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The Guide to Alumni Engagement for Universities

The Guide to Alumni Engagement for Universities

Engage your alumni strategically

Cultivating a community of engaged alumni is one of the cornerstone challenges a university will face. It’s already hard enough to keep up with students while they’re still on campus; once they graduate, it can be harder to stay in touch in a meaningful way.

Even more pressing is your university’s reliance on alumni contributors to help reach your fundraising goals. The vast majority of university donors are alumni givers, so it’s no wonder that your school is always trying its best to strengthen your ties with these impactful individuals.

Is your university ready to take a second look at your alumni engagement strategy? Improving how your team connects with alumni starts by investing in the right online giving and engagement software. In our comprehensive guide, we’ll go over the best ways to leverage software into your alumni engagement strategy so you can start creating meaningful connections and asking the right alumni engagement survey questions.

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Alumni Engagement Basics

Alumni community composition

If your university wants to get a better grasp on your alumni engagement strategy, it’s important to understand the many types of individuals who are a part of your alumni community. These people likely represent a broad range in age, gender, professional affiliation, and more. It’s quite likely that these individuals live across the country, or even across the globe.

To better understand how to engage with these supporters, take some time to review the composition of your alumni community.

Understand the demographics of your community to more effectively engage alumni.

Young Alumni

Your university’s most recent alumni—often referred to as young alumni or new alumni—are students who graduated from your organization within the last decade. Although these individuals are often in the early stages of their career (and thus, not likely to be equipped to provide large gifts), don’t count them out! By establishing a positive relationship with young alumni as soon as they leave your school, your university can count on their support in the future.

Established Alumni

The core of your alumni giving community is comprised of established alumni, meaning individuals who have been out of school for over ten years and are settled into their career path. These alumni have a greater capacity for giving to your university and are also more likely to be part of a network of other key giving prospects. Because your university has stewarded these supporters since for a decade, established alumni are excellent prospects for regular giving.

Alumni Friends & Family

In addition to your university’s alumni, your alumni giving community is also dependent upon the support of friends and family of alumni who may be willing to lend their support to your school. After your university has built lasting relationships with past students, you can leverage these relationships to reach potential givers who aren’t directly affiliated with your school, as well as increase awareness of your school beyond the scope of this network.

Alumni community composition

If your university wants to get a better grasp on your alumni engagement strategy, it’s important to understand the many types of individuals who are a part of your alumni community. These people likely represent a broad range in age, gender, professional affiliation, and more. It’s quite likely that these individuals live across the country, or even across the globe.

To better understand how to engage with these supporters, take some time to review the composition of your alumni community.

Understand the demographics of your community to more effectively engage alumni.

Young Alumni

Your university’s most recent alumni—often referred to as young alumni or new alumni—are students who graduated from your organization within the last decade. Although these individuals are often in the early stages of their career (and thus, not likely to be equipped to provide large gifts), don’t count them out! By establishing a positive relationship with young alumni as soon as they leave your school, your university can count on their support in the future.

Established Alumni

The core of your alumni giving community is comprised of established alumni, meaning individuals who have been out of school for over ten years and are settled into their career path. These alumni have a greater capacity for giving to your university and are also more likely to be part of a network of other key giving prospects. Because your university has stewarded these supporters since for a decade, established alumni are excellent prospects for regular giving.

Alumni Friends & Family

In addition to your university’s alumni, your alumni giving community is also dependent upon the support of friends and family of alumni who may be willing to lend their support to your school. After your university has built lasting relationships with past students, you can leverage these relationships to reach potential givers who aren’t directly affiliated with your school, as well as increase awareness of your school beyond the scope of this network.

Alumni engagement software

Effective alumni engagement begins with having the right tools in place to make meaningful connections with your alumni community no matter where they ended up after graduation. With robust communication software, your university will be able to reach supporters across all channels and connect them back to your online fundraising efforts using both the internet and more traditional channels.

Consider some of these communication solutions you can leverage for more meaningful alumni engagement.

Social media

Especially when it comes to your more recent alumni, having the right social media tools in line will be the key to successful engagement. Not only does social media allow your school to make connections with former students on a platform they use every day, it also offers your team an opportunity to seamlessly connect them back to fundraising. From sharing invites to university events to accepting donations through an embedded giving form on your profile, it’s never been easier to meet alumni where they already are.

