Alumni Engagement enables you to draw value from your alumni while adding value back to them. When engaging your alumni, it is important to have answers to the following questions:
- What value can you draw from your alumni?
- What value can you add to your alumni?
- How do you achieve value-based alumni engagement?
In this section, we share some of the tools you can use to effectively engage your alumni in a meaningful, impactful and productive way.
1.2 STEPS TO CREATING AN ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
So, you are ready to start an alumni association for your institution? Here is a simple 8-step procedure you can use to get your association up and running.
Step 1 – Form an Interest Group
- Start with yourself, recruit yourself to alumni association you are about to form
- Meet informally with a couple of friends and get them interested in the idea
- Call those that you can’t meet physically and request them to join the course
Step 2 – Form a Critical Mass of interested alumni
- You can get your colleagues and friends to each invite alumni they are in touch with
- You can also obtain data and possibly contacts from your alma mater.
- Send out communication and invite as many as you have their contacts to participate in the formation of the association. You can even telephone them if you have the capacity
- Request their permission to be added in a WhatsApp Group to ease future communication.
Step 3 – 1st Communication
- Write an invitation email/ Facebook post to all alumni, introducing them to the leader, requesting them to update their contact information, and inquiring if there are any interested volunteers for the committee.
- Do a follow-up communication to those that show interest and engage them more…
Step 4 – Getting Organized
- Now that you have made your intentions known and you have received considerable interest, convene a meeting to agree upon the association’s objectives and to form a committee. The agenda for this first meeting can be something along the lines of:
- Call to order
- Review of general concepts and goals of the association.
- Discuss membership
- Get volunteers to tackle particular areas of interest such as constitution, funding, etc.
Step 5 – Get a volunteer team to prepare the constitution for adoption at the next meeting. You can circulate the drafts for further input from members so that the process is all-inclusive. You may refer to the template attached to this toolkit for an outline of the constitution
Step 6 – Start regular formal and informal meetings such as monthly webinars, get-togethers and coffee-chats where you receive further feedback and welcome more alumni
Step 7 – Register the Association with the Registrar of Societies and prepare the launch event
Launch the association with a bang! Make the event attractive to as many alumni as possible and invite senior administrators from the alma mater to attend. This is the event that will set the tone for your alumni association going forward. Give it your best efforts.
Step 8 – Keep the fire burning and your association growing
Now that your association is in place, read further to learn the more on how you can keep your alumni engaged, sustain the growth of your association and fund your activities. You will innovate creative ways of recruiting managing members, receiving donations and adding value to your alumni.
1.3 MANAGING YOUR CONTACTS – HOW TO SET-UP YOUR DATABASE OF ALUMNI
Your contacts are meaningless data if they are not organized, understood, utilized and enriched.
- Organized: Get the details easily accessible, available and up-to-date
- Understood: Know the real person, not just their contact details
- Utilized: Derive value from the person – volunteer, donate, mentor…
- Enriched: Add value to the person – inform, involve, recognize, recommend, refer…
With these concepts in mind and with your numbers growing, you now need to set-up an alumni database to support your continued engagement in an organized and valuable way.
There are many tools such as AlumniPad, AlumniHost and others that Alumni Management Solutions that come with customizable databases. But for a start, you will need to start by gathering the data such as contact information from your alumni. You can use Google Forms, Microsoft Forms and other online tools to help you gather the basic information you need for the database. At a minimum you should aim to collect the Phone Number, Email Address, Physical Address, Vocation/ Profession, the courses and the years they joined/ left the alma mater. Organizing your data in such a manner enables you to understand the demographics of your alumni community and involve them better in the association. To reap maximum benefits, your database should always stay up to date, accurate and easily accessible.
1.4 ENGAGING YOUR STAKEHOLDERS
Your stakeholders affect your operating environment and determine the quality of your existence. They affect your reputation, your profile and your success. You need to involve them in your mission by collaborating with them and garnering their support. To effectively engage your stakeholders, you need to know who they are, monitor their activities, understand their interests and their values….and then create a stable operating environment by balancing their various interests, protecting yourself from undue influence and maintaining focus on your mission.
