September 21, 2007
Create Affinity Groups Around Sports
Inside Lacrosse has an interesting article about a Lacrosse event that recently took place in Maryland. On Saturday, September 15, the first annual Alumni Lacrosse Tournament (ALT) drew in families and friends to cheer on the participants. University of Maryland, University of Virginia, Towson University, and more, were all represented in the event by alumni. The idea for this tournament originated with Mike LaMonica, a University of Maryland graduate and former Terp Lacrosse Player. Mike's father, Tom LaMonica, runs the non-profit organization Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center, and together, they brainstormed fundraising ideas. This tournament is the result of that brainstorming. Great job, guys!
When alumni associations take time to build affinity around the interests of their alumni, good things happen! What about you? You have thousands of alumni who have been involved in your clubs, sports, and athletic teams over the years. What are you doing to build affinity around them? Affinity is an important way to encourage engagement, networking, and participation. It's so important, it shouldn't be overlooked. And, it's not as hard as you might think.
Consider using www.gamesnake.com, for example. Gamesnake is a tool where your alumni can invite others to "come out to play." Members get a profile page and can share information about themselves with other members. Everything from likes, dislikes, favorite teams, favorite sports, and more. And, they offer pickup games for over 100 games! That's huge! Imagine how often alumni could hook up for a favorite sport, such as basketball, football, soccer, or tennis. Give your alumni the ability to join each other on teams!
By getting your alumni together and networking, you increase pride and connectedness. The side benefits speak for themselves! And when alumni eel good about their alma mater, they donate more often. How can anyone argue with that?
August 31, 2007
Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Next Generation eCards
Many alumni associations are offering electronic postcards to their alumni. This is a terrific method of connecting your alumni to the school and increasing their nostalgia at the same time. And this is especially true when the postcards contain images of college life, campus scenery, and other shots that will elicit strong memories for your alumni. Plus, they're fun!
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has expanded their offering of electronic postcards, and categorized the types of postcards available. They now offer nearly fifty different views of campus spread over eight different collections, which are viewable in their online showcase! When's the last time you received an electronic greeting card? Many people, as soon as they receive one, turn around and find one to send back to the original sender. MIT is giving their alumni a way to connect with each other and reminisce about their time on campus!
One thing you need to think about is constantly expanding and improving this service. Look at what works and then make it bigger. Today, you need to be thinking about multimedia eCards. With images and video, you can create an entire story to send to your alumni. Add some sound and it's even better. This is a great way to use user-generated content too!
One potential third party tool to use is Splashcast.com. Your alumni could mix and mash. Another example is Eyespot.com, where you can edit and mix your videos with other videos on Eyespot. In fact, with the tools they have, you could easily edit video images of campus, including overlays and audio, and then send them off to alumni. Great stuff!
Your alumni are being pulled in every which way, every day. The Internet offers them a place to go for anything they want to see. Use your creativity, think outside the box, and deliver more to your alumni. Electronic postcards and multimedia eCards are a fantastic method to use to connect, engage, and communicate with your alumni.
August 08, 2007
Lake Oswego School District Alumni - Using an Online Database to Connect
I've talked before how important it is to utilize your alumni online community to its fullest. Another statement I've said often is that your alumni online community should act as a bridge between your alumni and the school. And, with this thought in mind, one of the most critical aspects of your online community should be your online database. The more complete your alumni data is within your database, the better the ability to connect, not only between your alumni, but between you and your alumni.
The Lake Oswego School District Alumni Association has done this in a HUGE way! On August 18th, they're having a party - an Alumni Bash that could have up to 5,000 people in attendance! There is no admission cost for the event, and alumni who attend will enjoy a looping video with music, food booths, beverages, and live music while they catch up with friends from the past. In addition, the association has a few surprises in store. From celebrity alumni in attendance, to setting up tables of memorabilia, to decade themed tents - this event promises to be one major party for alumni as far back as the graduating class of 1952, to the most recent graduates from this past June.
Wow! How did they connect with alumni from so many years? You got it, through their online database. Take a look and see what they're planning, you'll be amazed. They have reached out to their alumni via their web site and asked for help at the bash, from setting up tables of memorabilia, to helping with the tear down after the event.
This is what I call using an alumni online community to its fullest! They not only have a terrific community, but they've been able to connect with their alumni through their database to plan this event. Great job, on all accounts!
July 30, 2007
Wesleyan University - Giving their Graduates an Extra Edge
I've talked before about how important it is to provide your alumni with valuable resources on an ongoing basis. In past blog articles, I've discussed everything from lifelong learning, to mentoring possibilities, to networking with other alumni, as well as many other ideas to consider adopting for your alumni and/or your alumni online community. Anything you can do to give your alumni an extra edge in today's competitive job market will go a long way in assuring consistent and continual support from your alumni in return.
One method that Wesleyan University is using successfully is simple in theory, yet has the ability to boomerang into benefit after benefit for both the college and the alumni. All graduates of Wesleyan University are provided with branded, private email addresses. See, simple in concept, but when you give this some thought, it's a terrific way to support your alumni for the rest of their life, and provide unique branding for the university at the same time.
