If your New Year’s resolutions include ramping up your alumni relations program, well done! Your alumni and alumni parents represent an ever growing audience of potential donors, volunteers, parents of future alumni, faculty/staff, advocates and ambassadors. Your attention to the four pillars of alumni relations – research, communication, engagement and solicitation – will help build relationships and connections, and thereby lay a foundation for increased involvement and investment.
Just Getting Started?
Start with some basic math: how many alumni do you have in total? Don’t be afraid of that dusty basement with all the file cabinets – they are filled with alumni gold! Your yearbooks, class lists, reunion booklets and permanent records can help you start to build your list. Establish a simple database and enter the information you have on hand. Include the following as Alumni Database Fields:
- First Name, Last Name, Middle Initial, Maiden Name
- Year of Graduation
- High School/College Attended
- Address, City, State, Zip+4 (include the home address of the student at time of enrollment)
- Social Security Number (if you required this for registration)
Believe it or not, using their birthday can often be key to tracking down current address info for graduates. Use the status field to indicate deceased alumni. Do NOT remove them from your records. Years from now someone will start searching for that missing alumnus and it will be all for naught.
There are services that will take your old data and search out new addresses, phone numbers and emails. This is a great way to leapfrog your efforts, but first you need to get the basic info – name, year of graduation, birthday and original address – entered into a database program.
Who’s going to do that? It goes faster than you think it will, so consider existing staff, a temp, volunteers with good attention to detail, or older students seeking services hours. The key is to use those who will be committed to accuracy so that you are not forever correcting, or irritating alumni by misspelling their names.
Once word of your alumni efforts starts to spread, make it easy for other grads to share their info, as well as that of classmates, relatives, friends, etc. Create a page on your website where alumni can easily and securely submit their data. Also, ask for reflections, memories, reminders from their alma mater. What do you recall most fondly from your days at St. Cecelia School? Which teacher had the greatest positive impact on you and why? What do you value about your time at SCS?
Advanced Alumni Programming
If you have already established an alumni program, but want to move to the next level of excellence, conduct an audit. Identify areas needing focus, evaluate current practices, determine what to keep, expand, revise or eliminate. Have a graduate who has not been involved or re-engaged visit the alumni pages of your website and report back. Other questions you could ask include…
- What is your percent of “found” alumni?
- What strategies are in place to increase that number?
- Are there clear goals and objectives for the alumni program and do the strategies/activities all relate back?
- Are results evaluated regularly and the program adjusted accordingly?
- What level of segmentation and personalization is applied to communications?
- When was the last all-school reunion? What is the status of class reunions? Affinity group gatherings? Geographic reunions?
The list can, and does, go on and on!