5 Alumni Engagement Trends You Need To Watch Out For in 2021
Alumni are the backbone of any institution and maintaining consistent alumni engagement is crucial to building a great institution and ensuring continuity.
While alumni engagement has come a long way from traditional direct mail campaigns and annual student reunions, the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 forced advancement teams to reassess their strategies. Over the past year, we've witnessed a tremendous shift in the way alumni relations has evolved. While advancement teams will still continue to engage alumni via traditional channels in 2021, this year has shown us enough evidence to suggest that institutions will most certainly not be restricted to them.
2021 is undoubtedly going to be a challenging year, given the evolutionary phase that alumni relations is currently in. However, where there are new challenges, there are also new opportunities. Alumni engagement in 2021 will offer tremendous possibilities for universities to engage with their alumni on a deeper and more meaningful basis - even in these times of uncertainty and chaos.
Here are five alumni engagement trends for 2021 that you should watch out for to achieve your alumni engagement goals.
1. Event strategies will evolve
As the pandemic made it impossible to host in-person events in 2020, we witnessed a host of creative virtual alumni events by institutions, big and small. While the COVID-19 crisis doesn't seem likely to die down any time soon, recent reports indicate that social distancing guidelines are going to be further relaxed in 2021.
Alumni event strategies for the next year are set to evolve depending on COVID-19 state regulations. Some schools may continue to host all alumni events virtually while some may open up their campuses to certain events being conducted in-person. Either way, advancement teams in 2021 will need to take a hybrid approach to keep their alumni engaged.
2. Alumni will be at the heart of all alumni engagement
For a majority of institutions, alumni engagement has been restricted to monthly newsletters, traditional events, and yearly fundraising appeals. But, the pandemic has prompted advancement teams to look for creative solutions to penetrate a wider segment of their alumni population and maintain consistent engagement year-on-year.
The past year and its unprecedented challenges have given institutions an opportunity to review and rebuild their alumni programming with alumni at the core of it. In 2021, advancement teams will find a way to provide more value and on-demand programming to build meaningful relationships with their alumni. Schools, colleges, and universities will work towards creating easily accessible programs to maximize outreach, facilitate greater flexibility, and enhance alumni relations.
From focused workshops to career networking and mentoring programs, institutions in 2021 will ensure the easy availability of all these programs to all alumni.
During the pandemic, William Peace University launched a Virtual Book Club focused on professional development and career advancement for the university students and alumni. The group helped set and realize career goals for all participants. Via this initiative, the institution made valuable resources and knowledge easily accessible to alumni and students from the comfort of their homes during a crisis. Read more →
Thus, focusing on alumni needs is the key to forging strong, meaningful relationships in 2021.
3. Measurement of engagement data will be more streamlined
Traditionally, alumni engagement data has mostly been limited to measuring event attendance and fundraising revenue. However, these metrics failed to provide any insights during the COVID-19 pandemic when institutions had to cancel all in-person events and dial down on fundraising asks.
2020, therefore, provided advancement teams with an opportunity to identify massive gaps in alumni engagement data and work towards creating a better structure for alumni engagement reporting.
Engagement data going forward would constitute so much more - from social media interactions, email engagement, mentor-mentee engagement, to volunteer participation and a lot more. Digitization of all this data will offer advancement teams the essential knowledge they need to make the right decisions and develop stronger relationships with alumni.
4. We will see an increased focus on mid-level donors
2020 has set a landmark record for one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States. This alarming trend directly affects institutions as a lot of their major gift donors have taken a huge hit on their fortune. Studies indicate that 88% of all funds donated to schools come from 12% of donors and these donors constitute major gift donors.
Fundraising in 2021, therefore, is going to be largely different from what we have seen so far. Institutions will shift their focus towards mid-level donors, working towards converting them into long-time donors. Additionally, advancement teams will also be on the lookout for creative ideas to expand their current donor base and drive up engagement with more diverse alumni segments.
5. Career networks will continue to be integral to alumni programs
The importance of alumni networks for professional networking and career growth has come to life during the COVID-19 pandemic. With unemployment rates spiking across industries, alumni networks have come to play a significant role in helping alumni and students find jobs, accelerating in their careers, and facilitating mentor-mentee relations.
With recent reports indicating 21 million Americans unemployed as a consequence of the pandemic, career networks will continue to be crucial in strategically engaging alumni in 2021. An increasing number of institutions will invest more in building online career networks and job and internship boards to support students and alumni.
The year 2021 will witness advancement teams rebuilding their alumni engagement programs to cater to the evolving needs of their alumni. This evolving alumni relations landscape calls for the adoption of more modern, technology-driven strategies for effective alumni engagement.
With the amount of changes that alumni relations has gone through in the past few months, newer trends are expected to emerge soon.