12 Higher-Ed Alumni-Centric Engagement Ideas To Inspire You in 2023

12 Higher-Ed Alumni-Centric Engagement Ideas To Inspire You in 2023




March 7, 2022

Last modified: 

March 24, 2023

We’re already deep into the first quarter of 2023, and this year promises to be nothing short of exciting for Alumni Relations and Advancement. From transitioning towards a hybrid event model to placing emphasis on alumni and their needs, educational institutions across the country have slowly started rethinking events, and the way they engage with their alumni.

We’ve seen so many outstanding engagement ideas ever since the pandemic began in 2020, and so many teams have implemented out-of-the-box events that successfully engaged with alumni around the world. That’s when we realized we should compile some of these ideas that your alumni will LOVE.

Alumni engagement fundraising

Here are 12 alumni-centric engagement ideas for higher educational institutions that will inspire you in 2023.

Marietta College’s unique social media campaign to raise $192,000

Marietta College is a private liberal arts college in Marietta, Ohio. They managed to raise over $190,000 for their Giving Day in 2020, from over 1,200 donors!

They achieved this magnificent feat through their #Luv4MC campaign on social media. The hashtag encouraged the College’s alumni community to come forward and show their support by sharing their most cherished stories and pictures of their alma mater.

We were inspired by the efforts of Kathryn Gloor (Senior Director of Annual Giving at Marietta College) and their amazing team, for rallying so much support to make their Giving Day immensely successful. Read more about the success of the campaign here.

Kathryn Gloor from Marietta College

How Willamette University engaged with their alumni through a virtual content repository

Willamette University is a private university in Salem, Oregon. The University’s Advancement team managed to successfully engage with their alumni through a virtual content repository, called the WU Stream Initiative.

The initiative was based on the idea of providing an array of content to every alumni member in their community to choose from. This included virtual lectures, videos, podcasts, and an archive of content that serves the likes of every alum, no matter where they are and what they prefer.

A huge shoutout to Tyler Reich and their team for implementing such an incredible alumni-centric idea to engage with the University’s community. Find out more about the WU Stream Initiative here.

Tyler Reich from Willamette University

Wesleyan College’s Informative “Lunch & Learn” series

Wesleyan College is a private, liberal arts women's college in Macon, Georgia. The College managed to keep their alumnae engaged and entertained through their unique “Lunch & Learn” series.

The College’s Office of Alumnae Affairs wanted to do something memorable to engage with their constituents during the pandemic. The series features one-hour Zoom sessions where the President or Provost and a faculty or staff member engage in meaningful discussions about relevant topics like diversity and inclusion on campus, and athletics during the new normal.

We love how Cathy Coxey Snow (Director of Alumnae Affairs at Wesleyan College since 1993) and their team have been creating meaningful engagement opportunities for the College’s alumnae during the pandemic. Learn more about the College’s Lunch & Learn series here.

Cathy Coxey Snow

Madonna University’s heartfelt messaging campaign to raise more funds

Madonna University is a private Catholic university in Livonia, Michigan. Ahead of the University’s St. Felix Day of Giving, the Alumni Office created a touching communication plan to encourage participation and raise more funds.

The pandemic forced the Office to rethink their strategies for the campaign, and they decided to keep the messaging behind the appeal simple and from the heart. By focusing on the immediate needs of current students, and the impact each gift would make on their education. The heartfelt communication clearly left a mark on the University’s alumni, as the campaign was a huge success.

A huge shoutout to Katie Dougherty and their team for putting together such an inspiring campaign in such a short timeframe. Read more about the success of the University’s campaign here.

Madonna University

The Evergreen State College’s campaign to raise awareness on issues that mattered

The Evergreen State College is a public liberal arts and sciences college in Olympia, Washington. Their Return To Evergreen event featured an array of events that helped engage with their alumni, while also creating discussions and raising awareness on important societal issues.

The campaign included a few breakout sessions like Art in a Time of Resistance and Change, which served as a beacon to bring racial, cultural, and social justice to the forefront. Topics like wealth disparity, immigration, racism, climate change, and gun violence were a vital part of the conversations.

We love how Correan Barker (Associate Director of Events, Alumni & Donor Relations) and their team put together an event that managed to keep the College’s alumni engaged. Read more about the campaign here.

Correan Barker from The Evergreen State College

University Of The Ozarks’ jam-packed Virtual Homecoming

University of the Ozarks is a private university in Clarksville, Arkansas. Their Virtual Homecoming 2020 merged three distinct events – alumni weekend, family weekend, and homecoming, into one iconic week of virtual events.

The University’s Virtual Homecoming contained a plethora of fun-filled activities for alumni around the world to partake in, such as Virtual Campus Tours, Spirits Wars Launch, Virtual Bingo and Ozarks Reunion. The new format enabled the University to engage with their large international alumni community, thereby making the event more accessible. Winners of certain events were also awarded with Ozarks gears and merchandise.

