Alumni reunions are the most anticipated university activity for college graduates. It’s a celebration where former classmates and friends are invited to reconnect, reminisce over memories from decades past, and learn what others have been up to since their last encounter. Jerome Short, a psychology professor at George Mason University said in an article, “In the college years, we had goals of identity establishment and emotional intimacy in relationships. A reunion allows us to fill in details of our life stories.”
While social media has become the go-to source for your alumni network, the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of social interactions and face-to-face connections.
As your alumni relations team plans for the 2022 alumni reunion, there are three times as many attendees to consider. In this catch-all 2022 reunion year, it’s essential to drive enthusiasm and alumni engagement in advance of the reunion. By doing so, alumni will feel a deeper connection to their former college class and university, and be even more motivated to attend their reunion and get involved.
We recommend these 10 ways to maximize alumni community engagement in preparation for this special reunion and foster a worthwhile, thriving experience for all of your alumni.
1) Start with a Centralized Alumni Community App
Your alumni network is located globally and while they plan to return for the reunion, until then you’ll have to creatively drum anticipation and excitement from afar. An alumni reunion app is the ideal way to stay organized and manage your alumni database. With this approach, setup one designated virtual space to enable former classmates to reconnect, stay informed with the latest alumni and reunion updates, and save you and your team administrative time.
Check out the fourth blog of our series where we discuss alumni reunion app best practices, specific features and ideas to form a strong digital alumni community year-round.
2) Extend your alumni communications strategy far and wide
Now that you’ve set up your alumni reunion app, how do you plan to invite your alumni to use it? One important aspect to note is that your alumni are multigenerational. Leverage various marketing strategies to draw them in. Whether that’s hosting an email campaign, sending out flyers by mail, or e-flyers with QR Codes that you publish on your website or different social media channels. The more creative and diverse ways you promote it, the more likely your alumni will join and participate.
3) Utilize your alumni committee: call upon your most influential promoters
Your committee is a team of alumni with an abundance of school spirit. Prime reasons for their participation is the admiration that they have for their graduating class and love of their alma mater. Ask for their assistance when it comes to reaching out to their college friends and igniting excitement around the app and the reunion. A personal message or recommendation will go a long way. If they’re the ones starting the initial conversations within the app, their old friends and peers will follow suit and make it a more engaging experience.
4) Amp the excitement early: host local meetups
In preparation for the big event jumpstart the reconnections and garner enthusiasm by planning in-person local activities. Host mini meetups, volunteer initiatives, and use them as opportunities to encourage people to hangout and amplify engagement. Attendees will get a sneak peek of what’s to come and will garner ongoing excitement.
5) Spark alumni engagement and connection, before the event
In addition to being proud of one’s university, it goes even deeper with class pride. Develop activities based off of classes to help alumni find their specific graduating class and partake in meetups and relevant discussions in advance of their reunion. Each class has their collective memories, inside jokes, former trends, and overall experiences – help them find their sub community to rewind time and recall their memorable moments.
6) Look back at the good ol’ days: compile the best videos and photos to jog memories
What better way to relive the college years than through visuals? Gather and invite alumni to share photos and videos from back in the day. They can tag their friends, add their own captions, and swap stories about it. Unlike typical social media channels, this authenticated platform is dedicated exclusively to former alumni. This ensures that those who will be liking and commenting are fellow graduates over the years.
7) Leverage alumni engagement software to enable involvement, regardless of location
On top of distance being a barrier, alumni also have varying schedules. Alumni have jam packed work schedules, familial responsibilities, and other commitments that make it difficult to participate as much as they would like. Provide easy, fun activities that they can pop in and out of. Whether that’s engaging polls or uploading a photo to a class thread, offer simple ways for alumni to stay involved at their own pace.
8) Ask your alumni: devise future plans based off of interests
It’s normal to feel like you’ve run out of trending ideas to keep your alumni database engaged. Create a constant list of ideas by asking your audience. Send out questionnaires and surveys to your alumni and invite them to share what they would like to see. What volunteer activities would they sign up for? What meetup location would peak their interest? Download and save all these ideas to inform upcoming plans.
9) Entice attendees: incentivize with alumni swag giveaways
Motivate your alumni to participate in digital or in-person events by offering an incentive that correlates to your university community. Items can include alumni attire or gear, a gift card to your university bookstore where they can redeem their own merch, or potentially partner with an entrepreneurial alum who wants to support the cause and donate a prize from their business.
10) Provide consistency: have a thoughtful outreach schedule
Whether your alumni relations team opts for an alumni reunion app, a newsletter, emails, or mail-outs, rein it in and be mindful of the cadence. Avoid cluttering your alumni’s inbox or bombarding them with too many messages. Maintain a balanced outreach schedule and continue to manage communication to keep them excited for reunion events and the incredible plans you have next.