In her book The Alumni Way, Dr. Maria Gallo describes what she calls “alumni capital.” Alumni capital is the powerful social capital that can be harnessed through alumni networks. She argues that alumni relations are no longer a one-way street, in which colleges approach students looking for money. Instead, more grads than ever are looking for more value from their alumni network.
As graduates reenvision their alumni network as a place to network, learn about career options, and eventually give back, more universities and colleges are benefiting from this new era of the mutually beneficial alumni network.
The good news is, even while alumni relations and advancement offices are feeling the pinch of expanding missions and competing institutional visions, there’s more opportunity than ever to use digital solutions to serve your alumni and to scale the value you can provide to them. These types of platforms give you the ability to create deeper alumni connections and leverage that alumni capital.
In this article, we’ll talk about choosing the right alumni management software, including features you should look for and we’ll walk through some of the top options.
What is alumni management software?
Alumni management software helps you serve and connect a large alumni network—usually graduates from your college or university—into a virtual community where they can collaborate, network, and more.
You’ll often see this kind of software referred to as an alumni community platform or alumni membership management software, too.
No matter what it’s called, the best alumni management software will be a boon for both sides—the university and the alumni in question. Let’s look a little closer at the kind of benefits these platforms tend to offer.
What can you do with alumni management software?
1. Build your alumni database
If you’re a university looking to build a database of your alumni, the right kind of alumni membership management software will let you do just that. You can collect data on the industries they work in and their level of seniority. It’s also great if you can identify where they are geographically, which is really valuable for local events and meetings.
Even better, if they can use this “database” function to find each other, they’ll be able to take the initiative to build relationships with alumni in their area.
Ideally, whatever alumni management software you choose will allow you to dive even deeper. Emphasis on manage, here: We’re talking the ability to manage your alumni members, download member data and activity, plus access to detailed analytics on each of your members, their posts, and all other activity.
2. Networking, job placement, and knowledge sharing
Another benefit of an alumni community platform is the sheer possibility of connection. Alumni who have graduated 10 or 20 years apart aren’t always able to connect with each other. LinkedIn has taken us a long way in this regard, but it’s still limited in terms of letting people find each other. A dedicated alumni network platform can exponentially expand the possibilities for networking and knowledge sharing, facilitating the valuable connections your alumni care about.
But with the right alumni management software in place, they’ll be able to connect, collaborate, and perhaps most importantly, network. Alumni who are more established in their careers can offer advice or mentorship. Recent graduates can learn about career opportunities and even land jobs they wouldn’t have otherwise heard of. All this can happen with great alumni management software.
Plus, if you dedicate your alumni network platform as a true community space, you can take it even further. When you offer community-forward features like direct messaging, a customizable activity feed, and more, you open up the potential for connection between your alumni members.
3. Virtual events that everyone can come to
Speaking of virtual events, let’s get real for a second: Some graduates are more financially successful than others. Not everyone can afford to travel back to their alma mater for every event or reunion.
The best alumni management software recognizes this and understands that one of the most accessible best ways to keep a community engaged is virtually. What does that look like? Maybe it’s formal mini-lectures every Wednesday and less formal virtual happy hours every other Friday. Perhaps you bring in successful or established alumni every Monday to take questions and expend advice. You get the idea.
With a robust alumni network platform, you can widen your network of active, involved alumni. And in the end, that’s better for everyone: By casting a wider net, you’ll have a larger, more diverse group of people, each one providing a huge value add to another.
4. Fundraising made easy
Most institutions rely heavily on sponsors, fundraising, fancy galas, and the like. But usually, asking for said contributions isn’t exactly a straightforward process. More often than not, you’re sending your alumni something in the mail, asking them to give to a college or university that they may not have thought about in years.
But with an alumni community platform, you’re offering a ton of value—enough value to inspire your members to give back financially. And you can give them a variety of ways to do so, whether it’s with tiered memberships for those who can afford it, paid groups where alumni in certain fields can come together to navigate challenges or a yearly virtual conference.
Now that you understand what the benefits of alumni management software can be, let’s go a little deeper into the features you should look for.
5. Let established alumni give back
We’ve talked about this in the last points, but let’s just say it. We’re often asking alumni to give back with their wallets. But more and more, alumni relations staff are recognizing the value of having alumni give back in other terms. The career center would love to be able to connect soon-to-be grads with past alumni in their fields. Profs would love to bring alumni in to talk about projects. A good alumni management software lets you build these deeper connections that go far beyond just asking for money, and provide way more value to your current students and recent grads.
What features should alumni management software have?
Above, we offered a broad overview of the kinds of features included in the best alumni management software. But it’s worth getting a little more explicit about the key features that can be the difference between an alumni community that’s successful, and one that is, well, less so.
Here are the must-have features to look out for:
A website builder with iOS and Android access
Building your own alumni management software from scratch is very expensive, very time-consuming, and more often than not, a nightmare.
Your best bet is to utilize an alumni network platform with a modern website builder. That way, all you have to do is plug in your institution’s logo, brand colors, and do a little configuring. That’s it!
To make the most of your alumni management software, you’ll also want to go with an option that’s powerful enough to expand with you in the future. Above, we spun up a few different ideas for fundraising: online courses, membership tiers, paid groups. Even if you’re not going to start with those features, you’ll want to leave the door open for the possibility of adding them in the future.