Putting together one virtual event can be a lot of work, so imagine putting together an entire week of virtual events for alumni! A huge shoutout to Justin McCormick (Associate Director of Alumni Relations) and their team for pulling it off. Read more about the University’s event here.

Justin McCormick from University Of The Ozarks

How Whitman College used a Virtual Repository to engage with Alumni

Whitman College is a private liberal arts college in Walla Walla, Washington. Amidst the pandemic, the Alumni Relations Staff wanted to engage with alumni meaningfully, which was how the idea for “Virtual Whitman” was born.

Essentially, “Virtual Whitman” is an online resource repository built with the intent of staying connected with each other during the pandemic. This initiative enabled the College’s alumni to have easy access to relevant resources such as recordings of past virtual events, historical archives about the college and the city, and kid-friendly science experiments for alumni to try out at home.

We love how Jennifer Dilworth Northam (Director Of Alumni Relations) and their team put together such an amazing initiative. Read more about “Virtual Whitman” here.

Jennifer Northam from Whitman College

Wartburg College’s immensely successful crowdfunding campaign for new infrastructure

Wartburg College is a private Lutheran liberal arts college in Waverly, Iowa. The College’s Alumni and Parent Programs Office turned to their alumni to raise funds for various ongoing infrastructural projects, which turned out to be a huge success.

Wartburg College’s “Fund the Fortress” campaign was essentially an affinity-based campaign to raise funds for projects that alumni cared for. Some of the projects involved raising funds for exercise science equipment, and for a living classroom in honor of a late faculty member. The campaign turned out to be very successful, owing to how targeted and specific the asks were.

A huge shoutout to Robert Ruchotzke (Director Of Annual Giving) and their amazing team for putting together such an awe-inspiring fundraising campaign. Read more about it here.

Robert Ruchotzke from Wartburg College

Michigan Ross’ value-driven mentorship program

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business is a business school operated by the University of Michigan. Their unique “Alumni in Residence” mentorship program focused on engaging with their alumni, while also creating value and opportunities for current students.

The “Alumni in Residence” program focuses on the concept of 1-1 flash mentorships, where each session lasts for about 30-minutes. While current students have wonderful opportunities to learn from their seniors, alumni also get to showcase their achievements in their respective fields and share their talents to the next generation.

Kudos to Caitlyn Johnson (Director of Alumni Engagement) and their incredible team for putting together a program that both current and former students of the School get to benefit from. Read more about their mentorship program here.

Caitlyn Johnson from Michigan Ross School of Business (University of Michigan)

How The University of Georgia honored its alumni’s businesses

The University of Georgia is a public land-grant research university with its main campus in Athens, Georgia. The University’s Bulldog 100 celebrates top businesses operated or owned by the University’s alumni.

Every year, the Bulldog 100 ranks the top 100 businesses, based on CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) over the last three years. The list comprises businesses from over two dozen industries, including non-profits, healthcare, and software. The Alumni Association usually hosts a grand celebration for the Bulldog 100, where they count down the businesses that made the cut, until finally revealing the overall winner.

We love how Meredith Johnson (Executive Director of Alumni Relations) and their team is engaging with alumni by shining the spotlight on amazing business ventures. Read more about the Bulldog 100 here.

Meredith Johnson from University of Georgia

California State University, Chico’s award-winning webinar series

California State University, Chico, or commonly, Chico State, is a public university in Chico, California. Their “Wildcat Connect Webinar Series” was immensely successful in engaging with their large alumni community across the world.

Essentially a simple idea, the “Wildcat Connect Webinar Series” consists of a series of informative webinars that would benefit the University’s alumni. Topics for these webinars ranged from entrepreneurship and startups, to career advice, to tips on financial planning. The series was a huge success, as over 1,200 alumni poured their appreciation and support. The initiative also won the coveted CASE Platinum Award in 2021, in the Best Practices in Alumni Relations category.

A huge shoutout to the Tania Miranda Rueda and their incredible team for putting together an award-winning campaign to engage with so many alumni across the world. Read more about the webinar series here.

Tania Miranda Rueda from California State University, Chico

Pittsburg State University’s idea of engaging with alumni through a roadtrip

Pittsburg State University is a public university in Pittsburg, Kansas. Their “Great Gorilla Tour” enabled the University to (quite literally) meet their alumni where they were, through an elaborately planned road trip across the country.

The most recent “Great Gorilla Tour: West Coast Edition” featured the advancement team in an amazing road trip where they met with alumni in different cities along the way. The trip lasted for over two weeks, and the team toured across nine cities in nine different states, not to mention the hundreds of alumni they got to engage with along the way.

We love how Danielle Driskill (Assistant Director of Alumni & Constituent Relations), Jon Bartlow (Director of Alumni & Constituent Relations) and the rest of their team put together this incredible road trip. Read more about the “Great Gorilla Tour” here.

Danielle Driskill from Pittsburg State University
Jon Bartlow from Pittsburg State University

That about wraps up our list of ideas to inspire you this year. Hopefully, you enjoyed these ideas just as much as we did. We can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us!

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