3 Strategies for Driving Attendance at Your Alumni Event
As a fraternity or sorority leader, you know just how much of an asset your alumni are. Not only are alumni involved in fraternities or sororities more likely to donate, but they also provide in-kind support as well. They make valuable volunteers, can help with recruitment, and provide networking opportunities for current chapter members, so you’ll want to nurture your relationships with them. That’s where alumni events come in.
When you hear that term, you might think of college sports watch parties or a fancy dinner. If these types of gatherings aren’t your chapter’s preference or you want to try something new, don’t worry. Luckily, there’s no one right way to host an alumni event—your chapter has the freedom to make it your own.
However, there are some best practices to follow that will make your alumni event run smoothly. Here’s three tips for boosting your alumni event attendance and make them feel nostalgic, yet excited to invest in your chapter’s future.
- Segment your alumni for more effective outreach.
- Try a hybrid event format.
- Offer exclusive fundraising opportunities.
Let’s explore how to optimize your alumni events to raise more money and sustain long-term support.
1. Segment your alumni for more effective outreach.
One of the biggest challenges in outreach is hooking your target audience. After all, you have a mere 8 seconds on average to get their attention, which leaves you very little room for error.
The best way to get your alumni interested in attending your events is by writing specific messages that resonate with them. Since your alumni base is likely quite diverse, both in background and interests, it’s difficult to write an email that appeals to all of them. Luckily, you don’t have to.
Segmenting your alumni is a great way of sending targeted messages that pique your alumni’s interests. It’s crucial to keep your data input methods standardized. There are numerous criteria you can use to segment them by, such as:
- Current profession/employer
- College graduation class
- Place of residence
- Nonprofit affiliations
- Income, if known/estimated
- Preferred mode of communication
- Amount donated
- Past involvement with the organization
This is a lot of information to keep on hand for one person, let alone hundreds of your alumni. That’s why fraternity and sorority management software comes in handy during the segmentation process. According to OmegaFi, fraternity and sorority management software is tailor made to help you store alumni data. Seamlessly send promotional event materials and create segmented mailing lists that will boost registrations.
But be mindful to always include the essential need-to-knows in your materials regardless of how specifically you’re tailoring your message. Start off by including your fraternity or sorority’s branding, such as your logo, slogan, and photos of your chapter members in motion. This will not only help your alumni identify who you are, but it’s also likely to bring up great memories from their time in the chapter. Furthermore, personalizing your alumni communications is key. Use mail merge templates to include the alumni’s name on the message, or you could include photos from their time in the chapter.
2. Try a hybrid event format.
Though in the past in-person events were the norm, times have rapidly changed. Now, with interactive communications platforms right at our fingertips, you can host events with attendees all over the world without them needing to leave the house. But, if you do have alumni in the area who want to come in person, you can have the best of both worlds with a hybrid event.
Hybrid events are the most flexible and inclusive type of get togethers you can throw for your alumni. As long as they have an internet connection and a device (which is over 90% of the population), any alumni can attend your event. Here are some great hybrid events to try:
- Webinar or panel. Your fraternity or sorority likely tackles big issues through your philanthropic work. A webinar and panel discussion with thought leaders will not only raise awareness for your cause, but it’ll also spread the word about your current campaigns. You can host an in-person component with the speaker and attendees present while broadcasting to online viewers. If possible, try to recruit alumni to speak on your panel so they can promote the event to other chapter members.
- Career fair. One of the best advantages of joining a fraternity or sorority is access to a valuable network of brothers and sisters. Take this opportunity to host a career event exclusive to your alumni and current members. Add a hybrid component by creating a conference call with breakout rooms so members living anywhere can join in.
- Class reunion. For a more traditional taste of college life, throw a class reunion where alumni can reconnect with their brothers and sisters. You can hold both in-person and virtual receptions to involve the most people possible. Incentivize them to attend with fun games, entertainment, and prizes.
Nobody knows your fraternity or sorority quite like you do, so ask for their input during the planning process. Ask your current members or involved alumni which events were successful in the past, and consider adding a hybrid element to it going forward. Adding a hybrid component will broaden the possibilities and allows you to incorporate the best elements of both event types.
3. Offer exclusive fundraising opportunities.
It’s easy to forget that your alumni want to support your current members and shape your future. But, it’s up to your chapter to put on attractive events that encourage alumni to get involved. Catch their attention by offering opportunities and rewards for giving that they can’t get elsewhere. Some exclusive items include:
- Experiences. As a fraternity or sorority, you likely have access to fun outings around campus. Perhaps you can offer free college sporting event tickets to everyone who donates above a certain threshold. You can also turn to your community for interesting experiences, such as concerts, cooking classes, or free restaurant meals.
- Branded merchandise. A core aspect of your fraternity or sorority’s identity is your distinct Greek lettering. Consider offering exclusive branded products so your alumni can show their membership with style. Stand out from other organizations by offering unique items, like drink coozies, water bottles, and phone accessories.
- Prize baskets. Branded merchandise aren’t the only goods you can offer to your alumni. Themed prize baskets are a great offering because your organization can target certain alumni based on their interests. For instance, you could curate a nature lover prize basket complete with hiking supplies and a donation to a nature preserve in their honor. Brainstorm some ideas with your team to determine the best themes for your alumni.
Whether you’re throwing an auction complete with a paddle raise or a casual peer-to-peer event, you should incentivize your alumni to become recurring donors. Part of this process is offering them useful prizes as a reward for their support, so make a concerted effort to access the most desirable items and experiences around.
Chances are, your alumni joined your chapter for the lifelong friendships and to make an impact on their community. Leverage this fact by reminding them of the great work you’re doing and the amazing people they’ve met through the organization. After your event, be sure to show your appreciation for their support and connect them with awesome opportunities. They’ll appreciate that you value their membership, even after graduation.
About the Author
Fred Maglione, Chief Executive Officer
With primary responsibility for leading the day-to-day operations of the entire OmegaFi Company, Fred’s duties vary from one moment to the next. Advising nonprofit organizations on operational efficiency, expanding payment processing solutions, developing database management systems, raising money and enhancing our customer’s experience are all part of his job. As an attorney with nearly 20 years of experience in the nonprofit management industry, Fred has earned the prestigious designation of "Certified Fund Raising Executive" from CFRE International. He voluntarily serves as the House Corporation President for the Epsilon Sigma Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega, and is licensed to practice law in the states of Florida and Georgia. Away from work Fred, enjoys time with his wife and their two energetic sons. As often as possible, they travel to visit their extended family scattered throughout the United States. Fred also finds time to cheer for his favorite football team – The Florida State Seminoles!