Maintain a Lifelong Community
- Build a lifelong community from the start. From your first interaction, begin instilling an expectation that participants are joining a lifelong community. By fostering a sense of belonging from the outset, individuals will be more likely to remain involved as alumni once their initial program has concluded. Individuals who feel they are a part of a vibrant community will be more invested in and connected to your organization, and they will be more willing to give back by volunteering their time and making financial contributions.
- Integrate the community. Your alumni community should not consist of disconnected factions from assorted cohorts and programs, but rather a diverse, integrated group in which alumni and current participants communicate frequently. By doing so, you will strengthen the sense of community among your alumni and you will tap into your most valuable resource—your alumni themselves!
- Incorporate alumni into your community. There are many ways to to ensure that alumni feel like a central and valuable part of your community. Ideas include:
- Establish a mentoring program that matches alumni mentors with current participants;
- Utilize veteran alumni to create unique learning opportunities for younger alumni;
- Invite select alumni to serve on your organization’s board; and
- Involve alumni with the recruiting process for your programming by providing them with the proper resources to conduct alumni interviews, spread information on social media or host information sessions.
- Foster a culture of giving. Fundraising is an important component of most alumni strategies. However, it should serve as a piece of the larger alumni engagement strategy, rather than the focal point. Alumni show interest in giving back to an organization if they feel like a valued member of a community that they care about and that reflects their values. It is important to foster a culture of mutual giving from the onset of an individual’s involvement with your community. Research by organizations such as the CORE Group and MIT has shown that young alumni giving can prove valuable in the long run and keeping your alumni engaged is crucial to receiving their support.
- Demonstrate your gratitude. Express your thanks to your alumni for giving their talent, time and gifts to your organization. Ensure that your appreciation for your alumni’s support is demonstrated at every level.