There is no cost for Wesleyan alumni to use these email accounts, and it is a low cost for the college, which is a huge plus. In addition, alumni can use their Wesleyan branded email addresses in between jobs to prove to prospective employers that they have a degree. And, every time they use the email account Wesleyan provides them, they're promoting their alma mater. It's also a great way for alumni to do business with other alumni.
In a world where more and more communication is being done via email, having your alumni use an email address you provide them is good business sense. It puts the college name in front of people all over the world, every day of the year. Multiply this by the number of your alumni and you can easily see the benefits.
July 29, 2007
Got a MySpace/FaceBook Page YET?
Social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook have become enormously popular. These sites are great avenues for connecting with individuals and groups of people in a simple and effortless manner. In fact, we've had over 400 alumni and admission professionals take part in our online webinars that show effective methods in setting up a MySpace and FaceBook page. Why are these sites, and our webinars, so popular with alumni and admission professionals? Because alumni professionals want to connect with their alumni and young alumni, and admissions professionals want to connect with prospective students. Our webinars show them how to do just that.
Annette Levitt, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations for Illinois State University, was an early adopter of using MySpace and FaceBook as a marketing tool to increase registrations in Illinois State University's alumni online community. Annette effectively uses their mascot, Reggie Redbird, in their MySpace strategy to attract alumni. The website is focused on Reggie Redbird, and students and alumni are encouraged to join the Reggie Redbird page. According to Annette, Reggie has over 1500 FaceBook friends, over 500 MySpace friends, and has even received marriage proposals!
As Paris Hilton would say, "Reggie is HOT!"
Annette uses all angles to make sure that this tool engages and involves alumni. For example, Reggie (Annette) sends a Happy Birthday greeting to all alumni who are celebrating a birthday each and every day. This program has been so successful that other departments on campus are asking her to send messages to all of Reggie's friends about events and activities. Annette suggests that to make the best use of this, you or someone else should spend some time initially in building the friend list. After awhile, you'll be excited to see how viral marketing will take over and how new friends arrive daily. She feels that this online engagement of over 2,000 alumni is worth the one hour per week that she puts into managing this. After all, she states, "Where can you touch the lives of so many alumni so inexpensively and so quickly?"
As a reminder of the touch points, she suggests the comments made by alumni who are engaging with Reggie are priceless. Need information on how to do this? Drop me a note!
July 23, 2007
Social Networks - Missed Opportunities for Alumni Associations
Social networking is a buzz phrase heard everywhere today, and with the success of MySpace, FaceBook, and LinkedIn, the strength of it will only get stronger. If you're still not sure what social networking is, and what it's all about, read on.
Social networking is a term that few of us had heard about as little as four years ago, since then, however, its use has skyrocketed. People are talking about it, experiencing it, and using it to make connections, find jobs, find love, and everything in between. FaceBook and MySpace's incredible surge in popularity showed that Internet users were finally gaining an understanding on how they could use Internet tools to engage with others. Suddenly, it became possible to connect with dozens, if not hundreds, of people easily, and to keep in touch with them effortlessly.
Here's Wikipedia.org's definition of a social network: A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more types of relations, such as values, visions, ideas, financial exchange, friends, kinship, dislikes, trade, web links, sexual relations, disease transmission (epidemiology), or airline routes.
So, how does this relate to you and your alumni? Because social networking is the process in which people connect with each other within a network, either for personal or business purposes, providing such a network for your alumni would create many benefits. You'd enable your alumni to connect with other alumni for information, jobs, mentoring, relocating, etc. This would increase the participation of your alumni, from volunteering to annual giving and beyond.
The vast majority of people are networking for social reasons, but an increasing number of people are understanding the power and the potential of business networking. Web sites like LinkedIn are helping professionals not only close business deals and develop new companies, but they are helping them get jobs.
If you're still unsure about social networking, and what it's all about, check out this video. While simple in concept, Lee Lefever does an excellent job of explaining social networking in an easy to understand, humorous, and fun way. I think you will like it. Use it to show your students or incoming freshman.
July 18, 2007
Full Sail - New Blog Showcases Students' Design Work
Full Sail: School of Film, Art, Design, Music and Media Production staff members have created a web site where students can share and critique each other's design projects. Not only is this blog a terrific place to showcase students' work, but it is also set up to encourage communication between students, instructors, and other visitors to the blog. Feedback from one's peers is essential and this blog delivers the ability for this to happen.
This new blog site, Graphik Natur, is helping bring the Full Sail students and the instructors together in new and dynamic ways. This is a great tool for all involved, as it allows the students to showcase their work and then get feedback on it, as well as allowing the instructors and other visitors to comment on each project on an individual basis.
Graphik Nature was created by staff members Triesta Hall and Fatima Lotfi-Rice. Beyond the ability for students to showcase their digital material, which is uploaded to an exclusive online gallery and then critiqued by their peers, the web site also offers the latest industry news and information. In this way, students can be kept up to date on what's happening within their industry and then comment on various aspects that they personally find interesting or have an opinion on.
