We hear about the importance of alumni engagement for alumni relations offices at colleges, universities, and other institutions around the country and across the world. But what exactly is it and why is it important?
The definition of alumni engagement likely varies depending on the person answering the question. However, Gary Toyn of the Alumni Access Blog hit it on the head by saying alumni engagement is the level of attraction, connection, affection, and influence an alumnus has with their alma mater over time.
When using the lens of higher education, it’s not uncommon for a professional to look back fondly on their college years, right? While that may be true, it also doesn’t mean those alumni feel particularly connected to the institution they attended now that they’re feeling further and further removed from the student experience.
The idea and act of alumni engagement is important because there are alumni organizations of all kinds that want to serve their members better in this particular area. According to a recent study done by Marketing General Incorporated, 87% of alumni professionals shared they need to improve upon engaging their members. Attracting and engaging young alumni is a vital piece of this puzzle, and a VAESE Alumni Relations survey found that 85% of alumni organizations “do a poor job” or “need to do more” to be successful in this effort.
So, it’s not only clear that organizations and institutions view alumni engagement as a crucial component, but it’s also something a vast majority feel they can improve upon. Many alumni professionals hold this kind of view because having an engaged network makes several aspects of their job easier.
Hypothetically, an engaged network goes hand-in-hand with better-attended events – whether they’re on campus or elsewhere – and increased potential for giving. With all this in mind, what are some ways organizations can improve their alumni engagement efforts?
Make it Easy for Alumni to Find and Connect With One Another
It’s not incredibly difficult for college graduates, nonprofit alumni, or people in affinity groups to find others who share that experience if they settle down within a two- or three-hour radius of where the experience took place. But what about when they land the dream job that takes them across the country, or even halfway across the world?
If an alumnus isn’t familiar with the particular area they’re settling into, it can be intimidating to feel comfortable amidst so many uncomfortable things going on. One of the best ways to start making progress in this regard is to draw upon one of the best life experiences a person has ever had to help ease the stress that can come with a fresh start. Finding fellow alumni in a brand-new area is an awesome way to start putting roots down.
Alumni professionals can make this a seamless experience by offering an interactive map and directory for members to use and find others who share a significant similarity with them in a matter of minutes. Our software offers this kind of capability, taking something that can be viewed as an old search tool (an online directory) and making it into a tool that’s interactive with a multitude of useful functions.
Make it Easy for Like-Minded Alumni to Converse With Each Other
Whether they’ve recently walked off the stage at graduation or have been in the “real world” for 10, 20, or even 30 years, there’s an inherent desire for alumni of all kinds to stay connected to one another in some fashion. Advances in technology have made it both easier and more difficult to do that through the internet.
Social media has made it easier than ever for alumni to either reconnect or stay connected no matter how long ago their experience ended. However, there are now so many ways to stay connected that it can be difficult to find the groups they’re looking for.
That doesn’t happen if an alumni organization offers an opportunity to easily create and join groups based on any kind of criteria – whether it’s formed to help create small local events, talk about the latest football game, or network for professional reasons. Offering these kinds of groups in a centrally-located area – such as an institution’s own online community – makes it much easier for alumni to feel connected to another. It also makes the job of an alumni relations director much easier.
Serve Alumni by Showing the Value of Being an Active Member
The purpose of an alumni organization is to continue keeping their specific institution at the top of an alumni’s mind. One of the biggest goals is to not only keep them as an engaged member of the community, but to also have them feel compelled to give back in some way, whether that be in the form of money or time.
A terrific way to accomplish this goal is to build a strategy around your alumni community and what they find valuable instead of focusing on the needs and wants of your institution. Two huge aspects of an alumni community that could be viewed as valuable include having a job board or an ability to easily network with one another, along with facilitating the ability to foster relationships through a customized mentorship program.
Helping the members of your alumni community to advance their career – whether it’s by finding and taking a new job or finding someone that can help them grow within their current position – is incredibly helpful. This kind of experience will lead them to feeling more connected to fellow alumni, and more importantly, to the college, university, nonprofit organization, or affinity group they’re associated with.
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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