Best Practices

4 Tips to Use Your University Website to Engage Alumni

4 Tips to Use Your University Website to Engage Alumni


Anne Stefanyk


September 28, 2021

Last modified: 

September 28, 2021

University graduates tend to think fondly of their alma mater, and have a desire to stay connected to their college over their years. Alumni groups offer graduates the chance to stay involved in university activities and network with fellow grads. A strong, engaged alumni group can support your university further by making donations, mentoring students, helping graduates with job opportunities, and much more.

Nowadays, most of your alumni outreach takes place over online platforms. Your alumni network likely spans across the country and even worldwide, and the internet is one place where everyone can easily stay connected with each other and your school. That’s why your institution’s website must be optimized for engaging alumni digitally. In this guide, we’ll review top tips for engaging your alumni using your website.

Most of the top college websites include the link to their alumni website in the top navigation bar or within a brief alumni webpage. This means it’s important to optimize your alumni information on your overall college website as well as the alumni website itself. Keep this in mind as we explore each tip. Let’s dive in!

1. Conduct user and audience research

First, determine who’s already visiting your alumni site. You’ve likely already got a wide range of alumni who interact with your university, and it’s your job to determine who they are and what they’re doing on your website.

Parse through your Google Analytics to review metrics such as:

  • Average session duration: This measures the average time users spend on your website in a single session. If your average session duration is low, you may consider adding engaging visual elements to your website such as videos or an event calendar.
  • Bounce rate: This is the percentage of users who view only one webpage before leaving your website. To decrease your bounce rate, you can implement more enticing calls to action (CTAs) that encourage users to engage further with your content.
  • Top landing pages: Your top landing pages reveal your website’s most popular pages. This can help you determine what visitors are seeking when they visit your site. You can further optimize these pages for even greater engagement. For instance, if many visitors explore your chapter map, take additional steps to ensure this page is well-optimized for ease of navigation.

Use each of these metrics to determine the most and least effective elements of your alumni website. For instance, you may discover that your bounce rate is high and that you should include more CTAs on your site. Or, perhaps your mentorship program page isn’t getting much traffic, so you redesign the page to be more appealing.

Ultimately, when you get to know your user audience and alumni visitors better, you can design your site in a way that appeals to them and encourages them to engage with your content.

2. Enhance your website’s user experience

Streamlined, user-friendly design can go a long way toward engaging your alumni and encouraging them to explore your site. An enhanced user experience (UX) allows alumni to quickly find the information they need and discover all the opportunities for engaging with your institution.

Here are some tried-and-tested UX design tips for your website:

  • Reduce your website’s load speed by compressing images and minimizing HTTP requests. The current recommended load time is two seconds or less.
  • Use a simple, uncluttered design that features a minimalist navigation bar and plenty of white space.
  • Optimize your website for mobile by using a responsive design template and checking the formatting of your site in the mobile view to ensure there aren’t any readability issues.
  • Make your website accessible to people of all abilities and ages by including alt text for images, transcribing videos, and ensuring your text has enough contrast with your background colors. This ensures that your site is user-friendly for all, including older alumni. These individuals tend to have more money for donations but are also more likely to need better accessibility.

Your alumni website doesn’t need complex design elements or flashy graphics to be effective. A minimalistic design allows alumni to navigate your website easily and connect with your programs and opportunities faster.

3. Provide clear calls to action

When alumni visit your website, they should know what their options are for engaging with your institution right off the bat. Take a page from the playbook of the best nonprofit websites to design your CTAs. These websites place donors at the center of the story and tailor all content to facilitate an easy, convenient donation process.

Your university can do the same with your alumni. In addition to encouraging donations with your CTAs, you can also direct users to register for mentorship opportunities, read recent news articles, or sign up for your newsletter.

Your CTAs should:

  • Stand out against the rest of the content on your page with bright colors that pop.
  • Use active phrases, such as “Connect With [College Name] Today” or “Get Involved.”
  • Offer unique opportunities, such as matching gift programs or opportunities for attending chapter events.

For instance, the University of Georgia’s website includes multiple CTA buttons directing alumni to different opportunities they may be interested in:

Engage with UGA and your fellow Alumni

These CTAs pop against the background and include clear instructions for different actions that website visitors may want to explore.

4. Highlight engagement benefits

Ultimately, to make your website as engaging as possible for alumni, you must put their needs and interests at the heart of your website content. Almabase recommends embracing the concept of alumni centricity. This is the process of building relationships with alumni that aren’t just based on their loyalty to their alma mater, but also on the value that your program brings to their lives.

Certainly, you can use your website to tug on alumni heartstrings with imagery, videos, and text that are reminiscent of their college experience. However, you can build even longer-lasting relationships by orienting your website content equally around the value that alumni involvement in your opportunities and programs will bring to the lives of former students.

Plus, if your website only focuses on requesting donations from alumni, you’ll quickly alienate your alumni and encourage them to click away from your website. But by striking a balance between donation requests and offering other opportunities such as mentorship programs, homecoming events, and networking opportunities, you can provide just as much value to your alumni as they provide to your university.

As you adjust your website content to appeal to alumni, be sure to take a continuous improvement approach. Continuously assess your data to determine what’s working and what needs improvement and make adjustments accordingly. This allows you to keep up with the evolving needs of your alumni base and avoid having to conduct major website overhauls.
Your alumni website can act as the anchor for your overall digital engagement strategy. When your website is optimized, you can share it using your email newsletter and social media updates to drive more traffic. This allows you to engage alumni effectively, even if they’re located across the country or globe.

About The Author 🖊

Anne Stefanyk

Anne Stefanyk

As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.

Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.

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