Alumni are one of the most influential voices in building your brand. And, if you’re in advancement, it’s your job to nurture these voices by engaging your alumni and building relationships, creating a stronger connection to their alma mater. To do this well, it helps to understand their pride and pain points so you can better speak to and with them, celebrate their wins, and ease their grievances.
Brain Waves Blog
Last spring, I graduated from my dream school, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I wanted to attend Michigan ever since I went to my first football game at The Big House when I was in second grade. My father, who graduated from Michigan, gave me Michigan socks at birth, taught my sister and me the fight song the entire drive to the game, and (not so) subtly shared his belief that Michigan is the best school in the world every possible chance he got. Michigan was the only school I wanted to attend—and fortunately I was accepted and became a Wolverine in 2015.
Gratitude was not a word that I used as a child. But writing thank you notes was a common practice in our household. And always saying “thank you.” From a young age, the importance of expressing appreciation for the kind gestures of others was instilled in me. In turn, I've always had a fear of people not knowing how truly grateful I am for their kindness.
With graduations across the country this spring, universities gained thousands of new alumni. But as soon as students graduate and leave campus, it becomes harder to engage with them and continue to build a relationship. One of the keys to connecting with new alumni is to not wait until they’ve graduated, but to engage with them before they become alumni. The more engaged and connected students are to an institution, the more likely they are to become engaged alumni. This speaks to Dr. Jay Le Roux Dillon’s idea of alumni identity—the measure of how deeply a graduate associates their own self-identity with their alma mater. The closer alumni feel to your institution, the more they’ll feel compelled to give—both time and money.
There’s a black hole lurking in higher education fundraising and its gravity is growing stronger.
Fed by three pervasive myths, the black hole is swallowing potential gifts at a time when institutions can ill-afford missed opportunities for philanthropy.
The data gold rush is on in higher ed advancement, and institutions hope to hit pay dirt by leveraging this data bonanza—whether it’s identifying alumni career journeys to better match mentors to mentees or discovering alumni interests to better target communications and fundraising. But unless advancement offices have a strong strategy backed by defined and talented resources, they’ll be left with little but a server full of fool’s gold.