engagement metrics

What your young(est) alumni want you to know

As an Alumni Engagement Specialist at Tassl, I get to work with several alumni relations professionals and volunteer groups who are all tackling the same issue – how to engage with their recent graduates and young alumni.

I graduated from Duke University in May, where I was involved with a number of student groups. After moving to Philadelphia this summer, I joined Duke’s regional board as one of its Young Alumni Representatives.

As a recent graduate myself and from my experiences both at Tassl and with the Duke Philadelphia chapter, I’ve quickly picked up on a few tips to help you better connect with your youngest alumni.

1. Segment your Strategy

Many schools define young alumni as alums who have graduated within 10 years.

However, alumni in this group have strikingly different needs.

On one end of the spectrum you have your recent graduates, who have spent less time out of college than they spent in it. They are in the midst of starting their postgraduate lives, often in a new and unfamiliar city.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have your alumni who fall closer to the 10 year mark. Many of these alums are beginning to form more permanent roots in their communities and have developed strong social and professional networks independent of their alma mater.

As young alumni move farther from their graduation year, their lifestyles and relationship with their alma mater are changing dramatically – perhaps more so than at any other stage in their life.
Recognize the different needs of your young alumni on either end of this spectrum and plan events and programs that serve both.

2. Keep Track of Student Leaders

One of the best predictors of alumni engagement is how engaged an alum was as a student.

Alumni who were highly involved as students have demonstrated their passion and spirit for their school. They will almost inevitably be more likely to want to get involved as alumni.

Unfortunately, many schools lose track of their most involved student leaders the second they graduate.

Get these alumni engaged as soon as you can – ideally, even before they leave campus. You can do this by leveraging your student councils and matching them to alumni chapters prior to leaving campus.

These alums will likely also be better connected to other alumni. Capture their influence to connect with other young alumni and build momentum around your events and any big alumni news.

3. Bring Your Events to Them

If you’re left wondering why your alumni events are disproportionately attended by alumni past the 10 year mark, consider where your events are being held.

Chances are, your young alumni live in different neighborhoods and frequent different locales than most of your group leaders and older alumni. Young alumni in a metropolitan may also be less likely to have access to a car.

Make sure your events are geographically accessible to young alums.

Consider holding your game watches downtown instead of in the suburbs. In your event registrations and newsletters, include instructions to your events via public transportation. You can even help to organize carpools among alumni living close to one another.

This also applies to events being held on campus, like Homecoming and game days. For these major alumni events, consider organizing charter buses or carpools to campus from cities where a large number of young alumni live.

4. Make Alumni Engagement Affordable

Your young alumni are undoubtedly making less money on average than alumni whose careers span decades.

It’s possible that attending alumni events regularly is simply too big of a strain on recent graduates’ bank accounts.

Many alumni associations and groups will offer discounts for young alumni for ticketed events. This is a great way to incentivize recent graduates to attend.

If this isn’t possible within your budget, then consider ditching the open bar or heavy appetizers at your next event to allow for cheaper ticket prices, giving more young alumni the opportunity to attend.

There are also plenty of free events that you can plan in order to get young alumni involved. Studies have found that millennials care more about social issues than older generations, so plan a community service day that aligns with your alma mater’s mission.

Do you have any other tips and strategies for engaging with recent graduates and young alumni? We'd love to hear from you!