Using an Alumni Community to Reverse Email List Decay

Christina Balotescu

November 21, 2022

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

What is your team doing to address the fact that 30% of your alumni emails can go bad each year?  

Back in 2013, Marketing Sherpas reported that email databases decay 22.5% a year. This became a well known statistic. There is evidence that data decay is accelerating post-COVID in the Great Resignation - and may now be approaching 30% per year.

If you’ve collected email addresses for all your program participants prior to their completion, you’re already a step ahead of many other organizations. This best practice is the foundation for a 100% contactable constituent database

But emailing the same list without a maintenance strategy means that this year’s Homecoming or Giving Day could be 30% less successful than last year’s. That's a big deal.

Whether it’s people changing jobs, abandoning old addresses, changing providers or opting out, every organization needs a process to maintain their email list. Having a private community for all of your alumni gives you a platform for engagement and the means to keep a clean email list to ensure the long term success of your program. Here are 6 ways you can use a community to maintain your list of contactable alumni:  

1. Break Down Your Database Into Manageable Chunks

If you have cohorts, classes or chapters, ensure that each one has its own group in your member community.  Pre-load each group with all the users that should be members (for 360Alumni clients, here's how). Users should be added to their respective groups whether they have activated their profile or not, so that when they come to activate their profile they will already have a home. For community managers, group organizers (and even regular users in that group) it will be easy to see who has an email address - where some detective work may need to be done. 

2. Establish a Volunteer Structure To Manage Them

There are leaders among your alumni who are happy to help - you just need to ask! By appointing one or more organizers to each group you are establishing a structure to help with data maintenance, outreach, gathering feedback, promoting events, and for many organizations, cultivating donations. 

3. Make Your Expectations Clear

Whether you have 10 groups or 100, ensure that all your group organizers know what is expected of them for data maintenance by having them sign off on an outline of their responsibilities, which may include:

  1. Ensuring every member of their group has a valid email address on their profile
  2. Working toward 100% account activations of members of their group by a specific date
  3. Reporting regularly on progress and challenges in achieving these goals

4. Leverage Your Facebook & LinkedIn Groups

Make a spreadsheet with a link to every group you can find. Add the name(s) of the organizers, and ask if they would be willing to be a group organizer in your community. If they have planned a reunion they may have an email list. At a minimum they may be willing to post (or allow you to post) updates and invitations to your community. 

5. Manage Your Undeliverable Emails 

If you are sending to your full list regularly, your email marketing program (Emma for 360Alumni clients) will let you know what addresses are no longer valid. Export this list quarterly with the fields you need to relate each record back to a group, then send these contacts back to your Group organizers. Ask them to call, connect on social media or research to get a new, valid email address. If you don't have organizers for all your groups, petition for one full time data researcher who LOVES the challenge of keeping up with people and takes pride in great data to support your institution's mission.

6. Implement a “Data is Everyone’s Job” Culture

Unless you have a full time researcher, every admin and group organizer should be able to update records if they learn of a new address.  If your CRM is connected to your alumni community with a bi-directional integration, these updates will flow into your connected system for other departments to benefit from.  

If you're a 360Alumni client and would like guidance on implementing these strategies, let us know. If you're considering establishing an alumni, donor or member community and would like to learn more about 360Alumni's engagement platform, click below to request a discovery & demo.

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