So your department is thinking about a mentorship platform for alumni engagement. Before committing to a platform, define what engagement means for your department. Let this definition guide your decision-making process.
Engagement is different from connection
You can connect to alumni by simply having an up-to-date mailing list or likes on Facebook. But to engage alumni, you must increase the number of high quality interactions between an alum and your institution's people. These interactions must be rewarding enough to make alumni feel loyal to the school and want to reciprocate.
Ultimately, a mentorship platform only works if two parties feel compelled to use it and keep using it.
Two of the biggest needle movers for successful engagement
- Clear Communication
- Rewarding Experiences
Digital connections are not hard to come by. Your alumni ‘engage’ and network on Facebook and LinkedIn every day. In fact, they should be connecting with your institution on these platforms, already. Higher education institutions should think of engagement as ongoing, participatory and rewarding for both students and alumni. The best alumni engagement software will not disguise social networking as mentorship.
The best alumni engagement software encourages clear communication
Successful engagement starts with clear communication. The lines between informal Facebook messages and professional emails become blurred, according to Paul T. Corrigan and Cameron Hunt McNabb, assistant professors of English at Southeastern University, who offer students advice on how to communicate with professors via email.
Even with a platform connecting them to mentors, some students hesitate to reach out. Initiating communication can be nerve-wracking and stressful, especially if they feel inexperienced. Writing one email becomes a three-hour affair. Their friends disagree about whether to add that smiley face after the ‘thank you’ or not. So, eventually, students give up.
Even if students are comfortable reaching out, it’s hard to control for quality and clarity. Imagine a student sending a message asking a busy alum for job opportunities in the first correspondence. Or imagine a student who is trying so hard to be polite, that she fails to ask a clear question at all.
Now, imagine being the busy alum checking an inbox full of those kinds of messages. How often would you want to return to that platform?
Consider the difference between these two scenarios
Scenario 1: Daniela reaches out to Lauren on LinkedIn.
The best alumni engagement software fosters rewarding experiences
To retain participants, students and alumni must have rewarding experiences. PeopleGrove employs its' Message Checker to remove this barrier and retain students and alumni. Real-time feedback guides students to craft thoughtful, appropriate messages to alumni. Students feel more confident when communicating and alumni aren’t turned off by unprofessional messages.
Scenario 2: Daniela reaches out to Lauren on PeopleGrove.
See the difference?
PeopleGrove’s Message Checker does more than encourage complete sentences and a thank-you sign off. It trains students. Greg Stahl, vice president of marketing at Varsity Tutors, advises students looking for a mentor, to know the right questions to ask. PeopleGrove guides students to set an agenda, ask clear questions and build rapport before asking favors.
This is the beginning of engagement. Responding to a curious and respectful student is rewarding for an alum. Alumni usage is one of the variables that determines whether your platform is successful. Making sure they don’t receive five spammy messages from students before receiving a pleasant one is important. Too many unrewarding experiences will cause alumni to roll their eyes, exit the platform and reload LinkedIn. PeopleGrove’s Message Checker provides as much value for your students as it does for your alumni.
Matching algorithms connect a student with the right alumni planting the seed for a potential mentor relationship. Then Message Checker helps transform the connection into a rewarding experience.
Most mentorship software connects students with alumni. But, because engagement is different from connection, the best alumni engagement software nurtures connections by making clear communication easier and rewarding experiences more frequent.