Chart your course for alumni engagement success
What does that mean for most in the alumni engagement world? It means you’re entering the fourth quarter of your fiscal year and most of you probably have spring reunions or commencement events coming up quickly that take up plenty of your time and resources.
While the thought of pulling off another reunion may give you heartburn, this is actually my favorite time of year. Why? Well, the fiscal year end always meant two things to me: evaluation and opportunity. We get to zoom out and see where our engagement metrics stack up year over year, while also getting the opportunity to turn the page and set new goals for the next fiscal year. You get a blank canvas, and there is no better feeling than that.
With the spirit of renewal in mind, I thought I’d offer a few tips to think about when evaluating the year you just had.
Get everyone involved
You’ll never be successful in any given year without team buy-in and accountability, so make sure you give everyone a voice and get the whole team involved.
The most significant thing every individual should remember is “what is their why” when it comes to goals. Think about five key areas: Events, Groups, Programs/Activities, Communication/Digital Strategy, and Giving. Task each team member with coming up with meaningful, quantitative, short and long-term goals for each of those areas and how it affects their role within your team.
What worked well and what didn’t work?
Often we get too caught up in our successes to recognize our setbacks. When it comes to programming and alumni initiatives, it’s more valuable to figure out what didn’t work instead of making every year a cookie cutter of the previous year.
Instead of focusing on who did come to your events or who was the most engaged, focus on the opposite and find opportunities to reach those people. Where you’re missing, regarding engagement, is what is going to drive your success for the next fiscal year. You’ll find opportunities to reach your alumni in more personalized and meaningful ways that will be a catalyst for change in your next fiscal year.
One of these opportunities is to start to create creative segmenting and alumni personas of both your engaged and unengaged users. This will allow you to target your programming more strategically in the next fiscal year and also identity areas of need when it comes to the value propositions you’re offering to your alumni.
Create a data plan
Evaluating the end of the year? You are likely juggling different spreadsheets and queries while feeling overwhelmed. Don’t make that mistake again and put together a data plan for next year. Think about tools that will centralize your data, so you don’t have to do a deep dive into your computer folders and Google Drive next year.
Come up with a plan whether it’s automated, weekly, monthly, or quarterly to get the data you want to be measuring in that centralized tool. I promise this will pay off and be an easy way you can get a temperature check for both your macro and micro goals throughout the year. The two biggest keys to pulling off a successful engagement strategy are being organized and nimble. A reliable data plan with everyone involved and accountable will be your strongest asset in pulling that off.
Don’t look for silver bullets…
Technology can fix all things. That has seemingly been the moniker for alumni professionals over the past few years. Many of us, including myself, have invested thousands of dollars in alumni or mentoring “networks” that are supposed to enhance engagement for our alumni instantly. Instead, our alumni find tumbleweeds and a user experience that’s much worse than there used to when using technology in their everyday life.
You already have the best digital network(s) for your alumni available, and it’s free, and your alumni are already on it. No vendor is ever going to provide an experience that is better than Facebook and LinkedIn, and no vendor is going to offer you better metrics and insights on your network than Facebook and LinkedIn.
Instead of focusing on the procurement, construction, and launch of an alumni network or mentoring platform focus on the aforementioned data plan or a resource that is going to make things easier for you and your alumni. Think about your weekends and how you engage digitally; it’s probably not via a desktop computer, but rather your phone. Think about the ways you want to receive helpful reminders and what resources you want access to readily. An app that allows our alumni to access the resources and value propositions you’re looking to get in front of your alumni while getting valuable data back for your office is immensely more useful than trying to recreate a private Facebook or the LinkedIn Career Advice Tool.
Looking to jumpstart your next fiscal year? Are you looking to centralize your data, build an engagement score, empower your volunteers, or just make your day a little easier? Set up a call with Tassl today and we'd love to get the conversation started.