Lowering Hurdles to Build Affinity
I had the opportunity to speak with Parks Smith,
Director of Alumni Relations, at Longwood University, to talk about his department’s interesting view on Alumni Engagement.
According to Parks, “A huge part of Alumni Relations is alumni saying ‘I want to help, but I don’t know how to help,’ and then we work to give them opportunities to do so, outside of just donations.”
With that in mind, Parks and his department are working to build affinity by making it easier than ever for alumni to connect with Longwood:
“I guess the catchphrase being thrown around now is micro-volunteerism, and we’re looking to provide small, monthly opportunities for alumni to do something either online or in person volunteer under the Longwood banner.”
Whether it’s encouraging Longwood alumni to post job openings on their university’s LinkedIn page or to snap a photo of their child in a Longwood tee shirt, these mini activities are helping build affinity among alumni and their beloved alma mater.
Parks had also mentioned a great way to help increase the impact of initiatives like this one — Alumni Relations departments should consider reaching out to and rewarding active alumni.
A gift in return for being an engaged alum is a great way to bring their alumni experience to the next level by demonstrating that they’re more than just a number, but instead an integral part of their alma mater’s overall success. Tee shirts, baseball caps and car magnets are a relatively inexpensive way to say “thanks” on behalf of your Alumni Relations department while deepening the connection alumni feel towards their school.
Implementing this strategy on a small scale at first is a good way to work out the kinks that come with multiple moving parts (identifying engaged alums, collecting mailing info, sending gifts, etc.)
In closing, Parks had some last words of advice:
“We want the hurdle to be so low and for this to be so easy and fun to do that alumni will start seeking out their own ways to get involved.”
Keeping the hurdle low, your department will start reaching alumni that previously weren’t involved or active. Opening these doors to engagement come at a relatively low cost, and prime them to become more engaged as you roll out more comprehensive engagement opportunities!