There are tons of innovative ways to engage your stakeholders, but as a general guide here are some tools and techniques you can use to effectively engage your stakeholders, bearing in mind that stakeholder engagement is a continuous process
1.1.1 The five-step stakeholder engagement model
Step 1: Clarify your goals
Be crystal clear about your mission, how you are going to accomplish it and what role your stakeholders will have in helping you to achieve it
Step 2: Identify your key stakeholders
Make a list of your stakeholders and categorize/ prioritize them based on how much interest they have on your mission and how much power they hold. One useful tool for identifying and prioritizing your stakeholders is the Boston Matrix as illustrated below
High Power/High-Interest Stakeholders
Engage them closely and influence them actively – these are the people who you must fully engage with. They may prove trusted advisors, the key to developing policy and should be seen as partners whose opinion is considered valuable.
High Power/Low-Interest Stakeholders
Keep them satisfied – make sure there is awareness, understanding and support of your mission among these stakeholders. Put
in place enough engagement tactics to ensure that they are informed and satisfied and that they are kept updated, but do not push or bore them with your messages.
Low Power/High-Interest Stakeholders
Consult with them – keep them adequately informed, listen to them and engage them – They are often happy to take on finer details and can be a key sounding board. If you can involve them then they will act as your ambassadors.
Low Power/Low-Interest Stakeholders
Keep them informed – these are the stakeholders you will need to spend the least amount of time on, although you should still keep them informed.
Step 3: Prepare to start engaging your stakeholders
Do your homework and identify key stakeholders you wish to engage. Check if you already have some relationships with them. Understand their interests, their values and any influencers over them.
Step 4: Engage your stakeholders
Determine the nature of the relationship you would like with each of your stakeholders based on how you categorized them. Put together an engagement plan detailing the various engagement channels, budget and nature of engagement such as partnerships, involvements, commitments, support, understanding and awareness
Step 5: Evaluate your engagement progress
Review and Evaluation – are you on track to achieve your mission? Are your stakeholders adding value are they satisfied?
Adjust your strategy as you keep focused on achieving your goals
1.5 GETTING FEEDBACK AND IDEAS THROUGH FORUMS AND SURVEYS
It is important to recognize changing trends and the importance of adapting to needs as they evolve. Alumni feedback surveys are useful tools that can be utilized to gauge your alumni satisfaction with their education and collect insights into areas for improvement.
For instance, you can use surveys to determine
- Employment status – measure whether or not your alumni are satisfied with their education.
- Engagement – pinpoint who is still actively engaged with your institution, whether through attending alumni events, paying for membership, or participating in the interview process with prospective new members.
- Sentiments/ Comments – put together general feedback about their experience.
Besides surveys, you can also host regular forums such as monthly or quarterly meet-ups, WhatsApp and Facebook Groups or Forums built into your alumni management system
The alumni’s role is crucial for your development. Alumni can provide support in various aspects that are beneficial to you and the society. The alumni’s opinion in your development and proposed solutions to the challenges you face is highly valuable in achieving your mission.
The alumni can do this by;
- Increasing efforts in collecting funds.
- Being role models and an inspiration to others.
- Providing expertise in their occupations.
- Being effective media for a stronger network.
Improving recruitment efforts in your institution by being ambassadors.
1.6 MANAGING GROWTH
As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. It is important that you do not bite more than you can chew. Aim to gradually grow your engagement and services at a level commensurate with your capacity. That way, you minimize disappointments and set out with good quality and a strong foundation. As your numbers grow, you will need to grow your capacity as well. For instance, if you have been relying on spreadsheets to manage your data, you will need to graduate into a proper database and eventually a full-fledged alumni management system. You may also need more staff or volunteers to manage certain aspects such as finance, communications, recruitment… To manage your growth effectively, start with a Strategic Plan. Review the plan periodically and allocate a budget that accounts for the projected growth
You may consider means and ways of ensuring your capacity meets the demand from alumni by outsourcing certain services such as accounting, enhancing your back-office operations, minimizing costs and maximizing income, training your personnel and being innovative by continuously learning new ways and methods of doing things.