Engage alumni where they already are using social media engagement tools.
Engaging alumni via email allows your school to seamlessly connect them back to fundraising.

Email engagement

Having flexible email communication tools at your university’s disposal can make the difference between passive alumni email interaction and active engagement through this medium. Segment your email lists by indicators such as graduation year, professional affiliation, and more to tailor communications to your diverse alumni. To streamline giving, include donation buttons in email messages that send readers directly to your online giving forms to make giving back to your school more convenient than ever.

Alumni events

One of the most classic ways to connect with your alumni is through hosting alumni engagement events on behalf of your university or campus organizations. Just because events like these have been a tried-and-true staple of alumni engagement for decades doesn’t mean that they can’t be brought up-to-date with the right events software. You can send and sell electronic tickets, accept donations and online payments, register RSVPs, and more using robust events tools.

Leverage events software to host more meaningful alumni engagement events for your school.
Spread your fundraising needs far and wide with the help of your alumni peer-to-peer fundraisers and crowdfunding teams.

University crowdfunding

University crowdfunding is one of the most powerful ways your school can engage alumni (and leverage that engagement into fundraising success). By offering individuals the opportunity to participate in team crowdfunding campaigns or peer-to-peer fundraising, your school can leverage the power of your alumni to fundraise on your university’s behalf. That means reaching more donors than ever before, faster than ever before!

Alumni engagement software

Effective alumni engagement begins with having the right tools in place to make meaningful connections with your alumni community no matter where they ended up after graduation. With robust communication software, your university will be able to reach supporters across all channels and connect them back to your online fundraising efforts using both the internet and more traditional channels.

Consider some of these communication solutions you can leverage for more meaningful alumni engagement.

Engage alumni where they already are using social media engagement tools.

Social media

Especially when it comes to your more recent alumni, having the right social media tools in line will be the key to successful engagement. Not only does social media allow your school to make connections with former students on a platform they use every day, it also offers your team an opportunity to seamlessly connect them back to fundraising. From sharing invites to university events to accepting donations through an embedded giving form on your profile, it’s never been easier to meet alumni where they already are.

Engaging alumni via email allows your school to seamlessly connect them back to fundraising.

Email engagement

Having flexible email communication tools at your university’s disposal can make the difference between passive alumni email interaction and active engagement through this medium. Segment your email lists by indicators such as graduation year, professional affiliation, and more to tailor communications to your diverse alumni. To streamline giving, include donation buttons in email messages that send readers directly to your online giving forms to make giving back to your school more convenient than ever.

Leverage events software to host more meaningful alumni engagement events for your school.

Alumni events

One of the most classic ways to connect with your alumni is through hosting alumni engagement events on behalf of your university or campus organizations. Just because events like these have been a tried-and-true staple of alumni engagement for decades doesn’t mean that they can’t be brought up-to-date with the right events software. You can send and sell electronic tickets, accept donations and online payments, register RSVPs, and more using robust events tools.

Spread your fundraising needs far and wide with the help of your alumni peer-to-peer fundraisers and crowdfunding teams.

University crowdfunding

University crowdfunding is one of the most powerful ways your school can engage alumni (and leverage that engagement into fundraising success). By offering individuals the opportunity to participate in team crowdfunding campaigns or peer-to-peer fundraising, your school can leverage the power of your alumni to fundraise on your university’s behalf. That means reaching more donors than ever before, faster than ever before!

Alumni Engagement Survey Questions

Alumni survey data

One of the most common ways that universities learn about their alumni communities is through the use of alumni surveys. These surveys are voluntary questionnaires that alumni complete to help schools learn about their engagement preferences, fundraising habits, as well as personal information that can be leveraged to identify giving prospects.

Let’s dive into the kind of questions your school should be asking in your alumni survey.

Contact Information

An alumni survey should first and foremost establish correct contact information for every member of your community. This includes phone numbers, email addresses, home addresses, social media handles, and other identifiers. It’s important that your school has up-to-date constituent profiles for each of your alumni so that you can be confident your engagement efforts are reaching them.

Alumni Affiliations

Knowing all about your alumni isn’t just limited to knowing how to keep in touch: your survey should also establish what kinds of academic and professional affiliations they have. For example, this might include the campus organizations they were a part of while students, or the companies your alumni work for now that they’ve graduated. Your team can use this data to better identify giving prospects.

