5 Ways To Level-up Your Alumni Program In 2021
The year 2020 changed the landscape of innumerable things around us, and alumni relations was no exception. Existing boundaries were pushed which resulted in new virtual methods emerging to resolve the challenges that the pandemic brought about.
While alumni engagement in 2021 looks promising as many institutions open up their campuses with adequate restrictions, the alumni relations landscape, at present, is undergoing a tremendous transformation.
Traditional alumni engagement metrics like event attendance and in-person fundraisers can no longer be relied upon entirely. The pandemic has led schools, colleges, and universities to take a step back and plan their programming in accordance with the ‘new normal’.
As you step into 2021 and start planning your strategy for the year, here are five alumni engagement ideas you don’t want to miss out on.
1. Start your year with a small meet-and-greet
The pandemic has had everyone bottled up inside their homes for far too long. While you can’t still go all out and invite all your alumni to campus, you can start the year with small meet-and-greets across various cities around the country, with the help of your local volunteers and chapters. We suggest creating proper guidelines, which can help the volunteers organize these events with utmost safety. With adequate precautions in place, such small-scale events can be a refreshing break from months of Zoom Fatigue, faced by your alumni and students alike. This is also a great opportunity to help your alumni meet peers in and around their area, creating strong bonds within the alumni community.
With public locations opening up and lockdowns restrictions lifting in most states, it is essential to find the right balance between online and offline events that stay relevant and useful for the near future.
2. Give the mic to your alumni
Your alumni programming should be centered on your alumni. Regularly collect feedback and ask your alumni what they’d love to see. Open yourself to ideas beyond events and fundraising campaigns, when you ask for suggestions. An easy way to do this would be to send out questionnaires to your alumni via email or conduct polls on social media. Whether it is an online networking fair to promote interaction between alumni or a virtual dance party: you could be surprised at the innovative suggestions you might get from your alumni.
The best way to encourage alumni to share their suggestions is by providing lucrative incentives. An e-gift card or a small memento from their time at college could be a great motivation for your alumni to participate.
West Virginia Wesleyan College conducted a survey to ensure the opinions of their alumni are heard and taken into consideration while planning the virtual homecoming for the class of 2015.
3. Think fundraising, think out-of-the-box
As institutions across the country reel under the economic impact of the pandemic, fundraising is more important than ever before. Along with aiding important causes, turn your fundraisers into fun and festive affairs. Drive competition amongst alumni, students, and faculty members by setting challenges on unlocking new milestones. To make it more engaging, conduct a poll with some challenges for alumni to choose from! Have a look at Calvert Hall College High School’s out-of-the-box challenge at their 5th Annual All Day Hall Day.
4. Organize Professional Networking Events
With the pandemic leading to forced furloughs and small alumni businesses shutting down, professional networking events such as job fairs and virtual conferences will continue to be an integral part of your alumni programming for 2021. There is no better way to build strong relationships with your alumni than helping them power through when they need you the most.
Speaking of those hit worst by the pandemic, one cannot overlook the Class of 2020 & 2021. These young graduates are looking at a potentially rough start to their careers. Your alumni network is a valuable source of opportunities for these new graduates looking for internships and jobs. Organizing virtual networking events can help facilitate job shadowing services, and serve as a major boost towards career development and discovery, helping students find their field of interest and get hands-on-experience.
5. Up your social media game
Social media has undeniably become the most powerful tool for communication, particularly in the last year. A strong social media presence is not only advisable but almost necessary to keep your alumni engaged. While young alumni are turning towards more instant modes of communication, your regular mail in their inbox can go unnoticed. Start a trend to share a memorable moment from their college years with a hashtag on your handles, post a picture from their graduation days, the ideas are unlimited!
Here is an idea to try: Invite your alumni to write open letters of support to your current students. As your students feel fatigued with online classes, assignments, exams, and struggle to find internships and jobs, letters from their favourite alumni can help put a much-needed smile on their face.
While the pandemic brought along its own set of challenges, it also provided us with ample room for trying out new ideas. Traditionally, it would have been harder to implement these new ideas, especially with the pre-existing programmes giving us fairly good results. But, as we move ahead in 2021 and the alumni relations landscape adjusts to the new shift, the best time to experiment with your alumni programs is now.