In Part 4, we looked at the many volunteer opportunities.
Another way Christian colleges can help alumni feel connected to their schools is by communicating well with alumni and helping alumni to communicate well with each other.
To help you accomplish that goal, consider publishing any or all of these connection tools:
- A “Where Are They Now” newsletter with blurbs about members of the class of 2018, 2019, 2020 …;
- Alumni directories (online or in print) organized by year of graduation or last year enrolled;
- A “yellow page” directory of businesses, agencies, and churches where alumni work; and
- Free email address list on your server for students and alumni.
Of course, staying in touch with alumni requires updating their contact information.
Where Are Your Alumni Now?
Keep records. Keep updating them. What an endless, tedious job. Yet, it’s a well-suited job for a volunteer who enjoys detail work. Some of this job can even be automated.
Here are some ideas for keeping track of your alumni:
- Paper newsletters could include clip-and-mail forms for both change of address and for locating lost members of our alumni “family.”
- The alumni tab on your website should include a link for updating contact information. The tab would also include a list of lost school family.
- While you will send email communications, snail mail can help you keep data updated: when mail comes back with a forwarding address, note it. If there is no forwarding address, mark the address in your database as currently “out-of-date.” This will also save money on the future postage you won’t use. When sending through the post office, do not always use bulk mail. Occasionally, use a stamp because that allows you to add “return service requested.”
- Use transcript requests to update alumni records.
- Finally, ask students and alumni to help you keep track of their own address as well as help you find lost members of the alumni family.
Communicating With Alumni Is a Lifelong Relationship
Before students graduate, they need to hear that they have a lifelong relationship with the school family.
Here are several ways to communicate that truth:
Make opportunities for alumni and students to interact. For the students, this models the idea that they may want to stay involved after graduating.
- Students can be recruited to serve alumni. An ideal time is at an alumni reunion. Students might provide a hospitality booth that gives not only information but also drinks and even balloons for children of alumni.
- Students could lead a one-day vacation Bible school for participating children of alumni.
- Students might serve food or perform at an alumni dinner. Student clubs or the student government can participate. They might make posters welcoming alumni or thanking them for providing something the alumni funded.
- Students might also send handwritten thank you notes to alumni donors.
Alumni who are on campus, perhaps for a class reunion, might also serve students.
- Invite alumni to serve as guest lecturers in classes and as chapel speakers.
- Invite students to attend small group career/ministry meetings with an alumni leader or a panel of alumni. Possible interest groups might include meetings appropriate to careers related to majors.
- Once alumni get a taste of how rewarding it is to interact with a student, encourage alumni to sign up as mentors and volunteers.
Graduation ceremonies can also present opportunities for alumni to interact with students.
- Consider having the alumni association recruit new members at the graduation ceremony.
- Perhaps the alumni association could host a reception for graduating students welcoming them to the association.
- You might want to ask an alumni representative to briefly speak during the graduation ceremony who will encourage the graduates to stay connected to the school and to each other. He or she can exhort them that they have stewardship responsibilities for what they have learned.
- At minimum, set up a table to sign up new alumni members, to ask graduates to sign up for volunteer opportunities, and to buy school merchandise.
Encourage or Automate Alumni Memberships
Some schools consider every graduate to be a member of their alumni association. Other schools sell annual memberships.
If you have some type of membership opportunity, you may want to recruit members by
- sending appeal letters,
- hosting phone-a-thons,
- enlisting new members at school events, or
- asking volunteers to brainstorm other ideas.
We hope these ideas encourage you with effective, easy-to-implement ways to upgrade your communication efforts with your alumni.
If you would like to share other ideas, please post a comment.