While the pandemic may be ebbing, there are no shortage of world events adding to the current atmosphere of uncertainty. From war in Ukraine to massive layoffs in the tech industry to crazy weather phenomena, people around the world are understandably concerned about their economic and physical safety.
In uncertain times, people tend to look to their various communities for comfort and support. Educational institutions are in the unique position of being able to build and foster such a community for their alumni. The shared school experience, nostalgia and belief in common causes can serve to unite alumni regardless of their current geographic location, age or stage of life.
Of course, with the busy lives that many people lead today, there may be a number of organizations or other communities competing for your alumni’s attention. By being aware of the trends in alumni relations for 2023, you can make sure that your team is at the top of its game for the new year.
Read on for a review of the key trends in alumni relations to look out for and how you can leverage them to keep your alumni engaged.
Alumni relations trend #1: Personalization is key
It should be no surprise that personalization is the name of the game in alumni engagement, just as it is in so many other industries. People have come to expect personalized interactions from retailers (just look at Amazon and other commerce leaders’ personalized suggestions of products), service providers like insurance brokers and financial institutions, and they will expect the same when being contacted by their alma mater.
Gone are the days of generic mass letters and emails. Today, it’s not only possible but expected to use technology to easily customize communications and target the message directly to the recipient—and do so at scale.
Schools that use an alumni engagement tool like Graduway from Gravyty can offer their alumni a one-stop platform where they can customize their news feed and receive information that is relevant to their interests at a time that is convenient to them.
Alumni relations trend #2: It’s all about networking and career services
With the economy in turmoil and many companies fearing a recession and planning for layoffs, career advice and job-seeking support may just be the number one thing that people will seek from their fellow alumni. Alumni relations departments have a prime opportunity to use alumni engagement tools to upgrade their networking facilitation and career services offerings and watch engagement soar.
The strategy can and should involve a mix of in-person and virtual (more on this below) networking events and opportunities as well as setting up one-to-one mentoring relationships for those who are interested. An alumni network platform like Graduway makes it easy for interested alumni to sign up to be mentors and for would-be mentees to search for the right mentor that suits their needs.
Graduway is also the perfect place for alumni to advertise and share their own businesses. Graduates are likely to be happy to support other alumni and will enjoy having an easy place to search and find businesses run by fellow alumni.
Alumni relations trend #3: Find the right mix of virtual and in-person events
Think back to hosting a Zoom event back in 2019—people were probably wondering what that was and why they should attend! As 2023 dawns near, your alumni are completely comfortable and used to attending virtual events. At the same time, there is a newfound excitement about the prospect of seeing other human beings in person, so there is definitely a demand for in-person events too.
The trick in coming up with alumni engagement ideas in 2023 will be to find the right balance between virtual and in-person events so that alumni can get the best of both worlds and can choose what they would most like to participate in. The added advantage of virtual events is that you can bring together a much wider audience with no geographic limitations (although you may need to consider time zones), giving people who otherwise might not meet the opportunity to connect.
In addition to scheduled events, the advantage of a virtual platform like Graduway is that it offers a place where alumni can engage with each other on their own time. People can seek each other out and send direct messages to ask questions and get information and support when needed. Events can also be recorded so that people can watch them later if they are unable to attend in real-time.
Alumni relations trend #4: Match events and opportunities to stage of life
Hosting a mix of both live and virtual events also provides the opportunity to conduct more events throughout the year. Different events can even be held simultaneously, especially if they are online. This means that it will be easier to segment alumni and provide events and learning opportunities that are relevant to their specific stage of life.
While we’re on the subject of personalized attention, alumni will also appreciate events that have to do with the main focus of their life. For example, recent college graduates may find a careers fair in which they can network and look for jobs very useful. Alumni who are further along in their careers might prefer a more general networking event or a talk on a specialized subject e.g., how the latest changes in taxation law affects business owners.
The more diverse offerings the alumni relations team can put together, the more touch points there are for a wide range of alumni to connect and engage with the school.
Alumni relations trend #5: Make things more interesting with video
Everyone gets a million emails a day, most of which probably never even get opened. 2023 will be all about changing things up and using different mediums like video to catch your alumni’s attention. You can do an assortment of Instagram or Facebook “lives,” YouTube videos, or even personalized video messages that you can send directly to alumni via email, Whatsapp, SMS or your alumni relations platform like Graduway using Gratavid.
Get creative when thinking about alumni engagement ideas that use video. You can do things like video invitations to reunions or other events, personalized video messages for birthdays or other milestones, and encourage alumni to create and share their own videos.
If you want to highlight the accomplishments of particular alumni, you can interview them and put together a short video that can be shared in e-newsletters or on social media. This is also a great way to make alumni feel appreciated and special.
Alumni relations trend #6: Use your data wisely
Another side benefit of the Covid pandemic and the shift to living so much of life online is the sheer amount of data that is available. You can track every online interaction that you have with your alumni, and this will give you valuable information that you can use to create more personalized opportunities for engagement going forward. Alumni surveys sent via email or directly through an alumni engagement tool or platform are another good way to collect information about your community members.
While in the past, alumni engagement was measured almost exclusively by events attended and donations made, today there are new standards being set. Because alumni can be engaged and involved in so many different ways, it’s crucial to be able to put quantitative values on those activities in order to get an accurate picture of the overall impact and effectiveness of the alumni relations team.
Many schools are starting to use the CASE framework, which measures alumni engagement in 4 specific areas:
The Graduway platform can be set up to automatically track activities in these four areas, making it simple to evaluate alumni engagement programs and look for opportunities for improvement.
Alumni relations trend #7: Welcome new members
There will always be some alumni who are much more active and engaged than others. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect the reluctant or the outliers. Maybe you just have not yet offered something that appealed to them, or maybe the timing has always been wrong.
With such a strong emphasis on virtual events and making online connections, it’s easier than ever to reach a much broader and wider audience. You no longer are bound by geographic limitations—an event that once could hold no more than 50 people can go online and an unlimited number of alumni can join.
2023 is the time to rally the troops and get the engaged alumni to seek out their fellow graduates who have fallen off the radar.
Your force for alumni engagement in 2023
Your institution’s alumni are one of the strongest assets when it comes to being ambassadors and garnering support for the school. Investing even a little bit in providing the best possible alumni engagement experience will pay off in dividends.
You’ll end up with a thriving community of alumni who may be located all over the world but who are united in their support of each other and of their alma mater.
Find out how Graduway can help you create a central hub from which you can unleash the full power of your school community. Let’s talk.