Engaging your alumni to support your school
Your alumni can help your school in countless ways. The people who graduate from your school or college may become the business professionals, industry experts, and community leaders of the future. They can return to their alma mater to connect with current students or find ways to set them up for success.
However, to benefit from a large pool of alumni, school administrators need to find ways to engage them. You must drive interest in your school and provide opportunities for former graduates to show their support. Here are some of the tools and creative ideas you can use to engage your alumni.
One of the best parts of having an alumni database is how easily you can brag about the people who used to attend your school. Whether a former chorus student is a contestant on The Voice or an alum is a leading researcher in cancer treatment, it’s important to keep up with your high school or college graduates so you can highlight how well they’re doing.
“Your alumni are out there doing amazing things,” writes Chris Lang at Digistorm. “Keeping track of and calling out their achievements will help position your school as a destination for successful people and will also give them a little exposure in return.”
There are multiple ways to do this. For example, school administrators can create an alumni update form where former students can share news or achievements. You can also create a social media page where alumni can share updates about their careers and other life changes.
As your alumni develop their careers, they may be able to support your school with donations and in-kind support. To tap into alumni resources, school administrators need to think about specific ways for people to help.
For example, local business owners might want to sponsor your school sports teams, while another alum might want to donate supplies or provide volunteer tech support for your school computers. Each donation is valuable and unique.
As you look into gathering donations, consider how you’ll appeal to your alumni to win their support.
“The best way to make your outreach stand out is to tell a powerful story,” writes Jim Burgraff, founder and CEO of Alumni Nations. “Your content should be completely distinct to your school or district. You can use testimonials from alumni, personal stories from students, and messages from staff to tell a story about what your district is doing and where it’s headed.”
Tell stories about how alumni support can help prepare the next generation for successful careers — it may win them over and turn them into financial supporters of your school.
While school alumni can provide financial support, they can also serve as role models for current students who want to discover their full potential. Look for ways to bring in past graduates to talk about what they do or what inspired them to enter a specific career field.
“What do Awkwafina, Mae Jemison, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg all have in common?” asks the team at Alumni Toolkit. “They all graduated from public high schools and reached inspiring career peaks. They’re subject experts [and] inspiring role models, with knowledge and hope to share with their former schools.”
When planning how to engage your alumni successfully, make sure you have a program in place. School administrators should set up an online form to collect information for an alumni employment database and use this information to connect students with mentors or to bring in guest speakers.
With a database like this in place, teachers and school administrators won’t always need to rely on their students’ parents to be guest speakers. Instead, they can reach out to alumni who are eager to share what they do.
One of the best ways to keep graduates coming back is to tap into school pride and the great experiences former students had at the school. If you want to learn how to do that, look at the professionals who’ve done it before.
Vielka Morales, development and alumni relations manager at Carol Morgan, a college-preparatory school in the Dominican Republic, sets a great example. She created the “Sharky Club” in honor of the school’s mascot and sends a shark plush toy each time an alum has a baby.
“We are developing special activities for this group and encourage their parents to consider their alma mater when their children are ready for school,” she explains.
In order for school administrators to engage alumni successfully, it’s important to start with good organization. Pull together the best forms and materials to collect alumni information and create a plan for how you’ll use that information. When can you engage alumni for speaking events or career fairs? When do you need to focus on fundraising?
Following a robust plan to engage your alumni can keep community members involved over the years and provide support to your students all the way to graduation.