How to write emails your alumni love?

How to write emails your alumni love?




September 26, 2017

Last modified: 

June 1, 2023

Is sending out periodic e-mails to your Alumni an important part of your job?

If yes, congratulations you are among the 46 % of the schools who have recognized the need for this.

61 % of all the communication with alumni is via e-mails.

An alum on an average receives 16 e-mails in a year and there has been a 23.4 % increase in opt-outs of the communication.

What does all this stats point out to?  There is a clear room for improvement in this regard. In the age of too much information sending out e-mails that people love is a rare talent indeed. But don’t worry, we got your back.

In this post, I’ll cover some of the best practices for writing effective emails that maximize your open rates and replies. When we're talking about creating an effective message, there are 5 things that all the email tricks on the internet boil down to:

1. Find a reason to connect

2. Tell them why they should care

3. Bridge the gap

4. Give a clear CTA (Call-To-Action)

5. Write the subject

Let's take a deeper look at each of these.


1. CONTENT: Give your alumni/audience a reason to connect

Give your Alumni a reason they should connect with you; a reason to care. There is no real easy way to do this. You really have to forget about your job, your school and your advancement goals for a moment, and really dive deep into what your alumni want. Keep in mind, you may not be able to take a one size fits all approach here. Your millennials segment may want something different from your GOLDS segment.

If you don't know the specifics of what your alumni want. You can start with some general survey data done in the past by numerous organizations.Here are some of the most common things alumni look forward to from their school/college.

1. News about recent events at the school

2. Stories on their fellow alums

3. Recent awards, recognition or achievements

4. A good blog post or shared content

5. General positive contribution to the community

A lot of first reactions to this list are, " Well, that doesn't seem like much!", but keep in mind that what you are trying to do is reinforce your mission to your constituents, showcase success and progress. If executed properly, this inevitably (though slowly) creates a vacuum, a fear of missing out from what is happening within the community - pushing more people to engage with your campaigns.

2. CAUSE: Tell them why they should care

A lot of people make the mistake of rambling on with email content, without mentioning why all of it matters. Be sure to clearly and concisely explain your value. It’s not going to be easy, and will take a lot of iteration, tweaking, testing, and wordsmithing before you seem to get it right, but is tremendously powerful when you nail it.

Statistically, 83% of the Millennials give to, and 49% of them are willing to volunteer for a cause that they believe in.

Are you reinforcing your value well enough in a manner that your alumni can relate?

“An opportunity to meet your favorite teachers “, would go a long way than “Click here to donate"


3. CONNECT: Bridge the gap between your content and your cause

This is the heart of your e-mail. Explain the reason for the content you picked in Step-1 and connect with how this is of value to them.

This could be as short as a sentence, but no longer than four sentences.

Since the Avg. time people spend on reading an e-mail is 15-20 seconds, brevity is our best friend here.

Here is an example, “Your participation would help 20 more deserving students spend their best time here at the Regency Academy…"

At this point, you should have three things in your email: a reason to connect, a transition word or statement and more information on the reason you are emailing them today with your content.

4. CALL: Give a clear call-to-action

Don’t forget why you’re there in the first place. Did you just want your alumni to read your email and get back to whatever they were doing?

Prompt your reader to take an action with a Call-To-Action (CTA) at the end of the email.

Keep your CTA reasonable. Asking for donation, signing up on the new platform, registering for an event or volunteering opportunities are a few common CTAs.  Make the hurdle as low as you can.

Lastly, there should only be one CTA in your email. The bottom line doesn't make it hard for them to say yes -- make it dead simple and easy.

Your CTA should be another one-liner like “Click here to confirm your presence at the Annual Gala.”

It is also important to note that more than one-third of your Alumni may read this e-mail on a Mobile, so make sure that your e-mail stays mobile-friendly.

5. CLOSE: Write the subject now!

It may seem counterintuitive to do this last, but the subject line is a reflection of the body content of the email, therefore should be written last. If you write the subject line first, you’re biasing the rest of the email and will risk overlooking important and relevant information by trying to conform your content to the subject line.

Since the goal of the subject line is to get the recipient to open the email and read the first sentence, I like my subject lines to reflect the content from step 1 - the reason I’m reaching out today to connect.

It could go something like:

“St.Thomas Family welcomes you back ”
“Join us at the Regency Scholars Luncheon!”

Keep your subject line to seven words or fewer.

But, there's one more thing... Edits

At this point, I like to step away from my email for a little bit and come back later with a fresh set of eyes. When I come back I evaluate the email again over a checklist.

☐ Is it personal? Emails that are obviously automated are immediately ignored. Remember, customization is not personalization.

☐ Does it sound like a sales email? People love to give but hate to be sold to. At the first sign of an appeal, your reader is most likely to raise the fence.

☐ Does the email have a natural flow to it? Stitching otherwise meaningful sentences may make up a confusing paragraph. One sentence should lead right into the next, and reading the email should be effortless. Also, be sure to write in a conversational tone.

☐ Is it short, concise and to the point? After your first draft, cut it in ½. Then cut out another 20%. Remove extemporaneous words that don’t add to the message. Don’t use 15 words when 8 will do.

☐ Does it offer value? This may seem obvious, but how many emails have you received that don’t offer any value?

☐ Would I open it, read it and respond to it? Step into their shoes. Would I open the email? Would I feel compelled to respond?

☐ Is it a truly thoughtful email with Alumni in mind? Use the word “you” more than “I.” Have I made it obvious that I took the time to research my Alumni?

You can get really creative with the content of the email, but if you use this general outline, you'll be able to quickly and easily create effective emails that work. You'll see that most of the templates follow this relative structure.


All of this is surely not a magical formula. They are just pointers to guide you in the right direction. Embrace the process of creating great emails. The best way to keep yourself in the game is by looking at data around what emails are working and what aren’t. This will help you iterate constantly and soon figure out what connects best with your alumni.


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