January 18, 2016
Super Fans: The Power of An Engaged Alumni Base
It plays a key role in your school’s national rankings. It provides money for your endowments, creates lifelong ambassadors, helps attract the ideal next generation of students, and makes it easier to recruit and retain top-shelf faculty. What’s this essential ingredient to higher ed success? Alumni participation.
You can’t afford to NOT have an extremely engaged base of alumni, and most schools have a great plan and staff in place to creatively help alumni find ways to support their school. It’s important to remember we’re talking about people, not fundraising numbers. After building strong bonds in college, it’s an awesome thing to stay connected with your classmates, and you have the privilege to facilitate those conversations. We’re thankful to have Clemson University as a long-time client, and one of the main areas of our partnership is alumni participation. They must be doing something right, because they were rated the most engaged alumni base in America by the Princeton Review. Let’s look at some examples and practical tips from our work with the Tigers.
While there are definitely some cases when sending a print newsletter is a great idea (not every generation is tech savvy), the digital world is an ideal avenue to encourage alumni participation. And we’re not talking just websites. Think beyond the site into mobile apps & email. There’s plenty of tools out there that can make it easy for you to connect and facilitate connections. And both school and alumni are made better in the process.
Email’s Not Dead Yet
Clemson came to us with a simple issue- they were having a hard time getting email newsletters out. They took many hours to execute, and it was a frustrating roadblock. So we built them an email platform with an easy content curation tool, and that made it possible to send a newsletter in just a few minutes.
They sent over 9.1 million Echo emails in 5 years, and we’re still counting. That’s a lot of communication that helps keep their alumni plugged in.
Higher ed institutions usually have plenty of content, they key is just getting it into one place. And though there’s plenty of noise in your email inbox, updates about your college friends will probably pique your interest. Consider upping your newsletter game to up your engagement levels. Though some may label email as dead, I think it’s actually more like the plucky fellow in Monty Python: “I’m not dead yet!”
Think Outside the Inbox
Email is a great tool to directly reach your alumni, but our smartphone-centric digital society is a golden open door for even more creative ways to drive alumni participation. We worked with Clemson to create Tigers on the Move, a website and mobile app designed to provide an easy way to alumni to post updates- jobs, new babies, moves, etc.
This brings up a good point: you can harness the power of “pull” content along with “push.” Newsletters = push. Crowdsourced participation = pull. We’re always willing to share about ourselves, so provide your alumni an outlet to share and watch them go!
Apps and Platforms: Focus Is Key
Finally, a note on apps and platforms. The email platform we built for Clemson does one thing well (3 other schools at Clemson jumped on the bandwagon and adopted it!) The app we built does one thing really well. If you launch into building a new platform or an app, think micro over macro. Gain a “laser focus” on what you want it to do. Don’t think micro in power or capabilities, but think narrow in objective. Find your singular problem, and make it the top-of-the-line solution to that problem.
Tell us what you think!
Enough about us. We’d love to hear about your creative alumni engagement efforts. Maybe you’ve designed an innovative mobile app, built an easy-to-use platform, or created a top-notch website to promote alumni participation. We’re looking forward to hearing about it in the comments!