With the start of the new year comes new opportunities for growth and development. Excited to accomplish newly minted resolutions, people are eagerly looking forward to what's ahead.
For alumni relations departments especially, a year filled with strong alumni engagement is definitely on the list. But with 90% of alumni professionals admitting they do a poor job of engaging alumni, especially younger alumni, strategies of the past are clearly not cutting it.
Creating defined resolutions and goals is a fantastic way for alumni associations to ensure they have a productive and innovative year.
Let’s look at some key resolutions that alumni relations departments should consider as they enter 2023.
Resolution #1: Continue Pandemic-based Strategies for Engaging Alumni
At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, people were confined to their homes and devoid of human interaction. Companies, schools, and organizations needed to create new ways to reach their target audiences and establish a sense of engagement between their members. Virtual events rose in popularity and helped the industry reach an estimated value of $114 billion in 2021.
As pandemic restrictions began to subside and in-person events began to resurface, many individuals were still wary to attend large events or gatherings – thus hybrid events were born. This new event strategy plan allowed a wide range of alumni engagement opportunities. Organizations could continue traditional engagement activities while still capitalizing on those wishing to attend virtually.
Unfortunately, many institutions have abandoned these successful strategies completely, trying to once again meet the world’s previous levels of “normalcy.” Schools have adopted the “old habits die hard” mentality and are reverting back to the pre-pandemic strategy of on-campus events at the center of their alumni engagement and even recruitment efforts. However, many alumni still want the flexibility the pandemic brought to their lives. They want the option to meet in-person if they can or participate virtually if it’s more convenient.
To maximize alumni engagement, it’s imperative that colleges and universities exhibit the ability to pivot between pre- and post-pandemic alumni advancement initiatives. Not only will this boost engagement at events by eliminating barriers to entry, such as travel and cost, but it can reach a larger target audience.
Resolution #2: Revamp Alumni Relations Departments
It’s no secret that the pandemic brought about a massive wave of employee layoffs and resignations. Organizations are still grappling with how to operate effectively while balancing cost and output. Alumni organizations must take a hard look at what they are looking to accomplish and the personnel they need to effectively achieve it.
According to Chris Marshall, the former Associate Vice President for Alumni Affairs at Cornell University and current CEO at Chris Marshall Advancement Consulting, the ideal alumni professional should have a skill set comprised of “40% marketing communications, 30% volunteer management, 20% event planning, and 10% fundraising.”
Rather than implementing a unilateral approach when restructuring an organization, alumni associations need to create alumni relations jobs that build a well-defined hierarchy – new skills and competencies should be attained as individuals move up the organizational ladder. Job descriptions should accurately reflect the association's needs and attract qualified candidates. An organization's recruitment effort in 2023 and beyond should include offering employees the opportunity to create a hybrid schedule, as this has become highly desirable. Properly incentivizing individuals can help lure and retain top talent.
Resolution #3: Create a 3-Pronged Event Strategy
When it comes to engaging alumni, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach or event strategy plan. In our recent webinar, MIT’s Christine Tempesta spoke to the need to view events as three different buckets rather than everything being simply “hybrid.” Here’s a breakdown:
- In-person events. Relationships are built face-to-face, and in-person events, gatherings, and socials allow just that. Alumni can easily interact with their former peers, re-establish meaningful connections, and gain access to networking opportunities.
- Virtual events. Virtual events are a great way to reach a larger audience. Individuals can participate and maintain engagement from anywhere around the world. Even if traveling to events is not a problem, many still prefer the flexibility of hopping on and joining in the conversation from the comfort of their homes.
- Hybrid events. In-person attendance is ideal, yet alumni associations shouldn’t alienate those who want to participate in real-time but aren’t able to on campus. Hybrid events allow for greater participation and increase inclusivity.
All three of these event types are crucial for engaging alumni successfully. A singular, blanket event strategy plan will no longer work. Schools that have a 3-pronged approach, on the other hand, will effectively launch initiatives and drive maximum participation in all three categories.
Resolution #4: Capitalize on the Benefits of Technology
Technological advancements have made alumni engagement efforts more manageable throughout the years. Although technology platforms such as community management and engagement systems seem enticing, it’s easy to become distracted by all the bells and whistles. Before making any investments, organizations should first identify what they wish to achieve and why they’re even looking for a solution in the first place. Then, the organization can start sourcing the product or program that solves that specific need.
Stick to Your 2023 Resolutions with BrightCrowd
Make resolutions and stick to them in 2023 with BrightCrowd. With our digital books, you can better engage alumni, take a 3-pronged approach to your event planning, and use simple technology to overcome your biggest alumni relations challenges. With just a few minutes of setup, organizations can obtain a significant return on investment (ROI) that can make years of difference in engagement, reunion participation, and even giving.
Are you ready to get a jump start on your 2023 alumni engagement efforts? Learn more about how BrightCrowd can help you achieve your alumni advancement resolutions and enhance your organization's success!