What are on-demand alumni programs and why can’t they be ignored in 2022?
If you’ve never heard of the term “on-demand alumni programs or services”, don’t be alarmed. The term in itself is relatively new but, in practice, on-demand services are rapidly becoming a part of alumni programming for advancement teams across the country.
What is an on-demand alumni program?
An on-demand alumni program is one that can be accessed by any of your alumni wherever they want, whenever they want to.
There are two aspects of this, as you can see:
1. Accessibility: Available to everyone
2. On-demand: Available anytime
Both factors are important, but accessibility comes first. The idea here is to avoid building walled gardens when it comes to alumni programming. For example, if you have an alum delivering a guest lecture on campus, how many alumni can actually access it ? Very few. Can other alumni benefit from it if they’re not available at that time ? No. What if you recorded it and made the recording available for any of your alumni to watch, whenever they want. That’s what an on-demand alumni program looks like.
Why is an on-demand alumni program important in 2022?
When was the last time you drove to a Blockbuster store and rented a DVD to watch the latest movie? I bet that thought doesn’t even cross your mind anymore. Today, we access the latest movies and shows on our television, whenever we want to, with personalized recommendations. Netflix’s programs are designed to be accessible and available on-demand to all its consumers. It’s not just the entertainment service industry that has caught on to this trend, this is now a universal phenomenon.
Over 50% adult Americans have used on-demand services in the last year. Every industry is changing. From hailing cabs, to ordering groceries, to even educational courses, we live in an on-demand economy.
Your alumni are the same people who access all those services and programs wherever they are, whenever they want to. So, are on-demand services a part of your alumni programming yet?
How to create on-demand alumni programs?
Making your alumni programs accessible and available on-demand needs a mindset shift from the alumni office. Rather than starting from the staff and programs you currently have, you have to start from thinking about the needs of your alumni.
With alumni at the center, you need to create services and experiences that are available to all your alumni wherever they want, whenever they want to. Think of your staff and programs as resources primarily meant to facilitate these experiences and services.
Let’s go through a couple of examples of how to think about transforming your programming to become available on-demand.
1. Move away from the traditional mentoring programs:
A traditional mentoring program where alumni visit your campus on a couple of days during the year and answer questions that your students have is great but it is not really available on-demand for all your alumni as it excludes those who cannot come to your campus. To make your program more accessible, consider moving the process online. In addition to hosting the mentoring sessions online, you can also publish stories of how different alumni helped different students on your website and make this information accessible to all alumni and students. Digitizing your mentoring program means increased flexibility for both alumni and students as they get to avail the benefits of this program right from their homes at their own convenience.
2. Make useful resources accessible on-demand
If you’re starting an alumni guest lecture program, think of ways to make the resources shared during these lectures - videos and study materials, available for all your alumni and students to consume whenever they want to. You can even organize these resources by topics your alumni care about and market them accordingly. This will now create a valuable set of resources for your alumni to access on-demand.
While on-demand alumni programs are definitely a step up, you shouldn’t expect that 100% of your programming will become available on-demand to all your alumni. There is always space for those events which bring in a limited set of people that are able to drive deeper engagement and so the idea is not to convert every single program.
However, it is important to think about your alumni programs in a truly global way as a default, thereby encouraging more alumni to participate. With the pandemic, everybody has become more comfortable with online participation, and that has created a huge opportunity for alumni shops around the country. Don’t let your institution be late to react lest your alumni start engaging with other organizations that are more accessible.