Successful Alumni Events Come In All Shapes And Sizes

Christina Balotescu

February 25, 2020

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

A huge part of an alumni professional’s overall strategy involves putting together successful alumni events on a consistent basis. How is “successful” quantified, though? It can mean many different things, but the bottom line is that it’s only determined by what the goal of the event is in the first place.

It’s great to have a well-attended event among constituents within your network. However, it’ll be hard to gain any kind of momentum as a community if the goal of the event isn’t clearly defined in the planning stages of the process. This article from Eventbrite sees the purpose of an alumni event on two ends of the spectrum: it’s either a means for members to socialize with one another and feel more connected, or it has a more strategic purpose of personal or professional development.

Both of these purposes are valuable in their own right, so it’s not as if one is necessarily better than the other. What matters is that an alumni relations office specifically commits to a purpose and does everything possible to convince alumni to stay engaged and attend another event in the future.

Alumni Events Are More Than Just Reunions

The most common and widely known type of alumni event is a reunion, whether we’re talking about a high school or college class reunion, or an annual get-together among those in nonprofit organizations and affinity groups. This kind of gathering is one of, if not the most, significant efforts that an alumni relations office devotes resources to, and for good reason. Reunions typically generate the highest attendance, and there are a handful of ways to properly engage, empower, and advance both your alumni and organization toward having a wildly successful event.

However, larger-scale alumni events like annual reunions could be even more successful when your online community is consistently engaged all the other days of the year, too. While a reunion can eat up a considerable amount of an alumni professional’s time, there’s a lot of value in also focusing some effort on smaller get-togethers that can create more meaningful connections.

A Good Example to Follow

Princeton in Asia, an international fellowship organization that has been building bridges between the U.S. and Asia since 1898, is a perfect example of that. This organization is unique in many ways, and while they have a large number of alumni located throughout the world, they didn’t start an alumni association until 2016.

When PiA asked their members for the number one thing they wanted out of this opportunity, the most common response was to stay connected with others through local alumni events. With limited resources at the administrative level, one of the things PiA Director of Alumni Relations, Natalia Rodrigues, did was launch a number of local chapters to be self-managed.

360Alumni’s platform made it easy for Natalia to identify nine different cities that’d benefit from forming a local chapter. Once that happened, PiA administrators utilized our User Groups functionality to quickly create these local chapters with the appropriate people before announcing everything through the email marketing power of Emma®.

As a result, many micro-events were being held all over the world for PiA alumni. More importantly, it’s empowered chapter leaders to be more engaged and have a part in these locally-focused communities, which took work off Natalia’s plate and allowed her to sleep well at night knowing that her alumni community was vibrant and growing.

PiA’s success serves an important lesson. Keeping a group of constituents engaged – especially when they’re spread out across the country or world – is a tough job. However, one of the best ways to get them invested in what’s going on is to put people from similar backgrounds together (whether it’s geographic- or demographic-based) and giving them the freedom to connect and schedule events amongst themselves.

Forming smaller groups within larger communities isn’t something that happens automatically, of course. Alumni relations directors must identify the right people to lead these affinity groups, along with motivating and empowering them to get others engaged in the process.

All alumni organizations want to increase awareness and attendance of their alumni events. Just remember that smaller events can be just as useful as bigger events, and there’s an opportunity to continue reaping the rewards from them well into the future when done right.

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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