Many of your alumni view their years on campus as some of the best times of their lives. Those former students will carry fond memories of their time in college or graduate school with them forever. However, it may be harder for you to keep other students feeling connected in meaningful ways after they leave your institution. No matter where your alumni fall on this affinity spectrum, building an adaptive alumni engagement strategy that meets their varied needs and expectations can be challenging.
College and university alumni relations teams need to continually find new and innovative ways to keep former students deeply invested in and connected to their alma maters. The good news is, when you get it right, you have the power to help your alumni relive some of their most formative years on a regular basis — and that’s a very rewarding outcome.
Let’s explore some of the ways you can use empathetic communication to build loyal, long-term relationships with your alumni — and in turn, elevate your engagement efforts to transform your alumni into a network of full-fledged advocates for your institution.
How to Think Like an Alum
Providing appealing engagement opportunities for your alumni is crucial to building advocacy. It can be hard to identify the messages and activities that will resonate with specific alumni groups, though. Understanding what matters most to your alumni is an important first step. That means you’ll need to get into the collective mind of your former students by engaging your entire alumni network and actively listening at scale to their wants and needs.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and involve your alumni in your decision-making process. The feedback you’ll get from them is essential for figuring out the best ways to interact with them, which will lead to increased participation in your activities. Texting your alumni and tracking their interactions at scale can provide you with aggregate data about their preferences and needs. If you’re able to analyze that data effectively, you’ll gain valuable insight into which engagement opportunities are the most enticing for your alumni. Initiating these conversations can be one of the best ways to start learning about your alumni’s interests so you can foster deep, long-term connections across your entire alumni network.
How to Strengthen Your Alumni Community
Connecting with former students can take lots of different forms. The best alumni outreach programs use technology to help graduates become more engaged with their school through a holistic approach. Here are some examples of how you can engage alumni with AdmitHub’s behaviorally intelligent chatbots:
- Bring students together for virtual alumni events like a game night, book club, or happy hour.
- Set up a playful rivalry between classes to spark some healthy fundraising competition.
- Use timely feedback to offer your alumni access to relevant subscriptions, membership organizations, and industry publications.
- Highlight alumni-owned businesses in your newsletters or on social media.
While these types of initiatives can have significant positive impacts on your alumni, some of them do require a significant amount of time and planning. To prioritize activities, it may be necessary to free up staff resources by automating their repeatable tasks. For example, alumni relations teams often end up spending the majority of their week answering repetitive questions about transcripts, alumni ID cards, and career counseling. If this sounds familiar, a chatbot may be the solution to free up their time and empower them to address the more complex challenges they were hired to solve.
Behaviorally intelligent chatbots can provide your alumni with relevant, timely answers to their most frequent questions around the clock. Automating your responses to these types of questions will increase your staff’s capacity to focus on building deeper connections between your alumni and the school. Doing so will also empower your alumni to instantly receive the information they need exactly when they need it — on the channels they prefer to use.
How to Engage Alumni With Technology
Some alumni engagement best practices are universal, but for the best results, you may need to customize your message and method of alumni outreach depending on the group you’re addressing. For example, different generations engage with technology in their own unique ways.
One of the most universal and accessible methods of communication today is texting. Texting is widely used across all ages, and today’s alumni read 90% of all texts they receive — with four times the response rate of other channels like email and phone calls. Texting alumni is an efficient way to engage your network when you want to share event invitations, membership benefits, and mentorship opportunities.
How to Make Alumni Engagement More Meaningful
It’s impossible to build meaningful relationships purely on requests for financial contributions. To achieve full-spectrum alumni advocacy, you need to consistently engage your alumni by initiating the conversations that they want to have with you, and responding to their needs year-round — not just when you’re soliciting donations.
Incorporating non-financial engagement opportunities into your communications is key for keeping alumni connected long-term. That’s why it’s so important to have a strategy in place for maintaining a cohesive and adaptive alumni engagement model that extends beyond your most active alumni donors.
An alum’s time is one of the most valuable resources they can share with their alma mater. There are a number of ways to start transforming your alumni into advocates for your institution:
- Ask alumni to share their expertises through speaking engagements.
- Invite alumni to participate in a student mentorship program.
- Spotlight alumni by tagging them in your social media shout-outs.
- Host industry-specific alumni networking events.
- Encourage alumni to share their favorite college memories on public forums like social media.
How to Create Alumni Advocates
Do you have a long list of potential alumni engagement ideas, but aren’t sure which ones should take priority? When you use a behaviorally intelligent chatbot to engage your alumni and actively listen at scale to their needs and concerns, you can test which interactions most effectively drive positive outcomes.
Alumni insight is one of the most powerful tools to have in your engagement toolbox. Being able to access aggregate data about your alumni in a centralized platform enables you to anticipate their needs, improve their overall experience, and build a strong alumni engagement strategy that works.
When your chatbot sends targeted scripts to your alumni, you’ll get instant results — so you can see exactly which interactions elicit the strongest responses. You can then use this type of at-scale insight to strategically engage your alumni by enhancing future campaigns, planning more events that interest them, and ultimately driving long-term advocacy.
To turn your alumi into advocates for your institution, use your behaviorally intelligent chatbot to:
- Update your alumni on the campus-specific information that interests them most.
- Encourage your alumni to crowdfund projects they’re passionate about.
- Make engagement even more impactful by turning key interactions into networking opportunities with programming reminders.
Explore the Full Spectrum of Alumni Advocacy
AdmitHub can partner with you to develop engaging, empathetic interactions that generate deep alumni engagement. Planning reunions, promoting the institution through social media, providing opportunities to mentor current students, and inviting them to participate in speaking engagements are all examples of high-value ways you can engage your alumni. However, actively listening at scale is the best way to identify the best ways to build meaningful connections with your alumni.
By incorporating world-class technology to engage alumni on their terms, and thinking beyond fundraising, you can begin the journey from one-off alumni interactions to full-spectrum, lifelong alumni advocacy.
Explore AdmitHub’s Alumni Services today to take your alumni engagement strategy to the next level.