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5 Engagement Practices Your Alumni Association Should Start Right Now

    

A network is only as strong as its members.

And when those members aren’t active or consistent in their communication, you’re left with nothing more than a list of names in a black book.

However, if you want your alumni association to have real power and influence among its membership and the larger community, then you have to create a culture of engagement.

Your members need to talk to each.

You need to talk to your members.

But most importantly, your members need to be informed, involved, and inspired.

To help get your alumni association ticking like a finely-tuned Rolex, here are 5 engagement practices you’ll want to start right now.

5. Keep your member contact information up-to-date

Keep your member contact information up-to-date

This is a simple one, but you’d be surprised at how many alumni associations forget this fundamental step.

Here’s the scenario:

  • You send an email...it gets ignored.
  • You try to call...it goes to straight to voicemail.
  • You mail a newsletter...and it gets returned to sender.

Unfortunately, these are often the fruits that come with outdated contact information.

And having this kind of imprecise information is worse than having no information at all.

Why?

Because you’ll actually waste time attempting to contact these disconnected lines, old email addresses, and previous houses.

To combat this, you’ll need to do two things, and thankfully you can start them today.

  1. Create an intake process for new members that includes a form requiring as much viable contact information as possible—you can use a master Excel or Google spreadsheet for this.

    A. For example: phone numbers, emails, addresses, social media accounts, graduation year, etc.

    B. Special Note: Make the form suggestible (not editable), and explain why it’s important to get full buy-in; the transparency will go a long way toward getting it filled completely.
  2. Request applicable changes annually. This will help keep your contact information up-to-date. Be careful of provacy concerns, however--sending out a master list of everyone's personal information without redacting sensitive information is a "no-no."

A properly sanitized contact document available to the membership can also be used to foster and nurture networking within the organization. Consider, for example, a focus on members' chosen career paths...

Need some advice from an estate lawyer? Find a brother on the list.

Looking for a partner on a potential real estate venture? Reach out to a fellow sister.

By creating a document that bridges the gap between members, you’ll build better ties within your membership, strengthen your existing network, and form a more connected body.

4. Implement regular and consistent communications

Let’s face it:

It can be HARD to get the attention of your alumni members.

Your members have lives. Their children are getting older. Their careers are becoming more demanding, and they have hobbies and interests outside of the alumni association.

And these burdens of time are understandable, even expected .

Which is why it’s so important to maintain regular and consistent communication—and the best way to do this is by using a strategic email campaign.

With email, you can send the message you’d like (an offer, an update, a call for donations, etc.) on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Not only will this keep you connected with your membership, it’ll keep your members on the same page regarding chapter initiatives, events, and internal changes.

An engaged alumni association is an informed one, so leverage email marketing to keep your association top-of-mind in members that may otherwise be caught up in their own routine.

3. Put on a thoroughly planned annual event

If you want to keep your members engaged, give them something to look forward to.

This can be an annual fundraiser, a leadership retreat, or a homecoming banquet for wayward brothers and sisters. The event itself doesn’t matter as much as creating a consistent opportunity for your members to get together in fellowship.

However, what does matter is the quality of the event.

The event should be thoroughly planned and impeccably executed with no exceptions. For brothers and sisters traveling far-and-wide to come back to an alumni event, it’s critically important to its continued success that it be worth coming back to.

In the same breath, you’ll also want to ensure you’re marketing the event properly to create higher demand and participation among members.

If your association is lacking experience in this field or scope, reach out to a professional consultant—particularly in your first attempt. If you set the bar high, it’ll mean continued engagement and participation for years to come.

2. Create volunteer opportunities for a participating body

Create volunteer opportunities for a participating body

Similar to creating a foundational event for your alumni association, one of the best ways to keep your members engaged is to give them opportunities to get together for a good cause.

Which means volunteering.

Volunteer work is one of the guiding principles of Greek Life from the undergraduate chapter to the local alumni association.

Volunteer work, charity, and philanthropy were likely influencing factors in why your members joined your fraternity or sorority in the first place, so give them the chance to do some public good, bond with other members, and feel a little better about themselves after helping someone else.

1. Develop a fundraising program

As a non-profit organization, your organization will likely live and die on membership dues. However, you cannot rely on dues alone if you want to grow your operations or take on more ambitious projects.

For that, you need to fundraise.

Fundraising can be a tricky thing for many alumni associations because consistently soliciting your members can feel like you’re always requesting money.

And unfortunately, that can have the adverse effect of putting off potential donors and, ultimately, weaken your alumni engagement overall.

To fundraise the right way, rather than continuously messaging your members with fundraising and donation requests, create a fundraising program. A fundraising program is simply a schedule of annual fundraising events in which the expectation is to raise as much money as possible for the association as a whole or a particular cause.

To make an effective fundraising campaign, here are a few things to remember:

  • Ask appropriately – once or twice per year, from the alumni association, with NO asks by undergrads.
  • Quickly process payments. If you have a donor call you to ask if their check has been cashed, you’re not building their confidence.
  • Say thank you...as soon as they make a pledge or payment.
  • Recognize donors in an upcoming newsletter or at an event.
  • Tell donors ow their gift is making an impact: Did you upgrade the internet because of fundraising efforts? Did the chapter have a good recruitment period because we were able to allocate more funds to that budget?  Are your funds subsidizing alumni engagement?

By implementing a well-constructed fundraising program, you’ll be setting consistent expectations among your members—and the public—on when it’s acceptable to donate.

Soliciting your members for donations with varying degrees of frequency can cause your members to disengage from the fundraising process.

However, if you can give them a clear and consistent schedule of fundraising events, it’ll mean better results and participation in the long run.

For free resources, guidance, and other materials to help you with your engagement efforts.
Call 1.785.843.1661 or contact us directly here.

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