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15 Alumni Engagement Ideas for 2024

Here are 15 alumni engagement ideas to try, as well as some principles for growing alumni engagement.

By Mighty Team

April 17, 2024

10 min read

Alumni engagement can feel like a big lift sometimes. With 87% of alumni professionals admitting they need to improve engagement, you probably know it’s a priority. But it can be challenging to actually move the needle on alumni engagement, and many alumni professionals are discouraged because they have tried a ton of different things and seen almost no results.

In this article, we want to talk about growing alumni engagement. An engaged alumni network doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

And when you take alumni engagement beyond asking for money, you can see some pretty huge returns. We’ll share 15 alumni engagement ideas to try, as well as some principles for growing alumni engagement.

How to grow alumni engagement

Give value

One of the underlying strategies for all of these ideas is to focus not only on getting, but on giving value.

In her book, The Alumni Way, Maria Gallo sketches a future for alumni relations. Her proposition is that alumni networks need to evolve from being one directional to being mutually valuable.

Instead of coming to alumni for a handout or asking for donations, alumni relations should be about building work Gallo calls alumni capital – powerful social networks that benefit both current students and alumni alike.

The underlying thread here is that alumni engagement needs to be giving value. It needs to go beyond uni-directional, and it definitely shouldn’t just consist of fundraising.

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Go digital

One of the biggest failures of alumni networks in the past has been the way they were limited by geography.

Of course, we often had regional chapters. But in a world where alumni spread out all over the country, it could be challenging to build meaningful connections outside of the college town.

The growth of digital online engagement means you can serve alumni at scale. Opting for digital engagement for at least part of your alumni engagement strategy is important.

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If you’re already engaged on digital but struggling to make it meaningful, we’ll talk about some ideas for you below.

Embrace lifelong learning

Education isn't something that's time-bound anymore. Sure, your alumni might have finished a degree. But they will build on that with a lifetime of education.

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The OECD reports that learning for life will be inevitable for the future of work, as skills and labor markets evolve quickly. There's an incredible opportunity here for your institution to evolve from being about a one-time transaction to being an enabler of that lifetime learning.

This could mean offering things like courses, continuing education, upskilling opportunities, and more. Partnering with students in lifelong learning really is one of the quickest routes to providing the type of value we already talked about and using technology helps you scale these efforts.

Choose asynchronous

Alumni are spread across time zones, and even the ones in your city are busy. Expecting people to fully engage and commit to live, in person events is a lot. In the past, you may have seen events bound by time and space with lower turnouts.

That’s why asynchronous offerings should be part of your alumni engagement strategy.

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This is not to say you shouldn't do live events. They play a powerful role in alumni relations.

But you can also mix in asynchronous offerings to build alumni engagement without needing live attendance. Things like a community platform, asynchronous courses, and content strategies can all be leveraged to engage alumni on their time tables.

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Alumni engagement ideas

1. Start a community

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We talk a lot about alumni networks, but more and more of us are using the word alumni “community.” And ultimately, that’s what more alumni are seeking. A network is powerful for job searching and career opportunities. But a community can help alumni make friends, learn, and grow. An alumni networking event is something people check into once in a while. An alumni community can create something people check into weekly.

Community sparks conversation, questions, lifelong learning, and deeper relationships between your institution and its alumni.

The most popular way to start an alumni community is with software. A good alumni management software goes beyond a simple forum function, letting you engage with alums through many of the features we’ll talk about below: courses, events, apps, and surveys.

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2. Offer courses

Since lifelong learning is becoming an essential part of alumni engagement, courses are a great alumni engagement idea.

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A course could be used to offer upskillling or continuing education in a specific field. But one of the best ways to use courses for alumni engagement is with generic courses that almost everybody needs. Consider adding courses like "Resume Design" or "Creating a Career Vision," courses that offer skills almost everyone needs.

You could tap your existing alumni network to find people to teach these courses, especially since established career folks may have unique perspectives and insights. Courses could be offered synchronously or asynchronously, but having a live session with a recording that lives long after in a course library is probably a great way to go.

You can promote the course either in a private alumni network or via email. While most institutions do these courses for free, you could consider charging a nominal fee to keep people accountable for showing up and/or to compensate the instructor.

3. Host live events

Live events have pretty much always been a staple of alumni relations, and that will probably continue. We are seeing a mixture of live in person, virtual events, and hybrid as more institutions adopt a digital first strategy.

But a live event should be exciting, and too often alumni networks produce disappointing events.

If you're planning a live event, stop to ask yourself and your team, "What will people get out of this event?"

Why will people come to your event?

