your alumni be motivated to keep the app on their phones, or will it be deleted in a few months?
  • Are there specific features or functionalities crucial for your alumni engagement that can only be fulfilled by having a dedicated app?
  • How tech-savvy is your alumni base? Will they embrace and fully utilize an app, or would they prefer a consistent user experience across all platforms?
  • Does your budget accommodate it, or would it be stretched for an app at the expense of higher ROI programs and features?

360Alumni's Solution + App Development Plans

When looking for the right alumni community solution, keep in mind that nearly 100% of your community portal visitors arrive by clicking a link in an email, social post, or text message. For 360Alumni clients, these links quickly direct users to the community platform. From here, users are often already logged in.

360Alumni doesn’t have an app right now. Our team is investing heavily in our core offering and staying focused on our vision and mission. When the time comes for 360Alumni to introduce an app, it won’t be a repackaged website. Our app will meet the true needs of the market and serve a unique mobile purpose. Think event check-ins, gift officer planning, and real-time alumni geo tracking— expect a game-changer in the mobile landscape. We'll be focusing on this exciting development in late 2024.

Until then, we’ve got you covered. 360Alumni’s 100% mobile responsive alumni engagement platform, complete with an alumni directory, notifications, alumni map,  discussion boards, and fundraising features will ensure dynamic engagement and success for your alumni. 

This research was conducted by 360Alumni’s CEO, Christina Balotescu, and edited by Joy Therese Gomez. As Founder and Product Owner for more than ten years, Christina is dedicated to creating the most effective alumni engagement platform available. All statements above were verified at the time of writing, and service providers will hopefully update and improve their offerings regularly. If you see something that is out of date, please let us know

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