The success of any private school is partly dependent on strong relationships with its alumni. Developing these lasting connections is a way to ensure that your alumni will support your institution for years to come.
Schools need alumni to help with fundraising efforts, but it’s important to remember that alums don’t want to feel like ATMs. If we only focus our attention on asking alums for money, we’re missing out on some fantastic networking that will foster relationships, preserve the history of our schools, and promote our institutions to prospective students and fill the seats at our events, which, yes, will likely lead to increased donations.
Many institutions call this “friendraising” but all too often, this tactic is considered to be less important than fundraising. When a school focuses too much on simply asking for money, alumni feel like they don’t matter to the school and like there’s really no reason for them to stay connected.
Focusing on the long-term game, friendraising will ultimately lead to increased fundraising. If schools take the time to get to know their alumni, develop and maintain strong relationships, and give alums something that matters to them. That could be serving as a friend-finder, reuniting classmates who have fallen out of touch; helping a young alum connect with someone in the same industry for mentoring and career advice; or simply sending out an alumni directory that includes a list of “B&B” offerings from constituents who are willing to open their homes to other alums for a night or even a week as they travel around the world for school, work or pleasure.
But how do you do this right? It’s important for alumni offices to connect with their marketing & communications departments to ensure that outreach efforts are balanced, user-friendly, and effective. Your marketing department is trained to understand the ways in which your audience consumes information, and as such, they are the perfect partners to craft your messages and ensure they are reaching your audience and achieve your goals.
Alumni relationships are vital to the continued success of our institutions, both financially and in the sense of maintaining a strong world-wide community that will forever sing the praises of our schools. This doesn’t have to be a difficult task, and believe it or not, you already have a vehicle for connecting with your alums in place: Class Notes.
In an article I wrote for The Student Center blog, I shared 10 ways in which schools can use class notes to build and nurture relationships with alumni, none of which include asking for money. This advice could be the first step you make to building better alumni relationships.