8 Best Practices for Driving Stronger Alumni Engagement (Updated July 2022)

5 Best Practices for Driving Stronger Alumni Engagement

It’s no secret that most colleges and universities value their alumni. Whether it’s to support fundraising goals, drive athletic revenue, or increase new student enrollment, a successful alumni engagement program can support a higher educational institution across a variety of needs. Yet, 87% of alumni professionals report they need to improve member engagement. 87%!  

If you’re looking for ideas to improve your school’s alumni engagement program, then grab a seat. We’re taking you to class with these best practices for improving alumni engagement.

And, to give you even more fire, we’ve updated this post with even more alumni engaging excellence!

8 Best Practices to Improve Alumni Engagement

1) Build Out Your Alumni Personas

Successful alumni engagement professionals know that you can’t just have a single audience – alumni. In reality, your overarching alumni audience is comprised of distinct personas, or similarities in interests, behaviors, or demographics (or a combination of the three).

Personas allow your team to identify (and get more granular) around the specific motivators, communication preferences, and demographics of your alumni audience. Not every audience responds the same way to a specific marketing message. By understanding the distinct differences between your personas, you can better tailor both your communication strategy and your marketing materials.

Speaking of tailoring your marketing materials…

2) Develop Content Based on Your Personas

Your content should align with your personas. As an example, let’s say that you have an alumni persona of sports-enthusiasts. They want to stay close to the school’s athletic program. Therefore marketing messages that include sports-related imagery and copy are more likely resonate with that audience.

Likewise, if you have personas that are built around a common interest in philanthropy, your content can focus on your school’s various grant awards or community impact programs.

Regardless of how you slice-and-dice it, personalized content should be a priority for your marketing team.

3) Mix Up Your Content Mix 

Successful alumni engagement programs know the value in mixing up their content. Don’t just create and send donation requests or fundraising content. If the only time you’re reaching out to alumni is to ask them for money, it won’t take long for calls to stop being answered and letters to be thrown away.

Instead, look for opportunities to create content your personas will find valuable. Share highlights from the year, notable events, or even new program announcements. Sure, sprinkling in some donation-driving messages is fine, but don’t make donation requests your sole marketing message.

On top of mixing up the topic of your content, you also should mix up your content media. Different personas have different content wants. While blogs have their place, your content plan should also include videos, images, phone calls, and even text messages (depending on audience preferences).

4) Set Up Regular Alumni Surveys

Surveys are a powerful tool for engaging with your alumni and should be a part of every school’s alumni engagement efforts. Whether it’s a yearly survey or a quarterly touch base, surveys provide your alumni with an opportunity to give feedback on your alumni engagement efforts. Even better, surveys can also be a source of new marketing and fundraising ideas.

If you’re putting together a survey, be sure to keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Keep it short and simple (nobody has time to write an essay)
  2. Ask a mix of open-ended and qualitative questions 
  3. Make sure the survey is mobile-friendly 

Pro-Tip: Consider utilizing a third-party platform (like SocialToaster)  to help manage and share your surveys. In addition to creating surveys and polls, dozens of colleges and universities use the SocialToaster platform to share their content and engage with alumni.

5) Integrate User-Generated Content into Your Marketing Mix

Most alumni engagement professionals will tell you that there’s never enough time and resources to create all of the content they want to create.

Enter user-generated content (UGC). User-generated content is just that: content created by your audience that your brand publishes and shares through your standard marketing means.

User-generated content could include:

  • Snaps taken by alumni during the big game
  • Instagram pictures of your campus captured by current students
  • Facebook posts of an alumni’s favorite college memory

You get the picture. Your imagination is the limit!

Not only is UGC virtually free to produce (as your audience is creating the content on your behalf), it is also one of the more engaging types of content. In fact, UGC posts shared to social channels see a 28% higher engagement rate than standard brand posts.

6) Stay On a Steady Communication Cadence

Staying in touch with your alumni is one of the best ways to improve alumni engagement. Regular communication shows that you are active in managing and engaging with your community. It also helps to train your alumni to expect your touch as you become a familiar face in their inboxes and their social media channels.

Here are six different potential communication points:

  1. Send out a monthly e-newsletter.
  2. Make sure your website is up to date and easy to navigate.
  3. Use social media to connect with alumni and promote events.
  4. Plan special events and reunions that will appeal to your alumni.
  5. Offer discounts and perks to alumni who stay involved with your organization.
  6. Keep your alumni database updated and use it to connect with alumni on a personal level.

7) Build Out a Partner Program

If your alumni association doesn’t already have one, consider building a partner program. By partnering with businesses your alumni are likely to use, you can offer them valuable benefits that will keep them engaged with your organization.

Not sure where to begin, consider:

  • Working with local restaurants to offer a percentage off meals to university alumni.
  • Asking local gyms to give alumni a free month of membership.
  • Partnering with hotels/travel lounges to offer exclusive perks to members.

By offering these benefits, you’ll not only keep your alumni engaged but you’ll also help them save money on things they’re already using. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

8) Get Alumni Involved In The University

Help foster a sense of connection to your institute of higher education by your alumni in the planning process for upcoming events, programs, investments, or campus construction. Use your alumni engagement platform (combined with the above-mentioned survey functionality) to solicit opinions and thoughts at the start of your program.

Once the program has kicked off, you can continue to keep them engaged with updates on the progress of the project. You can also crowdsource specific decisions that need to be made (such as the style of door knob that may go into a new building, or what food to serve at an upcoming function).

Give Your Alumni a Reason to Engage With Your Program

Whatever you do, don’t take alumni engagement for granted. Remember, your alumni are actively choosing to stay connected to their alma mater. Strong alumni engagement programs understand that it’s their responsibility to keep alumni engaged, active, and coming back for more.

Ready to kickstart your alumni engagement strategy? See why the University of Michigan, Seton Hall, the Johns Hopkins University, and other top schools use the SocialToaster platform to help support their alumni engagement efforts.  Schedule your free demo today!

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