One of the essentials for the success of your education institution is a strong and active alumni association. If students forget your institution after graduation, you might not benefit from the numerous opportunities a relationship with them offers. Your alumni association members can become mentors for other students and provide their skills and expertise when needed for free or at low costs. They also guarantee your institution a global footprint as graduates spread in different localities and can offer numerous job opportunities for your graduates.
While there are numerous alumni associations, a VASESE study found out that 25% of them suffer annual opt-out rates of 15-39%. One of the leading reasons people leave the associations or do not participate in activities is a lack of engagement by the educational institution. Without engagement, you cannot enjoy a rewarding and beneficial relationship with your graduates.
The following are some pre-requisites for maximizing engagement in your alumni network.
Programs serving the alumni
Brands nowadays create buyer personas to understand their clients and form a deep connection with them. Have the same for your alumni to customize your programs for them and thus keep them interested and engaged. For instance, you can offer continuing education in your graduates’ career fields or seminars and conferences that boost their career opportunities.
Programs in which alumni can serve your institution
Most alumni complain that the only time they hear from institutions is when there is a fundraiser. Money is undoubtedly important, but there are other ways through which alumni can serve their alma mater. For example, they can mentor students, provide internship opportunities for graduates, and advocate for your institution’s cause in various governing bodies. With these opportunities, you will not lock out those who, for whichever reason, cannot give money.
Most alumni networks only support one-way communication flow from management to the members. If your members have no way of engaging the management to share their concerns and ideas, they will be frustrated into opting out. Two-way communication is the answer if you are wondering how to build a community feeling in your alumni network. With the increased engagement this creates, your alumni will feel important and become long-term active members.
A sustained and targeted effort
Give the programs you start to engage your alumni time to take root. This will need you to focus on the programs that have the highest impact, stay on course, and carefully plan your activities. If you keep springing up new ideas every so often and neglect the initial ones, you will rarely get your target engagement.
Participation in governance
Give your alumni opportunities to shape your institution for them to feel needed and keep them interested. They can serve on their alma maters’ governing bodies such that other alumni feel like their interests are being considered in your institution’s growth and running. Consider having shared members between the alumni board and your board of trustees so that the communication lines between these two crucial boards remain open.
Running programs and implementing projects is not good enough for your alumni network. It would help if you had a way of collecting regular feedback from members on your action’s efficacy. Consider focused groups, user surveys, and formal market research to collect feedback from alumni on your programs. Knowing their views on your current services can help you serve them better while keeping them active.
Most alumni networks will share only positive information with their members though not all news is good news. While no one likes bad news, being frank with your alumni on any negative issues affecting your institution builds their trust. Trust will become the foundation of an active and engaged relationship within the alumni network.
With most graduates having over $35,000 in student loans, you cannot afford to only use your alumni network as the cash cow for your projects. This will only make people shun your activities. With the above elements of engagement for your association, you will keep people interested and active enough to get involved in your projects. This ensures the continuity of your alumni network and the success of your projects.