Build Strategic Programming

  • Identify vision-aligned intersection points. Now that you have reflected on your theory of change, clarified the strategic role alumni engagement will play in achieving your mission and gathered key information on your alumni, it is time to build strategic programming where your values and those of your alumni intersect. Intersection points will be opportunities that appeal to your alumni’s interests and will also further your mission (take another look at our alumni programming matrix as a refresher). Based on the feedback you receive from your alumni, try to identify opportunities to provide high-impact programming and resources that will empower them to pursue your shared vision.
  • Fill gaps in the space. Based on our research and experience, the most useful and enticing programming occurs when an organization recognizes existing gaps in a vision-aligned space and creates new programming and opportunities in these areas. Now that you have been collecting data from your alumni, pay close attention to their goals and the opportunities they are missing. You may be well-positioned to provide unique experiences for your alumni that they could not receive elsewhere and will help them move forward in pursuing their ambitions.
  • Take a multipronged approach. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to alumni programming. Create offerings that are unique to your community and alumni’s shared vision, as well as ones that create multiple touch points. For example, identify ways to encourage alumni to update their contact information and offer programs that are designed to appeal to different interest groups. Remember: building programming is an iterative process—what works for some may not work for others—so you should to be open to assessing and refining your offerings. If you create multiple offerings, chances are that individuals in your audience will find at least one option appealing.
  • Use our alumni programming idea menu. Based on our research, we have identified a list of top alumni programming ideas that many successful alumni communities utilize. We encourage you to use this framework as a launching pad for identifying specific programming that would suit your alumni community. Select from the menu to build your ideal “spread” of engaging alumni initiatives.
  • Build capacity within your alumni. Establishing the proper infrastructure is essential to executing strong alumni programming. Beyond your own organizational capacity, you should empower your alumni to take action and drive the agenda. This will serve the dual purpose of expanding the capacity of your alumni community beyond your existing resources and providing them with valuable leadership opportunities. Consider the following actions when developing your alumni infrastructure:
    • Ensure that you have support from the leadership team of your organization prior to implementing any initiatives;
    • Appoint an alumni coordinator to drive the alumni programming, either by hiring a full-time position (if you have the capacity) or by creating a volunteer or internship position;
    • Appoint a few dedicated alumni leaders in different regions to spearhead alumni initiatives; and
    • Provide alumni leaders with ongoing support.
  • Establish proof of concept. Start small and pilot your programming to get proof of concept before expanding it. Some programs and approaches will be more successful than others, and you should not feel compelled to continue programming that does not meet your expectations. Be willing to scrap some initiatives and focus more of your resources on the ideas that resonate with your community. And always remember to continuously solicit feedback from your alumni: Maintain open channels of communication with them, listen to their thoughts and adapt your programming to meet their needs.
For an in-depth look at building strategic programming, see the Entwine Case Study. Read More
Measure, Iterate
and Innovate