These days, school spirit isn't usually enough to get alumni out to an event. There needs to be an added value. If they know they are going to learn something or make valuable connections, it's more likely that alumni will drop by.

Here are some ideas for alumni events:

  • A knowledge-building conference

  • A destination event (e.g. a cruise through Europe)

  • A networking or mentoring session

  • A training or continuing learning session

  • A life skill class (e.g. managing personal finance)

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4. Give out awards

One great way to keep alumni engaged is to recognize them for their accomplishments. Offering some sort of award to celebrate alumni achievements can keep them connected to the school and get them coming back.

It has the added bonus of spotlighting what alumni can and do accomplish for current and prospective students, which can help them in their career planning.

5. Interview other alums

It goes without saying that institutions see their alumni networks as financial opportunities.

But one of the greatest potentials for an alumni network that most institutions haven't tapped yet (at least not enough) is to help current students learn about career options and access opportunities.

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Creating events where students can access existing alumni is a way to help alumni give back without asking for cash. Your students will thank you too, not to mention your career center. If done well, this type of event can be a huge boost to alumni engagement.

6. Build an app

When you're thinking about offering all of these things like community, courses, and virtual events, consider offering them on an app.

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Having your own alumni app under your institution's brand in the App Store and Google Play Store creates extra value for your alumni.

It means that you can get alumni engagement in the palm of their hands, with custom content and notifications. Unlike alumni engagement work on LinkedIn or Facebook, there are no distractions in a private alumni app. There are no cat videos or political posts. You can do the important work of serving your alumni.

Having a branded app under your institution brand gets all of your alumni engagement into one place.

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7. Go to video

While there is a generation of alumni that prefer to read things, it's undeniable that millennials and especially gen z prefer to watch things.

If you haven't yet done it, video is the new frontier you should discover for alumni engagement.

All the same rules apply here. You need to get value to your alumni through your video efforts, whether it's through a live stream or a pre-recorded video on YouTube channel or that you email. People need a reason to watch.

But, that being said, even fundraising campaigns can be more effective with video. Having somebody from your senior leadership team present a powerful case for institutional giving can have more impact than an email or paper letter asking the same thing.

8. Entertain

Chances are, part of your alumni engagement is happening on social media. And chances are, a lot of it is being ignored.

Many institutions create content that is instantly forgettable. And that's why a secret power of alumni engagement can be entertainment.

If you can create content that inspires people, stories that interest them, you will see a higher rate of engagement.

If your social media is currently filled with announcements and giving requests, it might be time to think bigger. Creating great content that provides value can take more work, but it's worth it. And bonus, you can cross share across social channels and in your private alumni network.

9. Alumni sporting events

Having alumni come back to participate in a sporting event against current students can be a neat way to keep them engaged and to have some fun!

10. Alumni spotlights

And if you’re looking for content for your social media channels and private alumni network, how about alumni spotlights? These can showcase the life and accomplishments of existing alumni with great storytelling (text and/or video). It gives alumni an incentive to share your stories about them and their peers.

11. Run a survey

Instead of guessing at what alumni want, why not ask them? You could run a survey to find out what people are looking for and be open to new ideas about alumni engagement.

On a smaller scale, you can create polls and questions within your alumni network. These are great for everyday feedback and insights.

Or, you can design a more comprehensive survey with something like Survey Monkey. Make sure to offer some sort of reward for filling it out! You’ll get much better engagement.

12. A job board

For your current students looking for internships or their first careers, a job board that’s populated by alumni can provide a way to access great career opportunities and give them a leg up to get their career started.

13. Alumni entrepreneur program

Or, beyond actual jobs, if you have alumni who are entrepreneurs, they may be willing to sign up to mentor entrepreneurial students.

14. Offer lifelong learning

This has been a theme through this post, but it really is a big part of the future of alumni relations. We’ve talked a lot about how to do it: community, courses, and events, but however you offer lifelong learning, it can and should be a part of your alumni engagement strategy.

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15. Reunions

The alumni reunion is a tried and true way of engaging alumni. People love to come back to their alma mater to walk the old stompin’ grounds and reminisce. A homecoming is the most common way to accomplish this, and it’s often done in September or October to coincide with new students coming into the school.

Ready to build?

If you want to get started building an alumni app that lets you mix together an alumni community, courses, and engaging content with features like live streaming, virtual events, polls, and discussions, come build with Mighty Pro!

With these features built on your own app, you can mix community, content, and courses together. All this happens on your institution’s app that we design for you and get into the App Store and Google Play Store.

Mighty Pro has designed apps for Cambridge University and TED. And you get access to the Mighty Pro Team of account strategists and community strategists.

Schedule a call today and we’ll show you what we could build together!

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