Without strong alumni relations, your prospect pool will be significantly reduced and your chances of significant fundraising success compromised. Alumni have the potential to be your most loyal and generous supporters.
What is an alumnus?
It is important for your institution to decide how it defines an alumnus and to document this to avoid any confusion.
The classic definition of alumnus is a graduate or former student of a specific school, college or university. Different institutions develop their own definitions of what alumnus means
- Some restrict the term to graduates
- Others widen the definition to include all former students (even those who failed to finish), retired staff and other associates
Why is alumni relations important?
In the past, alumni relations, or engagement, tended to be treated as a stand-alone activity divorced from fundraising and other advancement activities. Indeed, some alumni associations were entirely independent of their parent institutions, and whilst their members interacted with each other, they had very little interaction with the institution.
Today, alumni relations is an important part of an institution’s advancement activities for many reasons:
- Alumni are an institution’s most loyal supporters
- Alumni are fundraising prospects
- Alumni generate invaluable word-of-mouth marketing among their social and professional networks
- By engaging alumni, an institution can continue to benefit from their skills and experience
- Alumni are great role models for current students and are often well placed to offer practical support to students as they start their careers
- Alumni are often in the position to engage the expertise of the institution in their professional lives
- Your alumni are your international ambassadors. They take their knowledge of your institution to their hometowns and countries and into their professional and social networks
Maintaining a positive relationship with your alumni means that the messages they share about your institution will also be positive – and current.
If the relationship between your alumni and your institution stalls when they leave campus, their knowledge of your activities and achievements will no longer evolve. The messages they will share with people will be out-of-date and could reflect poorly on the progress your institution has since achieved.
Maintaining communication channels with alumni means you can keep them informed of your achievements and make them part of your institution’s future, not just its past.
Good alumni relations benefits alumni as well as the institution. If you support your alumni in their professional and personal lives through activities such as the facilitation of social and professional networks, preferential access to on-campus expertise and facilities and negotiated benefits with third-party suppliers, they are likely to be your loyal life-long supporters. Your support may also help your alumni achieve positions of success and influence, which will in turn benefit your institution as they begin to give back.
By helping the institution become bigger, stronger and more successful, alumni are also enhancing the value of their own degree qualification.