Cultivating a Thriving Affinity Group Culture


May 6, 2019

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

Why do some organizations have thriving groups when others seem to struggle with traction?

We’re frequently asked what the magic formula is for group success, and the answer is pretty simple. Organizations with great group ecosystems have motivated constituent leaders that are supported with the right online tools that help them succeed.

Consider Ed the EdTech Entrepreneur:

  1. Ed graduated from your institution.
  2. To advance his career, he wants to connect with other like-minded professionals from his alma mater.  
  3. You give Ed the power to create and manage a group for Alumni, faculty, and students focused on EdTech.
  4. Group discussions uncover a new market need.  
  5. Ed and other active members of that group, Sally and Lucy, launch a new start-up.
  6. Faculty members are added to the Board of advisors. Active students in the group become interns, and the company starts hiring new grads.

By giving your motivated alumni champions a place to prosper and inspire others you create an ecosystem of success.

Where Do You Start?

The philosopher Laozi said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts beneath one’s feet.” The power to make a change is ours, and even monumental tasks can be broken out into small steps, each that affect change. Here are a few ways to build effective champions for your organization.

1. Identify, Motivate and Empower Your Leaders

Finding engaged constituents that will emerge as leaders is your first step.  Are you able to easily identify those who are most active? If you already have an alumni engagement platform, there are likely multiple ways for you to find them. If you are early in your program development, then seeking out past event organizers or reviewing your social media sites is a good “first pass” for identifying your future leaders.

2. Determine What Drives Them

It may start with affinity for your organization, but often these “active” types are networkers themselves.  They want to keep or develop connections with your institution and constituents for personal or professional reasons. Their ability to find and engage like-minded peers (and sometimes mentors) is often the biggest pay off for both you and them. They also feed off of your support and appreciation, as well as a sense that they are making a difference for your organization.

3. Give Them the Tools to Be Successful

By giving group leaders powerful networking tools, you enable them to effectively communicate and coordinate with their group participants.  Leaders want to help increase participation and fundraising but are often left to their own devices to figure out how to do so. This can lead to frustration and fatigue. You may have provided a spreadsheet or list of their “people” – but it's not dynamic and leaves the onus of effort on them. Data will age in this format and your leaders may turn exclusively to social networks leaving your brand as an afterthought when connections are made. When your leaders are only using these networks there is little or no data or insight transferred to your organization. It also deprives the leader of the satisfaction of reaching the complete audience, accomplishing more and knowing you saw and can validate their contribution.

4. Empower Your Leaders

Allow them to manage their people and data within the community itself. Get rid of that excel spreadsheet and provide access to your shared data to enable them to make calls, update emails, addresses, job titles, and other priority data points. Having a single set of shared data reduces data integrity issues, and empowers them to manage their people as they need to.  Your data gets updated at the same time, and it’s more secure with controlled access.

If you empower your group leaders with integrated tools within your larger community, your leaders will spearhead outreach more effectively than by public social networks alone. In-app messaging facilitates communication with group members – leaders can send reminders, make announcements and answer questions.  Helping them to manage their users, events and discussion boards will further motivate and mobilize leaders who are invested in your success.

5. Some Additional Benefits to Consider

Giving your leaders powerful networking and engagement tools will bring them back to your community more often. The more comprehensive the platform is, the 'sticker' it is - keeping users engaged longer without having to use an outside product like Eventbrite for event management. You'll retain the engagement, data and insight and the activity builds on itself when others see opportunities to engage. An active and visible group within the community is certain to capture additional participants, especially young alumni or students who want to engage with alumni.


  • Identify your leaders - a comprehensive engagement platform will make this easier for you.
  • Understand their personal goals and ambitions and tap into that.
  • Give them great online tools.
  • Trust and empower them - remove as many "approval" obstacles as you can.
  • Support and encourage leadership then see how goodwill and value blossom.

Ready to mobilize? How would you rate the tools and support you get from your current platform? Does your current platform truly empower your leaders or do you still "manually manage' their workflows?  If you would like to see how 360Alumni can help you increase connectedness among your constituents, schedule a demo here.

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