Alumni Engagement News Roundup

alumni drive

This month’s news roundup reflects the ongoing juxtaposition of tradition and innovation in alumni engagement. We’re seeing reunions integrate rich, new programming with long-standing offerings, associations adapt their membership programs, and the addition of a philanthropy component to one of the biggest alumni parties of the year. Read on!

Iowa State Endows Lead Alumni Position

In a time when alumni associations are being “folded in” to university development offices (UConn, for a recent example), Iowa State has just endowed its association’s President and CEO position, the first non-academic endowed position of any kind at ISU.

Michigan State Alumni Association Envisions a Future Without Dues

The MSU Alumni Association joins other alumni organizations like those at Ohio State, Illinois, and the University at Buffalo in dropping its dues-based membership program. “As of July 1, 2016 the MSU Alumni Association will eliminate the dues requirement for membership in recognition of what many alumni have been telling us for a long time – dues are a distraction,” wrote Scott Westerman, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations.

Penn’s Alumni Weekend Draws 10,000 Alumni and $90 Million

The University of Pennsylvania’s alumni weekend drew a record number of alumni back to campus for a weekend packed with educational programs, an All-Alumni Party, parade, picnic, the Taste of Penn Spectrum (celebrating Penn’s cultural diversity), a screening of Pitch-Perfect 2 (which features a Penn a cappella group), and the Perelman School of Medicine’s black-tie gala featuring Harry Connick, Jr.

In addition, the school’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships links alumni with volunteer opportunities, following a request from alumni who “wanted another reason to exist besides to plan a party every five years.”

Open-Air Dance Party Rocks Alumni Weekend

Up  to 5,000 alumni will attend the University of Delaware’s annual Dela-bration, an open-air dance party with such high energy it required a city noise waiver. This well-attended event will include a VIP area near the stage, exclusively for alum that donate at least $1,000 per year.




How to Use LinkedIn for Alumni Engagement

Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education featured an article on how alumni offices are using LinkedIn.

As the online networking site gains popularity (259 million members and counting), alumni relations programs are using the free tool to enhance their engagement efforts. With LinkedIn, programs can update alumni employment and contact info or see high-level statistics on where and in which sectors alumni live and work (see example below from my alma mater, the University of Miami). As a more direct engagement tool, alumni career services offices have long offered alumni training webinars on how to use LinkedIn effectively in their employment search.

Miami profile

While some alumni programs fear LinkedIn’s free perks may detract from the exclusive networking benefits offered through their paid membership programs, it’s not a tool to disregard. Like email, Facebook, and much more, LinkedIn is one of the many tools in the evolution of alumni engagement that can help our programs fulfill their historic role – connecting alumni to the university and each other.

We asked BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication, Justin Ware, for the top 3 things alumni professionals and programs can do to make the best use of LinkedIn, given limited time and resources.

  1. Use your personal “brand” to share your institution’s content: LinkedIn is unlike most other social networks (Facebook and Instagram, for example) in that its content is heavily weighted toward a person’s professional interests. If you’re reading this blog, you likely work for an alumni association or related organization, so your community of connections on LinkedIn expect to see content about or from your alumni association, via your personal profile. This gives you free license to use your profile or personal “brand” to talk extensively about your institution – something that is less appropriate on more personal, family- and friend-focused networks like Facebook. Of course, this only works if you are connected to your institution’s alumni via LinkedIn. Reach out and connect with as many alumni as you can on LinkedIn and share the best content your alumni association has to offer via your profile. Your alumni connections will see it and interact with it, because they expect to find that type of content, from you, on LinkedIn.

  2. Identify advocates or online ambassadors: Highly active and social media savvy LinkedIn users often link to other social networks via their LinkedIn profiles. Just below the header on their profile (the area that includes their profile picture), one can find links to Twitter profiles, blogs, email addresses – you can get a real sense of just how active and influential your alumni are across social media by the networks they list on LinkedIn. This is important as you build online ambassador programs, since identifying truly active and influential advocates is a crucial component of an ambassador program.LinkedIn box
  3. Create communities to help your alumni network: LinkedIn’s groups are an increasingly common space for users to gather and exchange ideas. Create a group for your alumni where they can openly discuss items relating to your institution. If such a group already exists, contact the administrator and ask how you can help. DO NOT try to shut the group down against the administrator’s will unless the group is severely detrimental to your alumni association’s mission or highly offensive.The group you create or join could be a professional network space that connects employers with potential employees or mentors with mentees; it could be more focused on initiatives at the institution; or it could be an exchange between alumni about the news of the day, athletic events, other on-campus events. Think about what your alumni would like more of from your alumni association and deliver that via a LinkedIn group.

Jamie Hunte and her colleagues at Bentz Whaley Flessner help colleges and university build and grow great alumni programs. Learn more about how we can help your program by clicking here.
Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Learn more about how he helps clients use social media to enhance their engagement efforts by clicking here.

Ohio State’s New Membership Model, and Other Alumni Engagement News

In the News

A number of alumni associations are making headlines this summer:

The Ohio State University Alumni Association Drops Its Traditional Dues-paying Membership Model

Western Michigan University Breaks Private Gift Annual Record with $41M; Credits New Alumni Website for Boost

Alumni Voices Drive New Focus for Wisconsin Alumni Association

Focus on Young Alumni

Released earlier this summer, The Millennial Impact Report offers survey-based insights on how nonprofits should engage their younger audience (ages 20-35).
Read the full report or the summary by Inside Higher Ed and consider implications for your young alumni engagement efforts.

Stats to consider:

  • Communicating: 65% of survey respondents said they prefer to get information about organizations via their websites. The next highest, 55%, said they rely on social media, and 47% said they want updates via e-newsletters.
  • Volunteering: 45% said they want to help plan events and develop strategy on committees or small groups, and 40% said they wanted a chance to serve on a board or advisory committee.
  • Giving: When asked to choose the phrase that best describes their giving preferences, 42% of respondents chose, “I give to whatever inspires me at the moment.”