Fatima Lotfi-Rice, Full Sail's Associate Course Director for Typography and Page Layout, posts much of the news and information on the site and is the face behind its day to day upkeep. Triesta Hall teaches Digital Publishing within the Digital Arts and Design program, as well as Portfolio Creation, which is the last class students take before graduation. She states, "I'm really teaching them to brand themselves; they are the most important and the best brand they will ever create."
Full Sail: School of Film, Art, Design, Music and Media Production is allowing their students to show their unique personalities and develop their brand in an exciting new way by the creation, and the utilization, of this web site. Graphik Natur is sure to flourish by blending industry news and information along with a gallery of their students projects. And, of course, this web site is a fabulous method for students to communicate, showcase their work, receive critiques, give their own critiques, and stay informed on what is happening within their industry. Great job!
July 04, 2007
Dating 4.0 - Helping Students and Alumni to "Date Smarter?"
I saw this headline and had to smile, "Dating 4.0 Launches, Helps Students and Alumni to 'Date Smarter,' followed by, "Site Provides Dating News and Advice for Top College Audience." So, after my chuckle, I decided to see what this was all about. Dating 4.0 claims to be the first dating news and advice Web site created specifically for the top college audience. The Web site allows students and alumni from elite universities to "date smarter" by providing original and engaging dating-related content.
Dating 4.0 founder, Marie Cannizzaro, says she came up with the idea while still a student at Stanford University. As a student, she was frustrated with the dumbed-down dating sites that were existence because they didn't address the specific issues associated with the top college dating scene.
What made me laugh wasn't the idea of a dating Web site for a top college audience, but rather that I've been suggesting this idea to Alumni Associations for years. I've often said that Alumni Associations should embrace the dating aspect of their alumni, and build it into their alumni online communities for two reasons:
1. Statistics show that 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and
2. You'll have a better chance of getting more from a married alumni couple's estate.
Think of it this way. If your alumni marry someone from another college, your annual giving and advancement offices will forever fight to get a share of their contributions. After all, the married couple has their allegiance firmly divided between two alma maters. However, by helping alumni "hook up" with other alumni, you have the opportunity to increase your number of alumni who are married to each other. If I were running the advancement office, I'd make my staff "work" to increase the number of alumni who are married to each other. One of the ways to do this is to offer a dating aspect to the alumni online community.
June 18, 2007
The Rochester Institute of Technology - Alumni Networking
The Rochester Institute of Technology is doing a great job in using Internet technology, and their Web site in networking their alumni. In a day and age when online communities provided by alumni associations are viewed by alumni as having little value, and little reason to return to the alumni online community, encouraging alumni to use the online community as an online networking tool is valuable on many different levels.
Alumni associations today are wise to take an active role in helping alumni, not only to get jobs and better paying jobs, but also to do business with each other. I've written in many of the past blog postings that alumni associations should be teaching their incoming freshman students how to network. The training doesn't stop there, though! This education on networking should continue to be shared after graduation. This can be done through mentoring with alumni, as well as other networking opportunities with each other.
The goal of any alumni association that has an online community should be one of offering ongoing training programs that will continually teach networking through all four years of college, so that when the student graduates, they are familiar with how to use the alumni online directory as a business, career, and mentoring networking tool. After all, the benefits of networking are many. From making contacts, to gathering information, to obtaining interviews, to learning about positions in other areas of the country, networking is a tool of immense value for all who participate.
The Rochester Institute of Technology alumni website provides alumni the following menu options: Before Starting a Job, Starting your Search, Applying for a Job, and Accepting an Offer. Whatever part of the process alumni happen to be in, they'll be able to find information and help in succeeding at their own alumni online community. This helps to engage the alumni so they will return to the community over and over.
May 21, 2007
Northwestern University - CareerNet for Alumni
An incredible, and one of the best, benefits an alumni association can provide their alumni is access to tools and resources to further their careers, to get jobs, and to network with other alumni who may be able to help them in their career path. When an alumni association is able to offer their alumni such career building tools and resources, everyone wins, on all sides of the equation.
Northwestern University has alumni in careers with thousands of companies all over the world. Imagine the resources available here! Northwestern University has recognized the unique position they're in and have used this position to further the career goals of their alumni, so alumni can get jobs and do business with each other! As a result of this, Northwestern University has recently announced their enhanced online career networking, which they call CareerNet. They want their alumni to reap the rewards of helping each other build successful careers, and networking is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
Northwestern University gives even more to their alumni by offering this service absolutely free to all of their alumni. CareerNet is designed to assist them gain career knowledge, get jobs, and gain advice from 12,800 active alumni mentors. Alumni wishing to build their networks, including job-seekers and career-changers, have the opportunity to learn about different career fields, access valuable career contacts, and gain necessary advice from experienced fellow alumni.
Northwestern administrators recognize the service is only good if a large number of alumni participate, and they have that number to back the service up! Currently, there are 12,800 alumni mentors that ensure an active mentoring environment.
Networking and mentoring are great methods in helping your alumni in their life after they graduate. By offering this service, the alumni of Northwestern University are sure to get the answers they need, help along the way, and the jobs they want.