4 Ideas to Boost Alumni Engagement in Volunteering
The pandemic posed a formidable challenge to alumni volunteer program coordinators, complicating the ways in which they were able to engage, communicate, and connect with their alumni. Luckily, constraints for physical gatherings have eased as the crisis has progressed, and we seem to have entered a new and exciting era of hybrid engagement where program coordinators have more agency over their volunteer offerings than ever.
In fact, with in-person events having opened up again and new digital engagement strategies cropping up every day, now is the best time to level up your alumni program in and beyond 2022.
Volunteering is an essential element of any robust alumni program because it can form long-lasting relationships between alumni and your institution and boost donation revenue through volunteer grant funds. Read on to maximize these benefits and increase the success of your alumni volunteer program.
1. Take your messaging to new platforms
With each new generation of alumni more frequently engaging online through using their phones, interacting with social media, and discovering new virtual platforms, your alumni program must adapt to these changes to secure their attention. Add an insightful social media strategy to your current marketing initiatives to create a more effective, multichannel campaign for your volunteer program.
Virtual marketing mediums not only allow you to directly connect with alumni where they live, chat, and play, but they also offer unique opportunities to engage with your audience. You simply need to know how to leverage these platforms to their fullest potential.
Be mindful of these social media best practices to engage alumni and increase interest in your volunteer opportunities:
- Actively engage with followers or commenters who react to your posts.
- Share high-value photos of your volunteers and events in action to reinforce the human side of your volunteer program and attract newcomers.
- Celebrate the achievements of your volunteers with alumni spotlight posts and other displays of appreciation for their service.
- Use hashtags and similar platform-specific tools to spread the word about upcoming events and volunteer positions.
While email, direct mail, and other, more traditional channels are essential to your alumni communications, new mediums like social media will allow you to take your marketing materials to new heights.
2. Target your alumni by interest
Get Connected by Galaxy Digital’s guide to starting a volunteer program cites opportunity matching as one of the most effective methods to recruit and engage volunteers. This strategy allows you to fine-tune your communications by sharing volunteer positions and events with alumni based on their skills, experience, and interests.
The following data metrics can help you to tailor your event invitations to the right alumni:
- Area of study and extracurricular involvement. If you have alumni who have yet to build a significant engagement history with your program, their activities as a student can inform what volunteer opportunities they may like to be involved in. For example, someone who was involved in your institution’s sustainability program might be interested in an environmental volunteer opportunity.
- Career field and post-graduate organizations. Understanding how your alumni’s interests have grown and what special experience they’ve garnered since graduating from your institution are both fundamental to keeping them connected to your program. For instance, an alumnus that has pursued and thrived in a career in corporate advising and management could be a great fit as an alumni mentor for students currently in your business school.
- Previous engagement history with your alumni program. Pay attention to what events they have previously attended or volunteered for, the number and distribution of volunteer hours, and any special groups or committees alumni may be a part of.
Keep your alumni involved and encourage their participation in volunteering by sharing opportunities that they would be most likely to participate in. Rather than sending out general email blasts describing all of your volunteer experiences, opportunity matching will enable you to personalize all of your alumni communications and thereby increase engagement.
3. Open up two-way communication and get feedback
The number of event registrations, total volunteer hours, and similar key performance indicators (KPIs) should all be automatically logged into your alumni and volunteer databases. However, there’s another important piece of information that too many alumni programs neglect: alumni feedback.
Regular volunteer surveys and polls allow you to gauge opinions, experiences, and reactions that would have been difficult to measure with raw data alone.
Many volunteer or alumni management solutions already exist that can help you create, send, and create reports based on these surveys. But if you’re still struggling to think of how you could make the most of these forms, here are a few of the different kinds of alumni volunteer surveys you should send out:
- Experience satisfaction surveys to share immediately after event participation
- Overall program engagement surveys to share annually
- Recruitment surveys to share during registration or onboarding
- Opportunity matching and placement surveys to share during registration or onboarding
By spacing out these surveys during opportune times in each volunteer’s involvement with your program, you will be able to gather valuable information while it is still fresh in their minds. This information can then be used to directly address the issues raised by volunteers, improve your program, and further personalize your messaging to maximize engagement.
4. Promote community-building activities
Whether your alumni are longtime volunteer program members or they have yet to participate, the promise of being a part of a community is an enticing prospect for any alumni.
The lockdown era of the COVID-19 pandemic left many people feeling more distant than ever, and it’s essential to combat these lingering effects by coming up with opportunities for alumni to connect with one another.
Whether you conduct virtual and hybrid alumni events or in-person gatherings, these engaging initiatives will encourage community-building between your alumni volunteers:
- Peer-mentoring programs
- Meet-and-greets and icebreaker events
- Team game nights
- Partnerships with local nonprofits that alumni have indicated shared interest in
- Appreciation events and celebrations
While alumni may be motivated to participate in your volunteer opportunities to support their alma mater or help the less fortunate, it will take more than an altruistic impulse to keep them involved in your program. Offering the opportunity to form a community with like-minded people will ensure that alumni stick with your volunteer program for far more than a single event.
To effectively carry out these volunteer program best practices, you might also consider investing in an alumni or volunteer management solution. From locating qualified nonprofits for partnership opportunities to facilitating social media outreach strategies, the right management software will streamline volunteer recruitment, engagement, and retention.
However, regardless of whatever software solutions you may choose, these strategies should set you up to ensure the future success of your own alumni volunteer program.
About the Author
Addison Waters is a Content Writer at Galaxy Digital, the best volunteer management software for managing, tracking, and engaging volunteerism. Addison holds a Master of Creative Writing from Durham University.
Blackbaud, the leading provider of software for powering social impact, and Almabase, the digital-first alumni engagement solution, have announced the expansion of their partnership to the education sectors of Canada and the United Kingdom. The partnership will provide institutions with a modern, digital-first solution to improve constituent data, drive self-serve engagement, and boost event participation.
A Unified Vision
The partnership aligns with Blackbaud’s commitment to customer-centric innovation across digital engagement, Advancement CRM, and financials.
“Partners bring integrated capabilities that extend capabilities and outcomes for Blackbaud customers. We are thrilled that Almabase’s offering, integrated with Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® and leveraging Blackbaud’s best-in-class payment solution, Blackbaud Merchant Services™, is now available to even more of our customers around the world.”
- Liz Price, Sr. Director of Global Partners at Blackbaud