Social Media Habits

Since your alumni are likely spread far and wide across the country (and the globe!), it makes sense for your school to have social media strategies in place to connect with these individuals wherever they are. One of the best ways to strengthen your social media strategy? Be sure to collect data in your alumni survey on your community’s preferred social sites and habits.

Reaching your alumni

Your university’s alumni engagement surveys won’t mean much if they don’t collect data on a wide and diverse sample set. This means alumni of varying ages, backgrounds, graduating classes, and more will share their data. To ensure that your school collects the most insightful information possible, it’s important to understand the two key ways to share your survey: digitally and via mail.

Consider some of these ways your school can get your alumni engagement survey out there.

Share digital engagement surveys with your alumni.

Digital surveys

When possible, share surveys digitally with your alumni constituents. This way, the data collected in the surveys will can be easily analyzed and exported into your university’s CRM. Digital surveys are able to be shared via email, over social media, and using text keywords paired with short links for alumni on the go. Your digital survey should be mobile-optimized so alumni can respond via smartphone.

Offer alumni the option of responding to your engagement survey via direct mail.

Direct mail

Alumni engagement surveys have been around since long before the internet, and many of your alumni may prefer to complete their questionnaires on paper. That’s perfectly fine! Your school can send out paper surveys to alumni based on recorded preferences or demographics. Be sure to include a remittance envelope to boost your chances of successfully receiving completed surveys.

Alumni Engagement Strategies

Connecting with alumni

Making meaningful connections with your school’s alumni isn’t just about having the basics down. To really make your engagement efforts count, your school should take a holistic approach to alumni engagement that offers individuals many different points of access. The more ways alumni can stay connected with your school, the more likely they’ll be active members of your alumni community.

Check out some of our favorite alumni engagement strategies to take your school’s approach to the next level.

Track social stats

Staying in touch with alumni on social media shouldn’t simply be about boosting your school’s follower count. Instead, track how your alumni actually engage online to learn how you can hone your strategy to better connect with them. This means monitoring keywords for spikes in interactions, tracking views on posts, and conducting A/B testing with different social channels.

Event participation

Not all engagement events are created equally, and when it comes to your alumni supporters, getting it right can make the difference between securing a life-long donor and losing a community member for good. For this reason, your team should bring your events strategy to the forefront of how you engage with alumni by tracking participation data from event to event.

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Alumni fundraising trends

With each graduating class, your alumni are constantly evolving. That being said, getting alumni engagement right depends upon catching onto trends in your community before it’s too late. Especially when it comes to fundraising, your school’s alumni engagement efforts should prioritize understanding fundraising trends among your community: how they like to give, when, and to what causes.

P2P & team crowdfunding

One of the most common reasons that alumni report for losing touch with their school is feeling like they can’t give back without making a donation. Don’t risk aliening alumni who may not be able to give themselves! One way to boost fundraising while still connecting with these key alumni is by offering peer-to-peer fundraising and team crowdfunding for your university.

Give back to alumni

Engaging with alumni is all about building strong relationships, meaning they shouldn’t be one-sided. Your school should make an effort to give back to your alumni to show them how much you appreciate their support! This can include hosting networking events, highlighting stand-out students in your alumni newsletter, or simply sending out thank-you notes periodically.

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Offer volunteer opportunties

Did you know that volunteers are some of your school’s most reliable donors? In fact, one of the biggest predicting factors in future giving is being involved with an organization as a volunteer. Because volunteers are so valuable to your school, structure your alumni engagement to promote volunteerism among these important individuals in order to help keep their support in the long-term.

Additional Alumni Engagement Resources

University Crowdfunding

Boost alumni engagement by maximizing how your university uses its university crowdfunding platform.

Want to leverage your alumni support into fundraising success?

Check out our tips for maximizing your university crowdfunding platform!

Alumni social media engagement

Learn our favorite strategies for engaging your university's alumni using social media.

Ready to use social media to better engage alumni?

Discover our favorite social media alumni engagement tips!

Alumni engagement strategies

Find out our favorite alumni engagement strategies to strengthen your school's relationships with alumni.

Can’t wait to strengthen your school’s alumni relationships?

Check out these favorite alumni engagement strategies!

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