4 Ways To Delight Your Alumni This Holiday Season
With holiday season in full swing, your institution is likely already focusing on how it will connect with alumni as they return home for the holidays. Especially with the pandemic putting strains on people’s social lives over the past year and a half, your alumni are looking to form meaningful relationships more than ever before.
While you should engage your alumni every day of the year, the holiday season presents a great opportunity to supercharge alumni relationships and foster lasting connections during a time when people are feeling generous. It’s a great time to reach out to graduates and let them know just how valuable they are to the continued success of your college or university.
Whether you reach out with a simple “thank you” or throw a full-blown appreciation event, there are plenty of ways to connect with alumni and bridge the physical distance between them and your school. As you freshen up your alumni engagement strategies for the holiday season, work these ideas into your efforts:
- Send festive holiday cards.
- Host a peer-to-peer fundraiser.
- Engage with them on social media.
- Send branded gifts.
Your alumni are a valuable part of your institution. Implementing extra appreciation and engagement efforts will inspire them to stick around and establish lifelong connections to your school. Ready to gather new ideas to connect with alumni during the holidays? Let’s dive in.
1. Send festive holiday cards
Any alum appreciates knowing their alma mater is thinking of them during this special time of the year. Why not send them a festive eCard or a letter in the mail, thanking them for their continued support for your school?
This is a great way to say thanks for their continued involvement and to wish them happy holidays. Here are a few ways you can create a holiday card that your alumni will love:
Feature student or alumni talent: Have someone who’s skilled in graphic design create the card itself. If you go digital with your holiday card, consider having a campus acapella group or musicians sing or play a carol.
Keep it short: Your holiday card doesn’t have to be lengthy to get the point across that you’re thinking about your former students. Keep the card fairly simple, or if you’re sending a video as your holiday greeting, make sure it’s no longer than a couple of minutes.
Add a soft ask to the card: The end of the year is the most charitable time of the year. Include a non-intrusive donation request at the end of your video or card. Add a donation button that links them to the donation page, or provide instructions on how to find your online donation page on your school’s website.
The great thing about holiday cards is that they’re low cost (especially when you go digital) and they’re sure to make your alumni light up when they hear from you. Make this an annual marketing tactic, and alumni will start to look forward to hearing from you every year.
2. Host a peer-to-peer fundraiser
Alumni giving is used as an indicator of a university’s success. It communicates how invested alumni are in the continued development of the organization, and it can impact the institution’s ratings in publications like the U.S. News & World Report.
Colleges and universities among other fundraising organizations recognize the holiday season as one of the best times to push out fundraising appeals to alumni. In fact, Double the Donation’s nonprofit fundraising statistics page indicates that 30% of annual giving happens in December, with about 10% of all annual donations coming in the last three days of the year.
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As part of your year-end alumni fundraising strategies, try a peer-to-peer campaign. In this type of campaign, your supporters (in this case, your alumni) set up individual campaign pages, personalizing them with their own images and personal stories that emphasize their experiences at your school. Then, they share the page with their friends and family, encouraging them to donate.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a fantastic way to connect with alumni and inspire them to donate during a time when they’re feeling extra generous — especially younger alumni who spend a good bit of time online. It helps you reconnect with other alumni who might’ve lost touch with your school. They’ll see their friends actively supporting your school, sparking memories of their alma mater. Not only this, but you’ll reinforce loyalty among those who volunteer to fundraise.
3. Engage with them on social media
You engage with students on social media upon admission all the way through their enrollment at your institution. Those digital connections shouldn’t be severed the moment they graduate. The holiday season is a good time to re-up your social media activities to re-spark those connections.
Social media efforts play a crucial role in your overall reachability, enabling you to reach thousands or even millions of followers instantly when you post. If you’re not careful, your social media efforts might lapse during the holiday season, a crucial time when you should actually be posting consistently.
Here are a few ways to connect with your alumni during the holiday season:
Have a consistent posting schedule: Ideally, post a few times a week. If your marketing team will be out of the office, use your marketing tools to automate your posts.
Interact with them: Make the most of social media by leveraging it as a two-way communication system. Like or respond to comments on your posts, or go on a following spree where you follow active alumni members back.
Hold an ugly sweater contest: Bring the festivities into your social media strategies. Create a hashtag, such as #YourSchool’sNameUglySweaterContest2021, and ask alumni to share pictures of them in their ugliest sweaters. Declare your winner and send them some sort of gift (like a branded t-shirt or a stuffed animal of your school’s mascot) as a prize.
People will have some extra free time to relax during the holiday season, so they’re sure to be scrolling through their social media feeds. Capitalize on this time and avoid putting your social media efforts on hold during the holiday season.
4. Send them branded gifts
The end of the year is the perfect time to show your appreciation by sending alumni members gifts. After all, who wouldn’t be excited to get a package in the mail, especially if it’s a free gift from their alma mater?
While sending gifts to every graduate might not fall within your school’s budget, you can send them to those who are active in your alumni program. Your team should be sure to pick the appropriate gift that represents the alumni’s level of involvement, whether that means taking a look at their volunteer hours or donation history. Some branded gifts that will serve as great memorabilia for active members of your alumni network include:
- Custom t-shirts
- Stuffed animals of your school’s mascot
These can easily be branded to your school, and recipients will be reminded of you each time they use their gift. If you want to express appreciation for major donors, you might instead send larger gifts, like food baskets or gift certificates. Either way, get into the spirit of giving this holiday season by sending a token of appreciation to your active supporters.
Whether you’re asking them to get involved in a campaign or extending a thank you to those who stay involved, the end of the year is the perfect time to step up your alumni engagement efforts. Between a boost in your fundraising appeals and free gifts, make the most of this upcoming holiday season by investing in alumni engagement. Good luck and happy holidays!
About the Author
Craig Grella is a Content Marketer at Salsa Labs, the premier software for growth-focused nonprofits that combines CRM and engagement software with embedded best practices, machine learning, and world-class education and support. In his role, he serves thousands of nonprofits and advocacy organizations across the U.S.
Craig focuses on digital strategy using email marketing, online advertising campaigns, SMS campaigns, CRM management, reporting/analytics for KPIs, and more. He’s also the founder of Think Big Campaigns, a full-service consulting firm that specializes in political consulting, digital