Top 10 Trending Virtual Alumni Events In Higher-Ed Amidst COVID-19
Pandemic or not, nothing stops advancement teams from coming up with the best ideas to engage alumni virtually and support them.
So, with the current state of things prompting schools and universities to digitally engage their constituents, one trend that’s picking up is virtual events.
Having observed over a hundred schools and universities host successful virtual alumni events in the past three months, here’s the list of the top 10 trending ones being adopted by advancement teams in the US.
1. Virtual Alumni Reunions
While nothing replaces the feeling of reuniting with old friends at a class reunion, strict social distancing measures are leading to an increasing number of institutions adopting the virtual format to host their reunions.
Translating these large constituent gatherings into an online celebration is a great way to drive more attendance as constituents from all over the world, irrespective of their geographical location can join, granted they have a good internet connection. Whether it’s a short social mixer or a longer event spread over the weekend, effective planning is the key to hosting a successful virtual alumni event.
In lieu of social distancing measures, Brenau’s Office of constituents and Constituent Engagement hosted its Constituents Reunion Weekend online, bringing its community together to connect and catch up during these challenging times.
2. Virtual Commencement
Commencement is a milestone in every student’s life and deserves to be celebrated with grandeur. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has led to many ceremonies being called off leaving students around the world in a state of despair.
If you’re concerned about your Class of 2020, use this opportunity to reach out to leaders in your alumni community and urge them to reach out to your young graduates. As an alma mater, this is the time for you to boost their morale and foster leadership skills needed to navigate the new world.
In a grand gesture, high school students, educators, and world leaders came forward for a television special Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 on May 16th, 2020, to honor those high school graduates whose graduation ceremonies and proms were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The show included a variety of commencement addresses, celebrity performances and inspirational speeches.
Another great virtual commencement ceremony that deserves a shoutout is by the University of Pittsburgh. The first-of-its-kind in the history of the university, degrees were awarded to nearly 8,000 undergraduate, master’s, professional and doctoral candidates. Students were emailed a “virtual” diploma immediately after the ceremony.
3. Virtual Race
With everyone confined to their houses, forced to work from home, schools closed, and limitations on social interactions, physical fitness and well-being is getting deprioritized for a lot of people. Virtual runs/walkathon events are a great approach to bringing your alumni community together, driving more conversations and most important of all - creating an avenue for them to make time for their well being.
4. Virtual Happy Hour
Virtual happy hours are the perfect approach to helping your alumni relieve stress and overcome the fear of isolation as they open up to their friends over drinks. Create a dedicated event page for collecting RSVPs and lay down all the details on this page. Ask your alumni to grab a beverage of their choice, join the meeting link, and drink away the night!
St. Thomas University School of Law created a dedicated event page for its first-ever Young constituents Virtual Happy Hour and promoted the event via social media.
5. Virtual Dance Party
It’s going to be a while before your alumni can go out to their favorite club or invite their friends over for a crazy dance party but don’t let that stop you from bringing the experience home to them. Host a virtual dance party to bring out those crazy moves.
Antioch College roped in their alumni DJs from across generations and got 400+ registrations to its Virtual Div Dance Party event in just 11 days! The college set up a dedicated event page on its alumni network, laying down all the details needed for alumni to be able to participate and extensively promoted the event via Facebook.
6. Virtual Fundraising Events
While many institutions are still in a dilemma of whether or not to make a fundraising ask during an ongoing global crisis, the recent #GivingTuesdayNow saw some super creative virtual giving campaigns.
As schools and universities face a desperate need to maintain their revenue streams especially in the face of a looming economic crisis, many institutions are opting for student emergency campaigns and online auctions.
The French American International School anticipated a need for an increase in financial aid for next year as it provides support to its students in the form of tuition, books, lunches, and to every family that needs help during these tough times.
7. Seminars and webinars to help your alumni navigate the crisis
Support your alumni community with vital resources required to deal with the coronavirus via a virtual webinar or a seminar. As the world deals with uncertainty, fear, and anxiety amidst this crisis, bring health experts, career coaches, and your university leadership to come together and disseminate helpful information.
In response to COVID-19, University of Washington’s Department of Global Health initiated a weekly virtual lecture series featuring UW researchers who are coronavirus and pandemic preparedness experts, covering topics from testing and response measures to vaccine development and social & economic impacts.
8. Virtual Book Clubs
With the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, your alumni now have the time to catch up on that old classic that they never got to complete and even reconnect with their long-lost reading groups.
Create virtual book clubs and target interested audiences with invitations to join these exclusive communities where they can connect with like-minded peers and have fruitful conversations that stir every book lover’s soul. Share a reading schedule allowing members time to read the book, participate in the discussion, and allow them to choose if they want to participate in the next reading session.
William Peace University, a liberal arts college in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, launched a Virtual Book Club focused on professional development and career advancement for the university students and alumni. The group acts as a community that collectively sets and realizes career-related goals.
9. Virtual Gaming Night
A virtual gaming night can be a great way to de-stress and relax with friends. Bring your alumni community together for a fun night of online poker, charades, or pictionary to inspire a healthy sense of competition amongst your alumni. You could even get some of your favorite staff members to make a special appearance to spruce up the night.
Here’s how Samueli Academy brought its alumni community together during COVID-19 with Social Distancing Gaming Night over Zoom.
10. Virtual Yoga Session
With the rising stress and anxiety levels owing to COVID-19, now’s the best time for your school or university to start a virtual exercise or yoga program for your alumni. Organizing virtual exercise or yoga sessions for your alumni community during these tough times can help them deal with stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and motivate them to work towards their overall physical and mental well-being.
Get certified Yoga practitioners/trainers from your community to lead these sessions to help their peers become fitter and better.
William Peace University 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.