A few months ago, I attended a webinar, The Hidden Treasure: Value of Alumni Engagement, organized by the IFC: Employability Webinar Series. Though the webinar was focused on alumni communities of institutions, I believe the discussion was relevant to managing and engaging with all kinds of alumni networks and associations. In this blog post, I share some of my thoughts and key takeaways from the webinar. The webinar primarily focused on four areas:

  1. Reasons for institutions to engage with their alumni

The alumni community is one of the greatest assets of an institution! By building the right relationship with its members, the community can add immeasurable value to the institution.

  • The alumni community offers a global professional network
  • Establishing good relationships with the alumni members is a way to create opportunities (internships, mentoring, coaching, and jobs) for the current students
  • An excellent source for understanding how the institution can advance and improve the existing systems
  • The relationship with the alumni directly impacts the institution’s ranking and reputation. After all, aren’t they the institution’s ambassadors? 
  • Alumni members can support the institution in meeting its fundraising goals for scholarships and other institutional developments
  1. Strategies to stay connected and engage with the alumni

Institutions should focus on building strong professional relationships with their alumni members and an emotional bond as well. There are various ways of doing so. Some of them include: 

  • A genuine effort to understand what the alumni think/like/want
  • Find ways to make them feel valued and essential to the alma mater. (For example: seek their advice and guidance for new initiatives – they might be experts and bring excellent insights! Or have them engaged in review and recruitment of students)
  • Develop and maintain an alumni database
  • Organize social/professional events and invite alumni as guest speakers
  • Promote/publicize their achievements (personal/social/professional) to the larger alumni community
  • Create opportunities to network and a platform to share learnings from different industries
  • Create a job portal for the members 
  • Identify leaders and seek their support in creating global chapters with their own activities
  • Provide alumni exclusive scholarships to study further
  • Establish communication channels (Slack channels, magazines, monthly newsletters)
  • Identify ways of connecting students and alumni
  • Offer alumni merchandise
  1. How to determine the success of alumni engagement

Based on the types of engagement, there are both quantitative and qualitative indicators to measure the success of alumni engagement, some of them being: 

  • Percentage of alumni in the database 
  • Number of times the institution engages with the alumni community in a year
  • Number of registrations and attendance in the events organized
  • Number of students placed through alumni references
  • Number of alumni members who have offered pro bono work for the benefit of the institution
  • Number of alumni members involved in philanthropy of the institution 
  • Open rate of the newsletter 
  • Quality of engagement (even if there are very few members who are very active, it can have a huge impact!)
  1. Resources required to maintain alumni engagement

The alumni community’s value and role is significant and must be embedded in the DNA of the institution from leadership, mission, and vision. Unless it gets the attention it needs, allocating resources to the community will never be a priority. At the same time, it is also essential to understand the resources and bandwidth of the institution before implementing any strategies. A few things to consider: 

  • It is crucial to have an organizational structure/professionals with experience and skills to manage the alumni community efficiently
  • Availability of technology platforms and tools (for data/analytics/communication) is essential
  • Adequate financial resources
  • Program diversity (social/professional events)
  • Involve faculty to build trust during the students’ time on campus and include them in the alumni activities 

Having managed alumni networks, I was not surprised that 90% of the participants responded yes when asked if they find it difficult to incentivize alumni to stay connected. It is indeed tough! However, I believe in quality over quantity, and this webinar only reinforced that belief. I left the webinar satisfied with the learnings I can apply in the future and, most notably, with the connections and relationships I have built during the course of my role managing alumni networks.

Nobody is bothered about an institution more than its alumni.

~N. R. Narayana Murthy

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