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Advancement Strategies | Top 6 Ideas for Alumni Engagement
Ryan Nolan

Communications, marketing, and admissions offices' strategies are largely driven by the “customer funnel.” Whether it’s investing in SEO, a new website, or social media campaigns, their goal is to take prospective families and students from the initial stages of awareness and interest to consideration and decision, and then ultimately, retain them.

And then...for marketing, communications, and admissions, the funnel stops. Their role is essentially done. (Well, their jobs are never done, but, you get the idea.)

Advancement offices, on the other hand, focus almost all of their efforts on the very last stage of the funnel: advocacy, and by then, it's often too late — only 19% of alumni report an organization’s representatives made them feel recognized by one report.

Alumni engagement and donations heavily rely on your private school’s biggest advocates, but, we can’t just turn to them after graduation and all of a sudden, ask them to open their wallets.

Ideas for Alumni Engagement Strategies

  1. Be Relevant
  2. Focus on Engaging Young Alumni
  3. Give Alumni a Designated Place On Your Website
  4. Stay True to Your Brand
  5. Be Nimble and Globalize
  6. Focus on More Than Just Money

It's about consistent, relevant, and timely engagement year-round — not just when you need them to advocate. And if year-round engagement seems difficult, here are the top six ideas to keep your school’s alumni engaged — with some examples and best practices for your school's alumni engagement ideas.

1) Make your content relevant

Staying trendy and tuned in with what is going on in the world should be top of mind when planning to engage your alumni. It could be something that is trending on social media, in the news or a popular sporting event. Almost any high-profile event can be turned into a fun way to engage this group. Content after, all, is 29% more effective as an engagement tool than any other category, according to one report.

Aside from campaigns, year-round alumni engagement programs help your school stay relevant. Immaculate High School in CT uses the #OnceAMustangAlwaysAMustang and #IHSAlumni hashtags to keep alumni engaged with what they’re posting on social.

This is a great way to be active on social, especially during the summer months when you may not have as much to post about current students.

2) Young alumni engagement strategies

Alumni ages vastly range, so it is important to know how to segment your audience, content, and messaging to engage and reach a specific target audience, especially for your young alumni engagement st.

Social Media — Great for graduates of less than 10 Years

Social media is a powerful tool to reach younger generations who are already actively using the platforms, creating a natural extension of their everyday digital activities. So powerful, in fact, 80% of alumni organizations report that “blogs, social media, and e-newsletters” have the biggest impact on alumni engagement.

  1. Comfort: Younger alumni are digital natives. They've grown up using social media platforms, and these tools form an integral part of their daily communication. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even TikTok offer familiar and accessible means to keep in touch, share news, and engage in conversations.
  2. Real-time Communication and Updates: Social media provides real-time interaction. Schools can use these platforms to share updates, post photos of campus events, spotlight alumni achievements, and more. This enables alumni to feel connected and involved even if they're not in town.
  3. Peer-to-Peer Connection: Social media fosters a sense of community by promoting peer-to-peer interactions. Alumni can easily connect with each other, share memories, and maintain friendships formed during their school years.
  4. Engaging Content: Social media, by its nature, makes it an ideal platform for creating engaging content. Video features, live streams, or even podcasts can be employed to spotlight alumni, faculty, or current student experiences, fostering a deep sense of school spirit and nostalgia.
  5. Career Networking and Mentorship Opportunities: Platforms like LinkedIn can serve as a career service and professional networking resource. Your school can facilitate connections and relationships with alumni and develop potential mentorships and even job opportunities for students and alumni.
  6. Data Collection and Feedback: Social media provides an effective platform for surveys or polls, which can offer insights about what younger alumni want from their relationship with the school. This feedback can guide future engagement strategies.
  7. Events and Fundraising: Social media is perfect for promoting alumni events, webinars, reunions, and fundraising campaigns. The shareable nature of social media posts can increase reach and engagement.

Email-Great for graduates 10+ years

Email is great for maintaining a strong connection with your alumni community, particularly older alumni, who form an integral part of your history and legacy.

