Last week, we shared some of the most potent alumni engagement statistics we could find. Today, we’re double-down on alumni engagement to present six ways your higher educational institution can get your alumni excited about your school’s alumni weekend.
Whether your alumni weekend is next month or later on in the year, use these tips to develop a strategy that fosters anticipation, builds excitement, and compels your alumni to participate in the weekend’s event.
Why Alumni Excitement over Alumni Weekend Matters?
Before we go diving into best practices, let’s talk a little about why it’s critical for your alumni to be excited for alumni weekend.
Live attendance at events is a critical component for a successful donation and fundraising campaign effort. In fact, on average, 36% of event attendees become donors, while only 3% of disengaged alumni donate.
Simply put, the more excited your alumni are for alumni weekend, the more likely they are to attend your event (or at least share and engage with your alumni weekend content), the more potential donors you have in your solicitation pool.
6 Tips for Building Excitement for Alumni Weekend
1) Alumni Weekend Is Not Just A Class Reunion
First off, if you’re going to build excitement for an upcoming alumni weekend, you’ve got to have events worth getting excited over. If all of your events are themed around class years (Class of 2000 Breakfast, Class of 1986 Happy Hour, etc.), you’re leaving some event excitement on the table.
Create events that appeal to your alumni across a spectrum of interests, including:
- Hobbies (golf, bowling, board game meetups, woodworking lectures, wine tasting, etc.)
- Job title or industry focus
- Tailgates and game watching parties
- Speakers and panel discussions
Don’t silo your alumni by class year. Organize a range of events that support opportunities for your alumni to connect and intermingle.
2) Use Multiple Channels to Broadcast Your Message
Once you have your alumni weekend schedule locked in, it’s time to start marketing the weekend to your alumni. I mean, can your alumni get excited about alumni weekend if they…you know…don’t know about the weekend?
As a best practice, we recommend utilizing a multi-channel distribution strategy to reach your alumni where they live. People move, email addresses change, and social media accounts evolve, which is why single-channel distribution strategies aren’t enough to ensure message penetration.
At a minimum, your alumni weekend marketing strategy should include:
- Direct Mail
- Phone / Text
- Social Media
- Alumni Networks / Fan Club Outreach
3) Create a Single Source of Truth
One of the quickest ways to kill excitement is to introduce confusion. If you’re publishing half of your events on Facebook and the other half on your school’s website, you’re asking your alumni to worry more about making sure they’ve got the right information than about how they’re going to attend the event.
To keep everyone on the same page, consider creating a microsite (or designating a portion of your main site’s alumni section) dedicated to your alumni weekend. Include your schedule, event detail information, parking, lodging, and meal recommendations, and anything else your alumni need to know to have an enjoyable weekend.
As a bonus tip, integrate some social sharing into the microsite. Make it easy for your alumni to share that they’re attending specific events with their social network. Again, the more you can take off your alumni’s plate, the more time they can spend talking about alumni weekend with their fellow alums.
4) Build Anticipation by Sharing Past Event Highlights
FOMO (fear of missing out) can be a powerful motivator.
If you want to build excitement for your upcoming alumni weekend, show off how much fun the previous years’ events were. Create content that highlights the fun that your alumni would miss out on by not attending this year’s alumni weekend.
On top of encouraging first-timers to join in on the alumni weekend fun, showing off highlights of past events can also help remind historic attendees of the great time they had at previous events, providing a social sharing point (who doesn’t like to share #TBT posts?) and pushing their consideration to attend this year’s event.
5) Advertise and Retarget
Don’t be afraid to put some advertising dollars behind the weekend and it’s marquee events. Build awareness of the event by sponsoring your social content, driving traffic to your alumni weekend microsite, and your email, direct mail, and phone outreach efforts.
As a best practice, be sure to incorporate some retargeting and remarketing into your campaign strategy. For example, if you’ve had dozens of alumni market themselves as “Going” to a specific alumni event on Facebook, don’t just assume they’ll all be going to show up at the event. People forget, lives get busy, and it’s not uncommon for those “Going” people to become “Not Going.”
Create an advertisement that acts as a reminder about the event and show that reminder to those who have registered to attend. It might seem counter-intuitive to use advertising dollars to engage with an audience that already knows about the event, but the reminder can make all the difference in driving self-selected interested alumni to your event.
6) Use Social Proof to Help Spread the Word
We touched on this earlier in the post, but one of the best ways to drive excitement for an upcoming event is to leverage your alumni network to promote the event alongside your school’s efforts.
No one wants to be the first to a party. When your alumni themselves promote your events, it sends a signal to the alumni they’re connected with that they’re thinking about attending the event – or, at the very least that the event is on their radar.
Having social-sharing elements on your alumni weekend microsite is one way to incorporate social proof into your alumni weekend marketing efforts.
Another way is to use (or start) your school’s alumni engagement program.
In an alumni engagement program (often powered by an advocacy marketing tool like SocialToaster), your alumni become your biggest advocates as they share your branded content to their personal social feeds. Not only does this channel help to build social proof around alumni weekend events, but it also drives awareness of the weekend itself.
Ready to Build Excitement For Your Next Alumni Weekend?
Dozens of universities have already started leveraging the social sharing power of an alumni engagement program to help promote everything from Giving Days to alumni weekends.
If you’re searching for effective ways to build awareness and excitement for your upcoming alumni events, then SocialToaster may be the solution for you. Reach out to us today to schedule your free demo and see how SocialToaster can help support your alumni engagement efforts.