Lastly, your ideal alumni community platform will be instantly available on the web, iOS, and Android—so your alumni can touch base wherever they are, whenever they want.
Tools for community building and management
The best alumni management software is equal parts community-building platform and member management software.
As far as community building goes, look out for the following native features:
- A customizable activity feed with capabilities for text, links, images, and video.
- The ability to natively live stream.
- The option to create posts, comments, and cheers.
- Beautiful member profiles with custom categories (think graduation year and/or career field).
- Direct & group messaging between members.
- The ability to find members by location (to enable alumni to meet up on their own).
- Options for fully-branding your alumni community apps.
The point of thinking of your alumni community platform as just that—a community—is that it opens the door for both sides to reap all the benefits. Your alumni get the chance to navigate challenges together, build relationships with each other, and accomplish things that they couldn’t on their own. And your alumni relations and major gifts staff will benefit from the chance to keep their university top of mind for alumni and open up new funding opportunities.
Still, with great power comes great responsibility. In other words, the more successful your alumni community platform is, and the more it grows, the more robust membership management tools you need.
Here are a few bonus features that can come in handy:
- The ability to charge for membership.
- Tools to mass notify members and message all members.
- Downloadable membership data and activity.
- The ability to create exclusive content, premium groups, and the like.
- Tools to expand down the line with features like online courses.
With the above tools, you’ll be able to streamline the ways your members communicate with each other and the ways you communicate with them, too.
Now let’s see what platforms will let you do it all.
Top 3 alumni management software options
Mighty Pros is a dynamic and versatile software-as-a-service where your college or university can bring together a community, events, live streams, and even courses, in one place under your own brand instantly available on the web, iOS, and Android.
It comes with a community platform that we customize with your brand, and it will help your institution build powerful alumni connections. Mighty Pro has a ton of applications for knowledge-sharing, with some of the most recognizable names in education using it. For example, it’s what Cambridge University uses to connect a professional network of researchers, creating research clusters and interdisciplinary connections with their community app. It’s also what TED uses to connect their community of presenters.
With a ton of power, and as a natural fit for education-related networks, Mighty Pro is the perfect alumni solution. We’ll work closely with you to custom-build the community and app that you need. We take care of the development, train your staff on using the platform, and give you ongoing VIP support to make sure it’s successful.
With Mighty Pro, you’ve got fantastic member management tools at the ready, like member analytics, the ability to charge for membership, and more. Plus, you’ll have plenty of community-building tools at your disposal, from private direct messaging and a customizable activity feed to beautiful member profiles.
Pros of Mighty Pro
With Mighty Pro you can expand your idea of an alumni community platform. Yes, you’ll have plenty of ways to encourage connections between your members, enable them to build relationships, and more. But you’ll also have the room to expand down the line with paid membership tiers, premium mastermind groups, online courses, and more if you choose
Even better? Both you and your members will be able to access your alumni network platform wherever they are, via the web and native mobile apps. That’s huge: There’s a greater chance to stay top-of-mind for your members when you can be with them wherever they are.
Cons of Mighty Pro
It's not a LinkedIn network, so you’ll need to find a way to bring your alumni onto the platform (but we can help with planning that).
The bottom line: Utilizing Mighty Pro as alumni management software is a fantastic way to launch and grow a community of alumni and fundraise in not-so-typical ways. If you’re looking for an alumni network platform that has all the tools for you to succeed and then some, Mighty Pro is your best bet.
Hivebrite positions itself firmly as the go-to alumni network platform. As such, the software offers solid community management tools, including the ability to add, update, and moderate content, plus tools to manage your events and payments in one place.
That being said, there’s not much room to grow or get creative. So if you want to go beyond just alumni management at any point, you simply won’t be able to.
Pros of Hivebrite
Hivebrite offers robust alumni management software. You can create membership plans, set up donations, post jobs, share opportunities, and much more. Plus, your members will be able to privately message each other and customize their profiles.
Cons of Hivebrite
That being said, Hivebrite won’t give you any room to grow. You can set up somewhat limited memberships, but there’s no chance for premium groups or online courses. Additionally, some users have said that as far as alumni community platforms go, Hivebrite has a steep learning curve and that its mobile app is seriously lacking, especially when compared to its desktop version.
The bottom line: Hivebrite is certainly a strong contender for best alumni management software: it has all the tools to build, manage, and grow an alumni community. That being said, its mobile app leaves much to be desired, and the platform offers little to no room for growth.
Almabase is a powerful alumni management software solution for alumni engagement and fundraising. As a platform, it focuses on helping institutions acquire new donors, drive event attendance, and increase digital engagement. Like Hivebrite, it’s a good get if your one and only mission is managing alumni.
Pros of Almabase
Almabase works alongside your existing alumni database with integrations like Ellucian and Salesforce. While its main focus is on fundraising—their site mentions peer-to-peer crowdfunding—and virtual and in-person events, they also have somewhat of a community aspect, with an alumni directory, chances for networking, and a career center.
Cons of Almabase
The two biggest limitations to Almabase are the limited customization options and the fact that Almabase doesn’t have an app. Apps are especially becoming pretty standard in serving alumni, so this is a miss.
The bottom line: Almabase can be a good solution if you’re looking for your more traditionalalumni management software. You’ll be able to get the basics done, but your alumni won’t be able to access their alumni community platform on their mobile devices—a huge loss.