1.7 RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS
Volunteers will be your greatest resource in building and sustaining your association’s capacity to live up to its mission; You can rely on their influence and services to further your goals, deliver value and provide opportunities for participation by the alumni.
- Invest your resources in volunteer management.
- Document and plan all of your volunteer opportunities for the year to make sure you have enough opportunities for all alumni to participate in.
- Design event staff roles in a way that creates an opportunity for alumni volunteers to step in.
- Find the people who seem most excited about the opportunities, give them a voice and be flexible to work around what they are interested in doing.
1.8 SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
Social media allows for fast, inexpensive, and effective outreach to alumni, providing a platform for you to share content ranging from news and information to campaigns soliciting alumni support. You can track down formerly lost alumni, set up online giving initiatives or identify potential donors.
You can also pinpoint new areas of interest to alumni by sharing clips of your programs to quicken awareness of their obliged participation. Social media is a powerful tool to create awareness and showcase your brand.
Use several social media platforms with a standard identity e.g. if your Twitter Handle is @Institution, use the same for Facebook, WhatsApp, Linked, Tiktok, Instagram and other social media platforms. Take time to set-up appropriate social media pages, groups and profiles. Use standard identity and branding across the multiple platforms and assign someone to actively monitor and respond to people that interact with you on social media. You will also need to actively generate regular content to keep your audience engaged on social media. Your social media manager could be drawn from volunteers amongst the alumni.
Social media also provide useful tools and insights for measuring your engagement such as number of likes, comments and audience reached. Use this insight to inform your social media engagement strategies
1.9 ENGAGING ALUMNI IN DIASPORA
Developing an alumni presence in any number of countries worldwide is essential. You should maintain regional contacts or global ambassadors – these are individuals who serve as a point of contact for alumni in a particular region. Regional alumni coordinators would help you to form useful networks beyond your borders. With such networks, you can benefit from the financial contributions of the alumni and from the time invested by them in fundraising and even recruitment process.
You can start by forming a WhatsApp Group for all alumni in the diaspora, then identify a representative from each region or country. Make sure to provide for the diaspora alumni channels of engagement and contributions to your association. Besides being your great ambassadors and contributors, alumni in the diaspora could also draw in useful networks that would support your association in various ways such as funding, mentorship, donation of equipment and volunteering.
1.10 APPRECIATION AND RECOGNITION
The biggest motivation you can give to those who volunteer to be your member, supporter or donor is to appreciate them. Remember their contributions and time invested in serving your cause comes with an opportunity cost to them.
Design a deliberate appreciation scheme that ranges from thank you notes, to recommendations and referrals to special recognitions and awards for your alumni. You can make this more inclusive and involving by running certain periodic appreciation activities such as Alumni of the Week Awards; Awarding Most Engaged Alumni during Annual conventions; producing and gifting your alumni with Memento and selling them Merchandise, as well as a host of several other means of recognition you may think of.
It is important to engage your alumni in your institution’s development. These people bear solid opinions about their experiences in the institution and how programs, services and activities can be improved to give a better experience to the current students. This would in turn ensure high recruiting rates into the institution, growth management, alumni engagement in donations and mentorship, and also effective ideas generated from forums and surveys.
You can keep in touch with and do follow-ups on your alumni via your social media platforms. Maintaining contacts in the diaspora is a bright way of expanding your institution’s reach internationally. With this partnership, the alumni can also benefit by accessing tremendous career opportunities and building their networks.
You can draw great value from the vast experience and networks within your alumni and you can even involve them in the board of your institution.