6 ways to increase alumni engagement over emails

6 ways to increase alumni engagement over emails




September 17, 2019

Last modified: 

July 20, 2023

Alumni are an institution’s most precious asset. However, the reality is that while alumni will often have a sense of belonging to their alma mater, a constant connection is needed to cultivate this relationship. While there are a bunch of ways to achieve this, today, we’re focusing on one of the most effective communication methods employed by schools and universities around the globe – email communication.


‍While there’s a plethora of information on best practices for email marketing, our experience with various schools has helped us understand email best practices specific to alumni.

Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches – at scale.

- David Newman

While email communication plays a crucial role in the digital engagement strategy of many institutions, the rate of success for each school may differ greatly. The difference lies in the approach that each school takes up. Here’s a list of tested techniques that have brought success to most schools:

Maintain an updated email list

To be able to engage alumni via emails, it is pivotal to maintain updated email lists. Over time, alumni contact information is bound to get outdated. For your email campaigns to have higher alumni engagement rates, it is integral that your emails reach the right people, and that’s only possible if you have updated information about your alumni.

Whether you’re a small school or a larger university, there are various ways to keep your alumni database up-to-date. Tap on the banner below to read more about the complete list of all the database update techniques that are typically employed by schools and their relative benefits.

Looking for ways to update your alumni database?

Focus on personalizing your outreach

While creating an email, it is important to be able to evaluate what alumni would value. Sticking to a template might look like the easiest route, but schools have witnessed greater success with personalized email campaigns. One way of personalizing your emails is by segmenting alumni based on gender, class year, and other relevant criteria.

Gann Academy targets freshly graduated alumni to its campus for an alumni panel discussion
Gann Academy targets freshly graduated alumni to its campus for an alumni panel discussion

Read how Gann Academy achieved 40% email pen rates by creating highly personalized email outreach campaigns

Put a face and a name to the sender of your emails

It’s always a good practice to use a real name as opposed to a common name such as ‘Your Alumni Association’ as the sender of your emails. Using a person who your alumni may already be familiar with is ideal. You could even add in a picture and signature of the person at the end of the email to make the email seem more genuine. 

How Christian Brothers Academy personalizes their email invites to alumni
Christian Brothers Academy ensures to personalize all its email invites to alumni by adding a name, photograph, and designation of the sender

Level up your alumni communication with Almabase

Ensure that there’s a clear call-to-action

Other than the high risk of your alumni email landing in spam, adding multiple links often comes at the expense of having an unfocused message, severely impacting your click-through rates. Sticking to a clear call-to-action button is the best practice. 

Mercy High School, Burlingame does an amazing job at targeting its alumni with emails that have a clear call-to-action.

How Mercy High School, Burlingame, leverages clear CTAs in their emails

Provide value in the form of monthly newsletters and weekly updates

While we discussed how personalized email campaigns can help boost alumni engagement rates, monthly alumni newsletters and weekly updates have also proven to be highly effective. Monthly alumni newsletter and weekly update emails act as a source for alumni to stay updated with all that’s happening at their school and often evoke nostalgia and a sense of pride. 

Here’s how Upper St. Clair School District & Taylor’s University keep their alumni engaged with informational monthly newsletter emails.

Upper St. Clair School District's alumni newsletter
Upper St. Clair School DIstrict's newsletter

Taylor University's Alumni Newsletter
Taylor University's newsletter

Optimize your emails

This is probably the most basic yet the most essential part of creating a successful email campaign. Optimizing your emails so that they appear in your alumni’s inbox at the right time and in the right format is critical to your campaign’s success. Here are some key aspects that should be ensured with respect to email optimization:

1. Ensure that alumni receive your emails during their active hours. If your alumni are in a different time zone, scheduling your emails is highly recommended. Analyzing past email delivery statistics might help in scheduling the timings for your new campaigns.

2. While attaching any images to your email, it is recommended to stick to a maximum file size of 1 MB.

3. Subject lines play an integral part in the success of any email marketing campaign. Including your alumni’s first name within the subject line is a great practice that we’ve seen schools achieve success with. Adhering to shorter, to-the-point subject lines is also highly recommended.

When it comes to engaging subject lines, QuestBridge Academy hands-down wins the game. For its September Bar Night event, the institution reached out to its alumni with a simple, yet highly effective subject line: 

An optimized subject line

Read how Samueli Academy engages 97% of its alumni via emails

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