Alumni — They’re one of your institution’s most important groups. Not only can alumni be your school’s loudest supporters, but they are also your best pool of prospective donors. Alumni relations is critical to higher education fundraising.
While some may think it’s easy to maintain positive relationships with alumni, the challenges in doing so are very real. Alumni relations and development still function separately on many campuses, and this disconnect means missing a primary need of your department — to convert alumni into donors.
Engaging alumni is another challenge. How can you engage alumni beyond solicitation? When their alma mater only asks for money, it can breed resentment among alumni.
Finally, alumni departments may be working with limited staff. And as the diverse needs of an alumni department grow — needs of alumni relations, development, marketing, and more — a small staff can be a major complication.
Face these challenges head on through targeted communications that keep alumni informed about current campus issues. And when your communication engages alumni to take action in some way, it helps increase alumni loyalty and, ultimately, financial support. Marketing automation can help on both accounts.
Multi-channel automated marketing campaigns can engage alumni and, in a smart way, tie back to development activities. And you don’t need a big team in place to implement an automated marketing campaign when relevant messages are triggered automatically at the right time. It saves you time, helps you learn more about your alumni, and improves your communications and fundraising appeals moving forward.
So, can marketing automation work for your alumni relations and development activities? Here are some ideas to get you thinking.
Update and Add to Your Alumni Database
One of the most basic uses of campaign landing pages is for a survey. There is always a need to verify and update the information in your database, and there is probably more information you wish you knew about your alumni. Why not just ask them?
Personalized landing pages can be pre-populated with information from your database, such as name, address, email address, etc. Ask visitors to review the information and update it if necessary. Pre-populating the information makes it easier for alumni to complete, especially when nothing has changed. And what you get back is verified or cleaned-up data.
Then, there are the things you wish you knew about your alumni. What co-curricular activities were they involved with as students? What programs and activities on campus still interest them? Which communication channels do they prefer to get updates from about campus news? You can develop a short survey to unearth the answers. When you add this new information to your database, your future marketing and fundraising communications can be segmented based on what you learn.
Identify Alumni Mentors
Alumni are excellent role models for current students. They provide a real-life example of the success a degree from your institution provides. And there’s no doubt that other departments on campus reach out to your office for alumni contacts who can sit on a class panel or mentor students.
Engage the expertise of alumni by using an automated marketing campaign to learn more about the careers of alumni and to identify alumni mentors. Wouldn’t it be nice to know which of your alumni own businesses? How did their experience at your college or university impact their career? Again using a survey, you can ask these questions as well as gauge their interest in being a mentor to current students. It strengthens their relationship with your institution and enhances current students’ experiences.
Facilitate a Social Media Contest
Social media contests — Many organizations want to do them, but implementation can be tricky. User privacy settings (especially on Facebook) and other capabilities built into each social platform (that you can use for contests) can make accurate entry tracking difficult if not impossible. Driving a social media contest through a landing page is a safer way to go.
Whether you’ve been on a social network for awhile or are jumping into something new (hello Snapchat!), you need to build awareness — especially among alumni who are no longer on or near campus. A campaign with a contest element can help you grow your alumni audience on a new or existing network, engage participants, and provide another opportunity for gathering data. The landing page of your campaign provides contest rules and a place for fool-proof entry, such as uploading a “Where are you now?” photo.
No matter the aim of your campaign, you should promote it across multiple channels with multiple touches (read our campaign best practices post). Launch it with a simple postcard that directs recipients to the campaign landing page. Include a few emails, social media posts, and maybe another direct mail piece. By implementing a multi-channel campaign, you help ensure that alumni from any generation hear about the campaign and have the chance to participate.
An automated marketing campaign can positively impact the work of your alumni relations, development, and marketing teams. When you work with a partner to run the campaign, it frees up your staff time to focus on other important initiatives. You can generate results that help you meet your goals and improve the relationship with your alumni at the same time.
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