5 ways to make your alumni program more accessible to all your alumni
Engaging alumni has been a critical part of your alumni programming but, the bigger question here is - how many of these initiatives are truly accessible to every single one of your alums?
Traditional alumni engagement initiatives include organizing local mixers, career networking events, and workshops on campus but 2020 has put an end to all of these in-person activities. While these initiatives will continue to be an integral part of your alumni programming in the longer run, the one downside that has become evident in these past few months is that they’re not accessible to everyone.
If your programming involves quarterly class reunions on campus or Friday night happy hours at a nearby club, alumni who live far away are most likely to miss out. Also, some of your busier alumni might not have enough time to come to your in-person event and some may not see enough value in providing their services as a mentor. Various factors such as location, time, and the right value are crucial in defining how accessible your alumni programming is.
As 2020 prompts advancement teams to think out of the box in order to penetrate wider segments of alumni, institutions have found the perfect way to make their alumni programming more accessible to everyone - On-Demand Alumni Programs. On-demand alumni programs are services that any alum can access from anywhere, ideally anytime they want.
As 2020 throws one curveball after another, here’s a closer look at how your peers are fighting these challenges by implementing on-demand alumni programs.
1. Virtual Events
Events have and will always be at the forefront of your alumni programming. However, the pandemic has completely transformed the way alumni events are now being hosted. An increasing number of institutions are choosing to include virtual events in their alumni programming owing to strict social distancing measures in place.
Virtual events allow more flexibility and that’s also a major reason behind this format seeing a huge traction over the last few months. As your alumni mostly stay confined to their homes, time and location are no longer a constraint when it comes to participation. Moreover, events like social mixers and happy hours hosted virtually are also helping institutions provide their alumni with much needed respite in the face of rising anxiety and stress due to isolation.
2. Career support networks
Career support networks offer incredible opportunities for alumni and students to interact with one another, increasing chances of students landing job offers, internships, and finding the right mentors. For your alumni community, a career support network acts as a great source for professional networking opportunities and helps alumni make valuable connections to further accelerate their careers.
With recent reports showing over 21 million Americans as unemployed, career support networks have become even more relevant in 2020. As alumni and students count on their peers and alma mater respectively to navigate the tough job market, career support networks should be a worthy addition to your alumni programming in 2020.
While traditional job fairs or in-person networking sessions are currently on hold due to the pandemic, institutions have switched to the virtual format to host these events. Here’s how Dartmouth College’s Alumni Relations Office is supporting their 2020 graduates via a special program called Dartmouth Career Support Network 2020.
3. Alumni Business Directory
Alumni business directories are a great way to empower businesses owned by your community members. These directories are perfect for showcasing your solidarity with budding entrepreneurs in your community and help uplift their efforts by leveraging the power of your alumni network. Not only do these networks help promote local alumni businesses, they’re also super helpful in building avenues for collaboration between alumni business owners.
According to data from Yelp, a platform used widely by local businesses to advertise their services in the US, nearly 66,000 businesses have folded since March 1. Researchers at Harvard believe that the rates of business closures across various markets are likely to be even higher. (Information source: The New York Times)
If the above data is to be believed, investing in an online alumni business directory for your alumni may no longer be an option but a necessity in 2020.
Check out how St. Francis De Sales High School maintains an online business directory for its alumni.
4. Continued learning programs
If your institution believes in providing value to alumni and foster lasting relationships, you have to find ways beyond the traditional. Continued learning programs are a great way to ensure that your alumni stay actively engaged with you long after they’ve left campus.
While you may already have monthly guest lecture programs or seminars where your notable alumni come to campus and share their experiences with invited community members, just imagine the impact of doing all of this virtually. If you share the same resources in an educational webinar, podcast, or video format and live-stream it, or just publish it on your alumni website, your alumni community will be able to access all this information anytime they want, at their own convenience. More importantly, they can always come back to these resources and even re-share them with their own networks, helping you tap into a wider network of alumni.
The best way to identify what learning resources your alumni find valuable is by asking them. You could start by conducting a short survey to gauge their interest in different topics ranging from professional to personal development.
Take inspiration from Fielding Graduate University’s Alumni Association that did a phenomenal job of providing on-demand learning resources to their alumni community in the form of webinars, virtual workshops, and learning guides amidst COVID-19. Head over to Fielding Graduate University’s alumni website to learn more.
5. Online Mentoring Programs
From increasing meaningful engagement to facilitating professional development for your alumni and students, a mentoring program is a great addition to your alumni programming. While some of you might already have this in place, how much of this is truly accessible for every single one of your constituents?
Do you have a mentoring program where your alumni have to visit your campus to talk to students or answer their questions, even if it is for a couple of days in a year? What if this process could be completely moved online adding more flexibility? Digitizing your mentoring program means increased flexibility for both alumni and students as they get to avail the benefits of this program right from their homes at their own convenience.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis also prompts institutions to take a step towards digitizing their mentoring programs entirely as the traditional format of mentors visiting campus seems impractical for the time being.
See how University of California, Los Angeles continues to foster meaningful relationships between UCLA alumni and current UCLA students with their UCLA Alumni Mentor Program.