Why should digital engagement end at prospecting? Nurturing alumni engagement is one of the most important aspects of higher ed. Alumni relationships correlate with enrollment numbers. Pumping the brakes on engaging with alums results in pumping the brakes on donations, general funds, and scholarship funds. Low funding results in low enrollment numbers.
Let’s say you already have an alumni newsletter that goes out each month, and you’re receiving donations fairly regularly. You’re off to a good start! But are you actually connecting your students with your alums? Students desire connection with alumni, and I’m not just talking scholarships and newsletters. Connecting with alumni is a great starting point for students to begin the internship or job search. Having a mutual connection through your alma mater makes connecting with professionals significantly less intimidating from the student’s perspective. Alumni want to be engaged with students, too! Filling the gap can lead to a stronger alumni program, higher enrollment numbers, and a happier student body.
I cannot emphasize the importance of social media enough! Students and alumni are already hanging out here. They use social media to get their news, research companies and schools, and look for jobs. These places are better than gold mines. So if your audience is already in one central location, why not meet them where they are?
1. Connect through donations- People are relational and want to be involved. If an alum is going to start a scholarship fund or make a donation, they’ll want to know where, and who, their money is going to. Formstack gives you the power to build donation and scholarship application forms that will easily collaborate the data into one database. You’ll be able to connect scholarship recipients to their donors. For example, you can create a form that will automatically be sent to the recipient and they can express their gratitude, give feedback, ask questions, and keep the donor updated on their accomplishments. This opens the window of opportunity for better communication between alumni and students.
2. Connect the pieces- Make your school stand out amongst the rest by developing an open channel of communication between students and alums. Let me reiterate: students want to engage with alumni! I know that, when I was a student, I would have appreciated a better system to connect with alumni. Students would rather connect over the internet than they would via phone. I suggest building a request form that students could fill out if they have job or internship inquiries. For example, they could be connected to an alumni based on job field and location by using routing logic. This breaks down the barrier of an awkward cold call and is much less intimidating from the student’s perspective. Connecting through forms also gives the alumni a heads up to round up relevant information for the student.
3. Connect quickly- People hate waiting. Time costs us and when too much time passes we are easily disengaged from a situation. Waiting on a paper form to come in the mail or waiting for someone to take the time to return a phone call is frustrating. Frustration also leads to disengagement. So, quick response and feedback to students and alumni is key to keep them engaged. Sharing information via social media is one of the fastest ways to get people involved. You can embed forms onto your alumni and student network pages, but you’re not limited to embedding. Sharing forms via social media gets people’s attention. The information on your internal networks is still relevant, you’re just making the information more readily available to your audience. Fast engagement leads to a more connected network.
What are some ways you have used online forms to connect with students? Are you encountering issues with a certain demographic of your alumni? Let’s talk in the comments below!