In Part 3 of this series, we reviewed several services a college can develop for its alumni. In Part 4, below, we’ll look at various ways alumni can serve its alma mater and why it’s important to cultivate volunteer opportunities for them.
Why Alumni Would Want to Volunteer
Offering volunteer opportunities to alumni allows them to gain valuable experiences:
- They will interact with people they respect (former faculty or classmates), which may lead to job prospects and/or life-long friendships.
- They may want to give back to the college/ministry that did so much for them (provided a scholarship, provided mentors, helped them grow in the Lord).
- They can use their spiritual gifting, skills, and/or professional interest to gain needed experience for their resume.
Volunteer Opportunities Abound
Short-term service opportunities are best suited for alumni engagement, such as these student recruitment ideas:
- Speak at student recruitment events (or new student orientation).
- Host a meeting (in their home) of potential students considering your school.
- Host a table at a recruitment event. An employee may be perceived as having a vested interest, while an alumnus is obviously a satisfied customer.
- Make a handful of phone calls on behalf of the school. Perhaps an alumnus could call other alumni to invite them to an event or to request donations in an annual phone-a-thon.Or, an alumnus could call new applicants to answer questions from their own experiences. This would be especially appropriate if the student is interested in studying the same discipline in which the alumnus already has a career.
- Call new applicants to pray with them, which provides a form of pastoral care to potential students and results in more applicants enrolling.
- Send a postcard to a person they think might consider enrolling. Place a blank postcard with the school’s picture on it in an occasional newsletter. The postcard could have brief printed information about the school and enough space for the alumnus to write a short personal note.
- Visit a donor or prospective donor with the president or development officer.
Not everyone is a natural-born salesman. Neither will many alumni enjoy promoting their alma mater in a public forum or to strangers. Consider offering the following volunteer opportunities to the more reserved alumni:
- Write articles for the school newsletter.
- Write letters to a retiring faculty member.
- Join or organize a prayer network for the school, for students, or for special needs. For example, a prayer network can be formed so that every instructor, staff member, and administrator is regularly being prayed for by alumni.
- Participate on a mission trip with students.
- Participate in an annual service event to benefit the physical campus (painting, cleaning, repairing).
- Serve refreshments at graduation, during finals, during new student orientation.
- Update records (alumni addresses, donor information, etc.).
- Participate in an alumni project (helping an orphanage in Mexico, offering snacks and other care to pastors at an annual denominational convention, helping with service projects that correspond to the alumnus’ major, assisting the school with a local event such as National Day of Prayer). All your volunteers could wear school tee shirts, hats, or other clothing with the school insignia.
- Serve as mentors to new alumni and students: Mentors might allow a student to come along on a typical workday to see what life is really like in a given field. This kind of experience could be used to launch student clubs centered around specific careers.
Engaging in the above volunteer opportunities will increase the likelihood that your alumni will form an active and long-term relationship with your school.
They might even want to give other forms of support beyond their time. In fact, professional fundraisers have found that volunteers give twice as much to their organization as do non-volunteers. In churches, they give four times as much.
First, they give their service; then they give their heart. Therefore, the salary of a staff member who recruits and works with volunteers will be repaid by additional donations from volunteers.
Where to Recruit Alumni Volunteers
Here are a handful of ideas for recruting volunteers:
- List opportunities for volunteering in each alumni newsletter.
- Make announcements at events.
- Send e-mail alerts.
- Include a longer list of volunteer opportunities (with links for applying) in the alumni tab of your website.
Thank Your Volunteers
Don’t forget to thank your volunteers. Here are a variety of ways:
- Send plaques or certificates of appreciation.
- Send postcards from students.
- Send gifts (school tee-shirts or book bags).
- Invite volunteers to a special breakfast.
- Publish volunteer lists of “our heroes” in a publication and website.
- Give volunteer awards.
- Write articles about your volunteers.
- Thank them publicly at special events.
Keeping volunteers thanked and feeling appreciated will help motivate them to continue volunteering, and it will cultivate a lasting relationship between them and your school.