Alumni Advocacy: How Colleges & Universities Can Drive Year-Round Engagement

alumni engagement program Alumni Advocacy program

When a student graduates from college or university, they join an elite group – alumni. When utilized strategically, alumni can be a powerful force for universities. A strong alumni advocacy program can organize your alumni and help expand a host of university initiatives including raising volunteer participation and opportunity awareness, increasing new student admissions, supporting internship programs, and even driving fundraising efforts.

At SocialToaster, we work with a number of higher education institutions who use our award-winning advocacy marketing platform to turn their alumni advocacy efforts up to 11. Here’s how these schools are using their alumni-centric advocacy marketing program to nurture and support their alumni.

What Is Alumni Advocacy?

First, let’s take a second to go over what we mean when we use the terms “alumni ambassador”, “alumni advocacy”, and “alumni advocacy program”.

Alumni advocacy is any instance wherein your alumni advocates on behalf of your school.

An alumni advocacy program or alumni ambassador program is a formal marketing initiative where your school actively empowers alumni to advocate on your behalf by providing them with content and marketing materials. At its core, it’s another channel for you to publish and send content to alumni who are interested in keeping tabs on happenings at their alma mater. And with 80% of alumni organizations reporting that “blogs, social media, and e-newsletters” have the most impact on alumni engagement, it’s important to make sure your most engaged alumni are seeing as much of your content as possible.

On top of receiving your university’s great content, your alumni can also share that content on their personal feeds where it can be seen and engaged with by the alumni’s extended social network. And since many alumni are connected to other alumni (as well as prospective and current students), that extended network is full of individuals who have a tangible and emotional connection to the content being shared.

The average individual on social media is connected to between 500 – 600 individuals. That means that for every 100 alumni in your program, your university has the potential to reach 60,000 individuals. All without boosting, promoting, or sponsoring a single post on social media.

How Can Alumni Advocacy Efforts Drive Engagement?

Alright, so I’m sending content to my alumni. How exactly does that nurture them?

Great question.

Here are the top three ways advocacy marketing can help you reach, nurture, and keep your alumni engaged over the long haul.

1) Year-Long Presence

The issue many alumni have with their current alumni program is that it can feel a little one-sided. Schools seem to only reach out when they need donations or volunteers for school-sponsored events. As a result, alumni don’t feel compelled to engage or donate their time or money to their alma mater.

However, with an alumni engagement program, your alumni program can interact with your alumni all year long. It provides you with an opportunity to maintain an active connection with your alumni. Further, it provides your alumni with an opportunity to engage and support their favorite school without having to open their wallet.

2) Keep Alumni Informed

With an advocacy marketing program, you’re able to proactively send school news, announcements, and highlights to your alumni. Many alumni want to be made aware of how their favorite school is growing in the years since graduating. However, they don’t always have the time to work their way through a University website in order to read the latest announcements, press releases, and news updates.

3) Flexible To Fit Interests of Alumni

There’s no rule that says a University can only have a single advocacy marketing program. In fact, we work with several schools that have multiple programs that they use to engage with a host of distinct alumni groups.

By catering your advocacy marketing efforts to a specific alumni niche, you can better ensure that the content being shared is content they care about. Further, if an alum has several interests, they can pick and choose from the available programs to find the alumni advocacy efforts that best align to their needs.

Here are just a couple ways to segment your alumni:

  • By Program (business/engineering/nursing)
  • By Class
  • By Department
  • By Interest (athletics/drama/robotics)
Interested in learning more about how advocacy marketing can be used to bolster your athletic department’s marketing efforts? Check out our blog post here.

How To Get Started With Your Own Alumni Advocacy Program

The sooner you start your alumni advocacy marketing efforts, the quicker you can begin to reap the benefits of a strong alumni advocacy program. Here are a some key steps to help you get started.

A) Determine the Focus of the Program

Is the program open to all university alumni? Or are you rolling out a program specific to a single department or niche? You also want to set the goals of the program. Are these alumni supporting your fundraising efforts or is the aim to help drive admissions from prospective students in their extended social networks?  

B) Identify the Type of Content Your Advocates Want to See

Once you know your audience, you’ll next want to identify the type of content that this audience wants to receive. The more relevant the content being shared to your advocates, the more engaged your alumni will be with the program.

C) Recruit Participants

After the program’s launch, your next step is to start driving alumni into your program. Post to social media, market the program in your alumni newsletter, send a couple emails, use the tools and channels you’re currently using to reach your alumni to build awareness and participation in the program.

Recruitment Messaging Best Practices

Ensure your recruitment messaging is top-notch by keeping these best practices in mind:

  • Use imagery to catch your alumni’s attention
  • Clearly articulate the benefits of joining the program
  • Set alumni expectations on what’s expected from them once they join (sharing social media)
  • Advertise an incentive or prize that alumni can earn by being active in your program (more on this below)
  • Promote the program multiple times – don’t just send one email one time, send an email every couple weeks or posts monthly to your social media pages

D) Use Incentives To Drive Engagement

Historically, programs that use strong incentives earn more participation and engagement from their alumni.  Think about it, you’re asking your alumni to donate their time, attention, and personal news feed to support your content marketing efforts, the least you can do is provide a little incentive to them as a way of saying thank you.

Some of our favorite incentives include:

  • School-branded merchandise/apparel
  • Swag bags (holding several pieces of branded merchandise)
  • Invitations to special events/conferences (when applicable)
  • Tickets to sporting events or concerts (when applicable)

Start Your Alumni Advocacy Initiative!

Ready to get started?  Your alumni want to stay connected with their alma mater that brought them some of the best years of their life! We can help you create an alumni advocacy program that everyone loves. If you’re ready to get the ball rolling, send us an email or schedule a free demo today!

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