Cheers to the Class of 2016!
It’s graduation season. Mortarboard caps are being flung high into the air as graduates embark on a new adventure and the next phase of their life journey. For schools, these newly minted alumni are an important part of your organization and future funders of your mission. Regardless if they are graduating from 8th grade or college, you need to build on your obvious connection and their affinity for their Alma mater. Take thoughtful – and creative – actions to develop a long-term relationship – really a friendship – that can pay dividends in the future. Just like the investment parents make in a child’s education, you too need to make investments in your alumni relations efforts. Here are a few pointers to remember to help you build an engaged and committed alumni community. These tips, while geared toward alumni, can certainly be applied no matter what donor group you are courting:
Students first, alumni forever.
Transform your graduates into advocates – and supporters – of your school by engaging them while they are students. It’s the positive memories they build as students that they – and you – draw on when asking them to support your mission. As they transition to graduates, make sure you capture their contact information so you can continuing reinforcing and deepening your relationship.
Alumni events and activities.
Encourage graduates to stay connected by inviting them back to campus throughout the year. Make them feel warmly welcomed. Homecoming gatherings are a great start. Also consider inviting alumni back to speak to students; have them speak at career days, high school days and more!
Time, talent, treasure.
Make sure you are asking alumni for more than just money. Identify opportunities where they can contribute their time and talent to your organization. This will help deepen the relationship and the ties that bind them to your school.
Compelling and relevant communication is a gold standard for all donor relations efforts. Let alumni know how you are doing by sharing news. Did you just win an award? Are you hosting a popular annual event? Is a beloved teacher retiring? Tell your alumni! Remember, nostalgia sells so be sure to tap into it by using old photos and even trivia in your outreach.
Today’s graduates were practically born with a phone in their hands! Make sure you are connecting via the online platforms they use. It’s obvious these can be applied to every donor relations effort, not alumni. The key is to cultivate strong relationships. Start by showing your appreciation for donors, tapping into their affinity for – and personal connection to – the work you do. Continue to raise awareness of the amazing work you do and they’ll raise their hand to help your organization further its mission now and long into the future.