COVID-19 has altered the way we connect and forced us to reimagine how to engage alumni, parents, and donors. Shelter-in-place mandates across much of the country led to innovative ways of staying in touch and engaged through digital channels. As regions begin to reopen, but still with social distancing measures and limited capacity for gatherings, higher education institutions are rethinking their engagement strategies for the remainder of 2020.
Colleges and universities have a unique position to support and engage their community digitally. During this uncertain time, parents, students, and alumni find comfort in hearing from an institution that played such an important role in their lives.
Many institutions have adopted the mantra “meet alumni where they are” in recent years with an increased focus on digital communication and engagement opportunities. At the same time, many have struggled with shifting attention away from the traditional reunion, homecoming, and gala events that commandeer a lot of human and monetary resources.
As you shore up plans for the next fiscal year, you will likely consider which engagement opportunities to pursue. This resource outlines creative engagement strategies that we have seen institutions across the country deploying.
Our Higher Education team finds that engagement opportunities fall within a few different “pathways”: mission-focused, career support, continuing education, fundraising, and entertainment. We encourage you to consider the value of each pathway, asking important questions:
- Does this virtual event serve a similar purpose to something we’ve had to cancel or postpone?
- Are we reaching a diverse set of community members? Can we use this as an opportunity to engage a subset of alumni or parents that we haven’t engaged in the past?
- Is this an opportunity for our regional volunteers to take an event and “run with it?”
- How much staff time is needed to execute on this event or opportunity?
- Are we diversifying our communications channels?
As you innovate and test new approaches, don’t be afraid to fail. If something is just not working—not appealing to your community, not getting traction in terms of sign ups, taking up too much staff time and resources—scrap it and move on.
In this resource, you’ll find examples of engagement strategies that our team has collected from higher education institutions across the country through our personal connections, colleagues’ alma maters, clients, and research.
For more support, read about our alumni engagement assessment services and check out these additional resources:
- Engage Alumni Online: 8 Strategies to Boost Your Efforts and ROI
- Alumni Engagement: Best Practices for Building Long-Term Relationships
And don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.