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Three Spooky Things Haunting Alumni Offices

Posted by Holly A. Phillips on Oct 31, 2019 7:22:09 AM
Holly A. Phillips

Alumni offices across the country are haunted by the reality that it’s becoming more difficult to attract alumni and encourage them to donate to the institution. Happy hours, festive tailgates, not even the best candy on the block is enough to keep graduates engaged.

If that’s not frightening enough, other factors affect today’s universities including rising tuition costs and an increasingly competitive job market. Because of this, current students and alumni want to see the true value of their tuition dollars come to life, particularly in a successful, meaningful career.

This all boils down to three frightening things alumni offices are working to avoid all year long:

Alumni Becoming Ghosts: Losing Touch with Alumni

In 2017, Penn State had the largest alumni community with nearly 700,000 members living in 160 different countries. Manually maintaining an alumni database — even one a fraction of this size — is a scary thought.

Many institutions like to keep personal information (address, degree, major, gender, birthdate), career information (company name, job title, industry), and any pertinent information about family members, donation history, and volunteer interests, which is a lot of data to maintain. Not to mention, that the average college graduate switches jobs every two years, which adds more work for managing the directory.

More than ever, it’s vital to engage your alumni community in a digital space. This includes scheduling regular email communication, creating social media campaigns, and planning online events.

A digital community would connect alumni no matter where they live, and free up alumni office employees to focus on other areas of need by putting the directory updates in the hands of alumni.

Establishing a strong online network also expands opportunities for alumni involvement through student mentorship, philanthropic events, and career development.

Practices Becoming Mummified: Getting Stuck in Traditional Procedures and Failing to Innovate

Today’s world can feel overwhelming, with innovation and experimentation at every corner. Although some of the country’s most cutting-edge research and solutions come from higher education institutions, these ideas are not always welcomed with open arms. After all, change can be frightening.

But changing times call for new ideas, which is why we’ve taken the classic concept of time, talent, and treasure and turned it around to rethink how we frame alumni engagement and university advancement.

Instead of considering what alumni can give to their alma mater, think of what the alma mater can provide to their alumni to inspire them to give. By wielding the power of a diverse and global alumni community, your office can provide scalable value to your graduates, even years after they’ve earned their diplomas.

Develop authentic relationships among alumni by creating a robust digital community that expands their opportunities to connect to each other, to students, and to the university. When alumni feel personally connected to the community, they’re more likely to be there when you need them for future giving and volunteering.

Innovation means something different for every campus, but it often provides efficiency, a better ROI, and frees up staff to work on other matters.

Turning Into a Vampire: Just "Bleeding Alumni Dry"

Today’s students and alumni can spot a vampire coming from a mile away. They want to see the value of their tuition dollars at work, especially if they are still paying off their student loans.

An alma mater can provide immediate value to its alumni via lifelong career support, mentorship opportunities and the benefits that come from a strong alumni network. If alumni can attribute their overall career success — from a new job to a long-awaited promotion to a career change — to their alma mater, they are more likely to be inspired to give back.

The trick is to recognize that alumni affinity and engagement starts years before students become alumni. Alumni network building should begin in the undergraduate years, showing students what giving back looks like and how the institution uses those gifts to benefit future students and alumni.

Software platforms can connect current students and generations of alumni in a single place, and engage them via mentorship opportunities and career development programs. Our partners have seen that a clear increase in university engagement through our platform leads to increased philanthropic opportunities and a rise in donation rates.

If you would like to learn more about how PeopleGrove can help you avoid all of these haunting possibilities, contact us today.