Want To Drive Higher Alumni Engagement This Holiday Season? Tap Into These 5 Go-To Strategies
The holiday season is just around the corner. As the festive season brings your alumni home to visit their loved ones, it also presents one of the best opportunities for your institution to connect with your alumni on a deeper level and lay the lego blocks for lifetime relationships.
The festive spirit is high in the air but the 2020 holiday season is one-of-a-kind in its truest essence. The pandemic might have affected several segments of your alumni differently - confining some to work tirelessly from their homes while balancing their social lives, exposing frontline healthcare workers to massive risks, robbing some of their jobs and even near and dear ones due to the virus. At a time like this, it's particularly important for your institution to support your alumni and deliver the highest value.
So, how do you best leverage this holiday season to drive more alumni engagement? After observing hundreds of schools driving success with their alumni network over the years, we've found these top 5 strategies that can help your school, college, or university boost alumni engagement rates this holiday season:
1. Conduct Professional Networking Events
2020 has already set a landmark record for one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States. The alarming numbers projected by the US. Bureau of Labour Logistics is a clear indicator of why your alumni need your support now more than ever.
With the pandemic resulting in the worst job market since the Great Depression, your younger alumni are at an even larger risk as they lose their on-campus jobs, internships, and are already witnessing dwindling job opportunities.
Amidst all this chaos, professional networking events are one of the surest ways to provide value to your alumni and help them in these dire times of need. Corporate jobs respect recommendations, and applicants actively seek social connections and support. Leverage your existing network and motivate influential alumni to help their peers out in these dire times of need.
Your alumni network has a wealth of knowledge that your current students and graduates, both can benefit greatly from. Get your community together for webinars, discussion panels, podcasts, workshops, and much more to lead the way towards professional growth for your alumni.
Here's how Fordham University's Alumni: Help A Ram Today campaign supports Class of 2020 graduates by encouraging alumni to hire these young grads for a full-/part-time job or an internship.
2. Host a Virtual Holiday Party
What are holidays without holiday parties? The landscape this year might look somewhat different due to the pandemic but that shouldn't rob your alumni of the opportunity of connecting with long-lost peers, toast to each other's good health, and ring in the holidays from the comfort of their homes.
A great alternative to continuing with the tradition of hosting holiday parties this year is to do it virtually. Holidays are the perfect time to get your alumni together over a couple of drinks and celebrate over an e-party. A surefire way to grab more alumni attention and drive attendance is to create themes like 80′s retro or a Christmas Character Party. To make it easy for you to manage and even easier for your alumni to participate, host your virtual party over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or another common video conferencing tool.
Here’s how Tufts University Foundation celebrated the holiday season virtually with its alumni at its New England Virtual Holiday Party.
3. Raise Funds to Support Your Community
With the pandemic leading to forced furloughs, students having to drop out of schools, and many small businesses shutting down, your constituents need your support now more than ever. Make the most of the holiday spirit and find ways to fundraise for your community.
Riding high on the giving spirit this holiday season, also urge your community to come in support of your institution’s cause by helping with emergency needs and in bracing the impact of the pandemic.
Planning your annual holiday drive to raise funds for academic continuity or to support your community are perfect examples of fundraising asks for this year.
See how Germanna Community College helped support students’ critical needs amidst with $500k in donations during the holiday season of 2020.
4. Send Seasons Greetings E-Cards
A simple gesture such as sending creative e-cards is a great way to express festive greetings, gratitude, and acknowledgment for your alumni network's contribution to your institution. Include this as part of your yearly holiday activity to drive engagement and foster lasting alumni relationships.
The example from the University of Westminister works as the perfect inspiration here. The school rolled out 30-second animated e-cards to wish happy holidays and thank their alumni for their ongoing support.
5. Leverage Social Media Platforms to the Fullest
Social media is a dominant tool today and has a lot of potential for alumni engagement. Young alumni especially spend considerable time scrolling their feeds daily.
If your institution has an online presence on these platforms, use them to encourage higher participation. If you’re unsure about where to start, you can consider looping in student volunteers to ramp up your social media presence and start driving engagement with your alumni online.
Drive more engagement online by conducting live chats, contest giveaways, and posting yearbook pictures to evoke nostalgia and create a buzz amongst your alumni community. You can even encourage alumni to post their 'throwbacks' with the right hashtags and repost them on your channels.
Ugly sweater contests have also become a yearly trend, with universities and other schools creating innovative rules and giveaways to attract greater participation. Take cues from Boston University's Annual Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest to create one for your community this holiday season.
Make the Most of This Holiday Season
With the holidays arriving soon, there are many opportunities to express unconditional support and boost alumni relations and engagement.
Your alumni are your family and the holidays are the perfect time of the year to showcase solidarity.