Healthy relationships meet the needs of both parties, and this is true of alumni associations and their parent institutions.
An effective tagline for an association that speaks to this truth could be “ . . . committed to a lifetime of helping you succeed.”
A tagline such as this will help administrators and alumni see the school’s ministry as more than just a four-year relationship.
What services can your school offer alumni to nurture relationships and help alumni succeed? In this article, we’ll look at
- Alumni websites
- Continuing education
- Mentoring, networking, and social event opportunities
- Annual alumni awards
Consider how established schools use their websites and network servers to offer a variety of services—and how you can offer them, too. For example:
- Alumni websites often offer an alumni tab that provides links for alumni to update their address, learn about travel opportunities, see a calendar of events (music group performances, alumni meetings, and social engagements). This tab should also include a link for making a donation.
- Some schools offer permanent email addresses to students and alumni. This gives students a way to stay in touch with their old friends and make an impression with potential employers. It also benefits the school by building alumni loyalty and gives you a way to stay in contact with alumni. As an added bonus, their email address become indirect publicity for your school.
- Alumni websites also commonly offer an online method of ordering transcripts.
As an educational institution, you have the personnel and expertise to offer various types of continuing education. Non-credit possibilities include sponsoring an annual workshop pertaining to the majors you offer or simply turning occasional class lectures into articles or recordings to download.
You might survey alumni to discover what areas of further training interest them, which delivery system is appropriate (on campus, online), and at what level of education (MA, certificate program, noncredit continuing education).
Your graduates are a natural market for offering ongoing educational services.
Mentoring, Networking, and Social Event Opportunities
Consider what a “resource” alumni can be to each other as mentors or as a network of like-minded professionals. Your school’s alumni relations officer might initiate networking groups for ministers in the Southwest region, K–8 teachers, or a missionary support network (for missionaries and those who want to be an encouragement to them).
You might match applications from students and newer alumni with those who offer to mentor new professionals in their fields.
Alumni are also a resource for meeting each other’s social needs. Various types of alumni gatherings enable alumni to find fellowship with people who understand their goals. See part 1 and part 2 of this series for additional ideas on hosting alumni events.
Annual Alumni Awards
Annual alumni awards can enhance resumes, involve students, and build alumni relationships with the school.
Consider offering a variety of awards (for outstanding work in careers related to each major, for pastors, for laymen who volunteer in ministry, for supports of the school, for persons serving other alumni, or even humorous options like most unusual ministry, most surprising changes, etc.).
Soliciting alumni nominations, having alumni vote, and announcing winners at an alumni banquet is an effective way to cultivate relationships.
Telling an alumni that they were nominated for an award will help to encourage them to attend the banquet where winners will be announced.
If alumni vote on certain alumni awards, you can see which popular students still have influence among them. Some of the popular winners may be ideal for recruiting onto
your board of directors or a board of advisors.
Career services will be highly valued by your students and alumni. If you don’t yet have career services, the easiest place to start is to simply offer various forms of information, such as
- Articles and seminars
- Job Banks
- Job Fairs
- Career Services Office
Let’s look at each below:
Articles and Seminars
You could prepare articles for downloading on your website or for handing out in your office. You could also offer occasional seminars. Popular topics might include:
- How to prepare a resume
- How to search for a job
- How to interview effectively
- How to negotiate a salary increase
- How to prepare for an annual review
- How to have a bi-vocational ministry
- Taking aptitude tests for career guidance
- A recommended list of books on career planning (e.g. on any and all of the above topics)
- Whether you should consider further education (possibly in one of our graduate or certificate programs)
- Perhaps offer a multi-week workshop based on a book, such as What Color is Your Parachute and accompanying workbooks.
The next step in developing career services could be to develop a job bank. Some local businesses, schools, and churches are happy to hire students from a Christian college. Contact them. The dean of a theological program could send an annual letter asking pas- tors who expect their church to have any openings to return the enclosed card (see sample below). The director of an education program could send a similar card to schools.
The career services office can provide students and alumni with more job opportunities by offering job fairs. A theological school could invite personnel from mission agencies, denominational representatives, large churches, and other ministries.
For all of this content and more, consider purchasing the booklet, “How to Cultivate Alumni Associations That Are Useful to Small Christian Colleges.”