Best Practices

8 creative ideas to boost alumni engagement & fundraising amidst COVID-19

8 creative ideas to boost alumni engagement & fundraising amidst COVID-19




April 22, 2020

Last modified: 

April 22, 2020

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to disrupt alumni relations and fundraising, institutions around the world have found themselves in a tight spot as a consequence of canceled events, giving days, and other planned alumni engagement activities.

With this new world order settling in, advancement teams are looking for unique ways to engage their alumni digitally. While a lot of institutions have been engaging alumni digitally for a while now, in this blog post, we’ll be looking at some of the most creative engagement ideas that we’ve seen being implemented during COVID-19.


1. Organize virtual happy hours 

With alumni confined to their houses and being forced to work from home, everyone’s missing out on those Friday night Happy Hours. But wait, who said social isolation’s equivalent to the end of Happy Hours?

Organize virtual happy hours to boost alumni engagement

Virtual happy hours are a great way to encourage social interactions among alumni during these difficult times. You can organize your next virtual happy hour as a 1-hour event open to limited registrations. Create a dedicated event page for collecting RSVPs and lay down all the details on this page. Ask alumni to grab a beverage of their choice and join the meeting link. To add structure to your virtual event, encourage your event attendees to share something about themselves during the event like a short introduction, some insight into how they’re dealing with the crisis, or what they’re doing to help those in need.

St. Thomas University School of Law created a dedicated event page for its first-ever Young Alumni Virtual Happy Hour and promoted the event via social media.

Young Alumni Virtual Happy Hour Event to Boost Alumni Engagement
St. Thomas University School of Law’s Virtual Happy Hour event page on Almabase

St. Thomas University School of Law’s Virtual Happy Hour event
St. Thomas University School of Law’s Facebook post to promote the event

Virtual Happy Hour event to Boost Alumni Engagement
Check out QuestBridge Academy’s dedicated event page for the Virtual Happy Hour event for its Bay Area alumni

2. Support small alumni businesses

According to a recent survey by Goldman Sachs, 51% of America’s small-business owners said they could not weather more than three months of the current economic environment. 

With small business owners struggling to stay afloat throughout this crisis, this is a good time to offer your support to your alumni who own small businesses by leveraging your alumni network.

Create a web page listing small businesses owned or operated by your alumni and promote it on all your official websites and various social media platforms. 

Here's how Centenary College of Louisiana offered its support to alumni small business owners.

Centenary College of Louisiana’s LinkedIn post to help promote small businesses owned by alumni

3. Encourage non-monetary donations from your alumni

Since the educational fundraising landscape has evolved as an outcome of the coronavirus situation, the approach that institutions have been adopting for fundraising asks has also transformed. Since schools and universities need funds now more than ever to be able to support their students, but feel apprehensive about asking their alumni for monetary donations, a lot of them are choosing to opt for fundraising in kind.

Similar to other institutions, Nicholls State University also had to move its classes online. However, the university realized that many students did not have webcams at home which served as a major obstacle to conducting online tests and smooth functioning of classes.

With the ongoing coronavirus situation, raising funds for webcams wouldn’t have been possible and so, the university appealed to its alumni to help students out by donating webcams.

Encourage non-monetary donations to boost alumni engagement
Nicholls State University made an email appeal to all alumni urging them to donate webcams in support of students

4. Organize virtual races to boost alumni well-being

With everyone confined to their homes, forced to work from home, limitations on social interactions, and physical fitness taking a back seat, health and well-being of alumni has become a major concern for institutions across the globe.

Aid your alumni through this phase of social isolation and encourage them to make exercise a part of their routine by organizing a virtual race. A virtual race can have participants from any location within a predetermined time. Photos shared by alumni during their walk/run can further be shared with the alumni community via Facebook or alumni website, helping drive engagement and registrations. 

The College of Idaho’s ongoing ‘2020 Coyote Dash [Virtual 5K] race’ is helping connect its alumni who are located miles away from one another during these testing times. 

Read the complete success story here 👇

How the College of Idaho is driving alumni engagement amidst COVID-19 via a virtual race

5. Conduct online yoga sessions

With COVID-19 leading to stress and anxiety as a result of social isolation and financial pressures, the mental health of alumni is a rising concern for all schools and universities. Many institutions are organizing virtual exercise or yoga sessions for their alumni to help them deal with stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and motivate them to work towards their overall physical and mental well-being. 

William Peace University, a liberal arts college in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, roped in its former Alumni Board President, Alli Leggett '01 to organize a virtual yoga session for alumni to join from the comfort of their home. 

Online Yoga Class with Alli Leggett '01
View the Peace of Mind Online Yoga class with Alli Leggett '01 event page here.

6. Urge alumni to share their photos with the community

Alumni photos that capture happy moments is another great way to engage your alumni and get them to interact with one another. You can start a photo contest by encouraging your alumni to post their photos on your alumni website or alumni group on social media.

Bob Greene, Alumni Director at Serra High School started a ‘Picture Time’ contest via email, urging alumni to share pictures while they’re at home with their families or any picture that makes them feel happy.

Urge alumni to share their photos with the community
Serra High School emailed alumni to submit entries for Picture Time contest

8 creative ideas to boost alumni engagement
The latest photos from the Picture Time contest - See the full album here


7. Host virtual gaming nights to bring your alumni together

Social isolation during COVID-19 means that you can’t invite your alumni to your school or university for a fun game of soccer but, how about hosting a virtual event for alumni to engage in some healthy competition over online games? 

Bring your alumni together for a fun night of online Charades, Monopoly, Pictionary or Cards against Humanity. Take it a notch higher with special appearances of some of their favorite staff members. 

8 creative ideas to boost alumni engagement
Check out the full post here.

8. Host a virtual coloring contest for alumni and their families

Encourage your alumni to show off their creative side by hosting a virtual coloring contest open to them and their families. Coloring is known to be great for mental, emotional, and intellectual health in adults and serves as a wonderful hobby that keeps children calm and entertained. 

Chestnut Hill College organized a fun virtual coloring page contest for alumni and their families where campus photos and logos were converted into coloring pages using the Colorscape app. Take a look at the coloring pages here.

The college also took to social media to launch a contest by encouraging alumni to download coloring pages and participate by coloring and sharing it with the alumni community. The best submission will be chosen by the alumni community and receive a CHC prize pack.

8 creative ideas to boost alumni engagement
View the full post on Chestnut Hill College’s alumni page on Facebook

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