Get to Know Your Alumni

  • Maintain up-to-date contact information. To create an alumni community, you need to be able to reach your alumni. Maintaining an up-to-date database of your alumni’s contact information is of vital importance and can be a greater challenge than you might anticipate. Young people, in particular, change their geographic location quite frequently and often switch preferred communication platforms. Communication is becoming more social and mobile, and you should meet your alumni where they already are rather than trying to entice them to a new platform that you create. It is crucial to have an up-to-date privacy policy and to store your alumni’s information in a secure database where you can ensure their privacy. Once this system is in place, obtain alumni’s information and connect with them across various social media platforms. Ask your alumni for their:
    • Email addresses
    • Cell phone numbers
    • Home addresses
    • Facebook page URLs
    • Twitter handles
    • Instagram names
  • Keep tabs on your alumni. In addition to gathering your alumni’s contact information, you might also want to collect data on them and track their life changes. You can rely on in-person conversations, phone calls and social media to learn about significant milestones, such as marriages, births, new jobs, moves and other key life events. Offer support as appropriate and use these life events to serve as organic opportunities to stay in touch with your alumni. Make sure you systematically track this data either by using specialized customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as Salesforce, or even through a basic Excel spreadsheet.
  • Engage your alumni to set the agenda. While developing your alumni programming, it is of the utmost importance to do research on your alumni and involve them in setting the agenda. Find out who they are, where they live, what they care about and how they would like you to engage with them. Maintain open and regular channels of communication with your alumni and frequently solicit their input and feedback on alumni programming and initiatives. You can ask your alumni for feedback through in-person conversations, email, social media and surveys. Keeping in frequent contact is the best way to identify growing trends and interests. The results of this feedback may surprise you and may help you identify key gaps that you can fill through your alumni programming. Effective ways to incorporate your alumni’s input into your program development include:
    • Inviting a select group of alumni to help you develop your strategic plan for alumni programming;
    • Creating focus groups to develop program ideas; and
    • Surveying participants before you launch programming to gauge interest, and then again after programming to evaluate a program’s success and to learn how it can be improved. There are several free tools, such as Survey Monkey and Zoomerang, that will allow you to design online surveys.