Designing School Websites that Connect with Alumni: 5 Tips
For higher-education institutions, maintaining strong relationships with alumni is key to securing the necessary vocal and financial support to thrive year after year. While many of your alumni may have traveled away from campus to pursue their career goals after graduating, the distance doesn’t have to diminish their fondness for your institution.
With an effective strategy for engaging these former students, you can ensure that they remain invested in your school’s success for decades to come. One crucial way to maintain strong relationships with your alumni is by enhancing your institution’s website. This is where all alumni, no matter where they’re located, can go to stay connected with their alma mater and offer their support.
In this guide, we’ll discuss five essential tips for designing your school website to cultivate meaningful and lasting connections with alumni:
- Choose the right CMS.
- Leverage storytelling.
- Add compelling calls to action.
- Encourage alumni to deepen their engagement.
- Review your website metrics.
A well-designed alumni website demonstrates to graduates that you’d like for them to be a part of your institution’s future. By revamping your website content and design, you’ll be able to better appeal to your alumni around the world and expand your base of long-term supporters.
1. Choose the right CMS
Designing a high-quality website begins with assembling the right tools for the job. To set your website up for success, your school should equip itself with a website builder, or content management system (CMS), that is tailor-made for the education sector. According to Morweb’s rundown of school website builders, the CMS you choose should be able to facilitate:
- Designing engaging web pages using customizable templates.
- Building an accessible website that allows users to make adjustments to aspects of the content, from font size to coloring, with an accessibility widget.
- Maintaining consistent branding across the entire website, from logos to images.
- Structuring your website for easy navigation to maximize visitor engagement.
- Optimizing your website for mobile users, so alumni can access it whenever and wherever is most convenient for them.
The right CMS should also be able to integrate easily with software that your school uses regularly, like your class registration software or your alumni relations software. With the right CMS at your disposal, you can focus on providing the content and resources that alumni will appreciate, while your website builder will take care of creating a positive user experience.
2. Leverage storytelling
One impactful way to connect with your alumni is to remind them of their experience at your institution. Whether you’re looking to raise more funds or encourage more graduates to attend events, storytelling allows you to reach them on a more personal and emotional level. NPOInfo’s donor cultivation guide recommends emphasizing the impact of donor contributions through statistics and stories to inspire more support.
For instance, consider sharing a story about a current student who, thanks to a scholarship made possible by alumni gifts, is currently excelling in their studies. This helps graduates understand just how they have made and can continue making a difference in students’ lives. For more powerful storytelling ideas to add to your school website, consider featuring:
- Alumni success stories.
- Quotations from alumni donors, explaining their reason for giving.
- Stories highlighting the campus culture.
- Photo galleries of alumni donors and volunteers at events.
- Video testimonials of students who’ve benefited from alumni support.
Feel free to get creative with your storytelling—infographics, GIFs, and podcasts can all elevate your content and motivate more alumni to discover the impact of their support. Be sure your CMS has multimedia capabilities that optimize your content for the web.
3. Add compelling calls to action
Once you’ve caught your alumni’s attention, make it easy for them to take action by incorporating compelling calls to action (CTAs) across your institution’s website. These eye-catching buttons will direct graduates to relevant web pages, such as your giving page. Your CTAs can direct alumni to take actions such as:
- Donating to your institution.
- Reading more about a student’s or alumnus’s story.
- Registering for upcoming alumni events.
- Exploring volunteer opportunities.
- Subscribing to receive texts from your school.
- Becoming a mentor to a current student.
Remember to follow best practices when crafting calls to action to maximize their impact. Keep your wording brief, clear, and urgent so your alumni visitors don’t delay in engaging with your institution. For example, you could write, “Give back today” or “Become a mentor now,” as possible CTAs. For further guidance, take a look at nonprofit website templates to see how they organize and display CTAs across each page.
4. Encourage alumni to deepen their engagement
There are many ways for your alumni to stay involved with your institution, from giving to attending events to volunteering. To nurture connections that last, encourage these graduates to expand their involvement. Make sure your most important resources are clearly visible and accessible on your alumni website so that visitors are aware of all possible engagement opportunities. It should be easy for alumni visitors to find information on:
- Career guidance and professional development
- Upcoming alumni events
- Networking opportunities
- Volunteering opportunities
Furthermore, invite graduates to interact with your institution beyond its website. You can use your CMS to add a social media widget that features your latest posts, alongside icons that allow visitors to share your content or follow your school on social media. If you have an alumni newsletter, asking alumni to subscribe can be another great way to keep your institution fresh on their minds.
5. Review your website metrics
After you’ve finished designing your school website, remember to keep track of relevant metrics to measure its performance over time. Just as your institution fosters growth among its students, it’s important to adopt that same mindset and learn from your alumni website engagement efforts to boost your results over time. For instance, your pageviews, bounce rate, and conversion rates can all reveal valuable insights into how effectively your website is engaging alumni.
Use the data you collect to identify how to better connect with graduates in the future. Fortunately, if you decide you’d like to further enhance your alumni website later on, there are many stellar nonprofit websites you can turn to for inspiration online.
Your website serves as an all-important hub for alumni to stay up-to-date on your institution, provide financial support, and ultimately, maintain the connection they forged when they first stepped foot on campus.
Remember to show your appreciation to graduates, so they’ll always feel like a valued part of your school. In addition to popular appreciation ideas such as sending school merchandise and hosting appreciation events, spotlight alumni supporters on your website. This way, they’ll always be reminded of their meaningful connections to your institution.
Blackbaud, the leading provider of software for powering social impact, and Almabase, the digital-first alumni engagement solution, have announced the expansion of their partnership to the education sectors of Canada and the United Kingdom. The partnership will provide institutions with a modern, digital-first solution to improve constituent data, drive self-serve engagement, and boost event participation.
A Unified Vision
The partnership aligns with Blackbaud’s commitment to customer-centric innovation across digital engagement, Advancement CRM, and financials.
“Partners bring integrated capabilities that extend capabilities and outcomes for Blackbaud customers. We are thrilled that Almabase’s offering, integrated with Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® and leveraging Blackbaud’s best-in-class payment solution, Blackbaud Merchant Services™, is now available to even more of our customers around the world.”
- Liz Price, Sr. Director of Global Partners at Blackbaud