  1. Comfort: Many older alumni may not be as comfortable with newer communication platforms, but they've emailed throughout their professional lives and continue to do so in their personal lives.
  2. Universal: Email is universally accessible and can be accessed from any device with an Internet connection.
  3. Personalization: Email allows for personalized communication. Your messages can be tailored to each alumni’s interests and past involvement with the school and this personal touch can strengthen connections and increase engagement.
  4. Information Sharing: Email is an excellent medium to invite alumni back to campus, sharing links, attachments, and embedding content, providing a rich source of information that can help keep alumni informed and engaged. This is especially helpful when providing forms for alumni to keep their contact information updated.
  5. Regular Engagement: With email, schools can maintain regular touchpoints with alumni, such as newsletters or annual updates. This helps alumni feel connected and involved with the school, even years after graduation.
  6. Data: After an email campaign or alumni newsletter, you can easily track important performance metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and bounces.

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​​3) Give Them a Designated Place On Your Website

With the majority of school websites focusing on prospects, it is easy to lose sight of placing focus on our alumni. These pages get buried in your site map and are more than two or three clicks away from the homepage.

Two of the most popular best practices for alumni engagement are engaging alumni with your website and alumni portals.

Alumni pages are a great way to segment your alumni web presence. For example, Hotchkiss has done this very well. When you visit their alumni pages, you will notice that everything an alum was to look for is up front and center with the primary focus of this website, including news, calendars, and photos — even an alumnus of the month feature!

Hotchkiss alumni page screenshot

4) Stay True to Your Brand

Many times alumni like to remember their days with nostalgic memories rooted in history. If your school has a historic building name, student cheering section, statue on campus, former beloved faculty, or fun athletic ritual…don’t be afraid to play those heartstrings!

screenshot trinity-pawling athletics forms

Trinity-Pawling has a strong focus on athletics, and many graduates have continued their athletic careers at the college level. A branded form embedded right on their alumni page allows alumni to share their achievements and help fills in the gaps in the school's long history of athletic accomplishments.

5) Be Nimble and Globalize

We need to understand that not all of our Alumni will stay local. Instead of fighting the uphill battle of getting every alumnus to come back to the area, try going to them!

You’d be surprised how many Alumni may not even know they are working near each other. Work-life takes over and suddenly, a trip back home is hard to swing. This brings memories to them, rather than requiring them to make long and unrealistic trips.

forever a falcon

Graduates of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School are never too far away from the “nest.” Its Falcon Flock program makes stops in several cities around the country, engaging young alumni for social events — Forever a Falcon!

6) Focus on More Than Just Donations

We often get caught up in the monetary aspect of “Giving Back,” and forget that a person’s time is one of the most valuable resources they can provide. Whether it’s planning a reunion or simply sharing and liking our social media posts, any and all forms of giving should be recognized and rewarded!

There is nothing more unsettling than making alumni feel like their importance is directly correlated with the amount they have given. Giving your alumni the sense that they are important stakeholders is crucial. It could be as simple as asking their opinion on an upcoming event or a new building project. Their input is valuable even without a direct monetary contribution.

Some alumni are eager to share their experience and expertise, rather than their financial funds. Offer ways for them to give back through mentor programs, career days, etc. Alumni are happy to tell their stories and share their successes!

screenshot of King Connects

King School’s “King Connects” mentorship program aims to pair alumni with students and provide a meaningful learning experience. The shared passions help strengthen the bonds between alumni, and provide an alternative avenue for many to give back.

Key Takeaway

Keeping your alumni engaged is a year-round effort that relies heavily on creativity, segmentation, and consistent communication that makes them feel included and nostalgic.

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Ryan Nolan

After graduating with a BA in Strategic Communication, Ryan pursued a career in web and graphic design. Prior to joining Finalsite, Ryan was the Director of Digital Design and Media Communications at Immaculate High School in CT. While he is currently a Senior Client Success Manager, his specialty is combining graphic and web design together for a unique digital experience.

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