The goal of just about every alumni professional is to have a growing and truly engaged member community at their fingertips. An engaged network leads to success in other areas, like fundraising, event attendance, and the perceived value of being a member for the alumni who join. For organizations who haven’t reached this point just yet, it’s typically a top priority to boost alumni engagement as much as possible.
This is actually an area where organizations are constantly looking to improve. A recent study from Marketing General noted that 87% of alumni professionals report they need to improve on member engagement. What could possibly be the key to attaining this goal?
The answer to that question can vary by institution because everyone’s goals and situations are unique from one another. If we’re looking for just one overarching answer, though, it’d be to consistently provide value to alumni for being part of a community. Unfortunately, there are many alumni organizations that don’t do much more than asking for donations from members on a consistent basis. A recent VAESE study found a stunning 93% of organizations either don’t offer any alumni benefits, or the benefits they offer generates little-to-no engagement.
If you’re in the boat of not getting the kind of engagement you’d like from benefits offered to members, the answer isn’t to just get rid of those benefits and have none. If boosting alumni engagement is the goal, then you’ll need to find other benefits that actually resonate with your members.
Ask Your Community What They Value
When it comes to finding what your network wants to get out of their time as a member, there’s no time for guessing. Alumni professionals are typically stretched thin as it is, so being as economical as possible is of the utmost importance.
Email has proven to be a useful tool for most alumni organizations to communicate with their members, so this would be a time to send a simple email with a survey asking what they value most in being part of your community. This is where taking a pulse of your community is vital, and that self-fulfilling prophecy comes true -- it’s hard to give them exactly what they want if you have no idea what they’re looking for.
What the majority of the group asks for may be what you were already thinking and it may be completely different from what you were anticipating. What they ask for could also be very easy to provide, and some other requests may involve more of a process to get in place.
The key here is that you’ll never know until you ask.
Have a Plan
This seems rather simple -- if you want to accomplish anything in work or life, there typically needs to be some kind of plan in place to reach those specific goals. Boosting alumni engagement is no different in that regard.
Approximately 70% of alumni organizations say this is a goal of theirs, but a significant portion of that group don’t have a dedicated strategy in place to achieve it. That just seems silly.
As mentioned earlier, the needs of your community may be unique to others. However, some of the best ways to boost alumni engagement is to provide value that really has nothing to do with the institution itself. Simple things, like networking professionally to grow within your current job or find a new one, or finding a mentor to help unlock your potential/purpose in life are easy to offer members.
Those are the kinds of benefits that will keep members coming back consistently to engage with others, and it’s something an institution only has to facilitate.
What an Engaged Network Can Do
All of this sounds awesome, but what does a network with high alumni engagement actually look like in real life? Look no further than Vanderbilt University.
The institution recently published a story about how a current student secured an incredible internship and gained lots of experience last summer through a 1996 graduate. This kind of connection will set up the current student very well upon graduation, and Vandy’s Alumni Association didn’t do anything special here -- all they did was provide the opportunity to get connected.
It was a simple thing, but that student has already seen the value in being a part of this alumni network and will probably be an active member for years to come. Make today the day you start working to get your community to that point, too.
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.