For most alumni, the college or university they attended is a part of who they are. This is the place where they gained their independence, formed long-lasting friendships and made the first dent in their career path. It makes sense why nearly half of all alumni donors say that they feel “very close” to their alma maters, compared to just 16 percent of non donors.
While donors do tend to feel closer to their college or university, not everyone who has these feelings is in a position to donate. The may not have the money to do so, or they may give their money to another organization that they view as being more worthy.
According to the study Alumni Engagement and Giving, only 22 percent of graduates reported that they donated to their college or university in the past 12 months. However, graduates said that they are not opposed to helping out their alma maters in other ways.
Getting More from Your Alumni
Are you using your alumni to your full advantage? Probably not.
Asking for monetary donations isn’t the only way to get past graduates involved with your school. Alumni can drive more inquiries, applications and enrollment by contributing content to your blog, newsletter or annual report.
What you’re asking from them is simple and shows that you care about their experience. Many will be happy to take part because of the emotional value they place on your school and their desire to help.
Why Alumni Content Works
Why does alumni content work in the first place? Isn’t it just more content to add to your already-growing pile?
According to data from Eduventures, alumni are the most influential drivers of enrollment decisions, after current students and admissions officers. This means that alumni have more influence than teachers, faculty or coaches.
It’s understandable why alumni are so influential. They’ve lived the life and bring a level of authenticity to the table that others cannot match. They know things about the school, its classes, its faculty and its culture that won’t be found in a book or magazine. They also made the decision to attend the school for reasons that prospective students can relate to.
In the end, alumni content can offer a personalized and authentic view of your school that connects with students in ways that are otherwise impossible.
It’s also worth mentioning that alumni content is valuable for parents, too. Parents are interested in getting their kids through school as quickly and efficiently as possible. They want their investment to be worth it, and they want their child to be set up for success. Alumni are the proof that your institution makes something out of its students.
What Types of Content Should Alumni Be Producing?
There are no “right” or “wrong” pieces of content that your alumni can contribute, but some will probably be more effective than others. After all, you want to set your alumni content apart from your other items. Divulging the same information, just with a different author, isn’t making the best use of your alums.
Interviews and Updates
Interviews and “where are they now” posts are always valuable. Focus on alumni that have overcome specific challenges, such as completing work overseas or landing a job while being special needs.
The purpose is to show that your school provides ample opportunities for students to learn and grow in their field of study, and that other students can enjoy the same successes.
Social Media Posts
Social media content should also be part of your alumni content strategy. Encourage past graduates to share exciting information on social media and tag your school in the process.
Think about how you want to engage alumni.
Do you want them to share when they get a new job or promotion? Do you want to humanize your brand and ask past students to share achievements such as buying a new home, having a baby, etc.? Or perhaps your liberal arts school would be better served with updates on artwork, ads and other projects that alumni have created.
You can also run campaigns that get alumni talking and sharing advice, insight and experiences. For instance, “my favorite school memory” or “how I felt on my first day as a freshman” are campaigns that everyone can contribute to.
Alumni can email their responses or post a comment on your social media channels using the campaign-branded hashtag. You can also include the comments in your next newsletter or blog. It’s a great way to get the conversation going and strengthen ties with your alumni.
You alums will appreciate hearing from you – without asking for money. This is particularly true for younger graduates who are just starting out in life and paying on their loans.
Recent graduates typically don’t have the money to donate to their alma maters, so asking them repeatedly will only build resentment. That’s not to say that people in their 30s and 40s are in any better shape. Many are busy building their careers and raising families and also don’t have much to give.
If you present alumni with opportunities to be involved, your relationship with them will grow. When they’re ready and financially able to donate, you will definitely see your return on investment!