September 24, 2007
New Alumni Directors - How do you build them up?
An article on www.SCNow.com announces that Kim O Turbeville has been named Director of Alumni Affairs at Francis Marion University, located in Florence, South Carolina. As stated in the article, Ms. Turbeville will be responsible for developing and managing an effective alumni relations program to stimulate interest, build loyalty, increase involvement, and generate support for the University.
As I read this article, I realized the subject would make a terrific blog post. Not about Ms. Turbeville specifically, but rather, introducing a new alumni director. How do you introduce the new alumni director to get him/her off to a dynamic start? The answer: Make them appear larger than life. If you're rolling your eyes right now, wondering how you can do that - it's actually not that difficult. Here are some suggestions:
1. Use media tools to show who they are and what they've accomplished. Such as, have students interview the new alumni director and then have the interview be available through podcasting on the alumni online community, video the interview using a webcam, and make that available, and/or put the written interview up and invite questions/comments.
2. Use social media tools like www.splashcast.com to create a multimedia presentation.
3. Have the new alumni director share a five point plan. Within this five point plan, be sure that one of them is to make the alumni association more net-centered. This is critical, as a more net-centered alumni association is one that recognizes they can serve more alumni via the Internet than they can via traditional events.
Also, if the new director, like Ms. Turbeville, is an alumnus themselves, make this known. It's an incredible point of connection, as she is very familiar with many aspects of Francis Marion University from day-one.
Get your new alumni director off to a dynamic start by using the above methods to introduce them to your alumni.
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.
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 06, 2007
Alumni Life Transitions - What Can Your Alumni Association Do?
I've discussed in other articles on this blog how important it is for Alumni Associations to help their alumni transition through life after graduation. Research conducted by Olson Zaltman backs this up. Mr. Zaltsman's report shows that alumni expect their Alumni Association to help them in their transitions in life. So, to me, this report suggests that your alumni online community could be used to help alumni get jobs, relocate, find a mate, and network with other alumni, to name a few.
In considering what type of benefits you can offer your alumni, you need to consider the different needs of your alumni at different stages of their life. For example, immediately after graduation, your alumni are likely going to be mostly concerned with employment. As they progress through their career over the years, they may be interested in networking to find better jobs, to learn about job openings in their field - the list goes on and on.
One such networking tool to consider is offering business cards to your alumni. While this may not "seem" important in our highly technological age, where the Internet reigns supreme, business cards are as vital an element in business today as they were a decade ago. Think about it - business cards are the principal marketing tools of individuals and businesses, and I don't see that changing any time soon. In fact, the first business card was used by the Japanese 2,000 years ago. It was about 300 years ago that their use because widespread, and ultimately achieved popularity in the Victorian era.
Over the past 5 years, I've been suggesting that Alumni Associations offer their graduates and alumni business cards with the alumni logo and the statement "alumni of" on the card. The idea is to help graduating students get noticed in a crowded job market. The students could attach their alumni business card to resumes and hand out at interviews.
There are two powerful benefits of providing this service:
1. The Alumni Association shows alumni they are interested in helping their career
2. The program impresses employers
We've suggested that including a statement from the President of the college on the back of the business cards would also increase the visibility of your alumni. Some might offer a guarantee that the college prepared the student academically, or use it as a way to encourage them to participate in internships
Offering tools to your alumni for life transitions will not only help them, but it will help your alumni association stay much more connected to your alumni as the years pass. This, of course, will ultimately increase annual giving, participation, and other contributions to the university.
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.
July 02, 2007
Kent State University - Prospective Students
Alumni Associations can, and should, be a powerful bridge between alumni and their alma mater. Kent State University's Alumni Association realizes they are in this powerful and unique position to connect alumni with the different departments on campus, and have taken some incredible steps to using this knowledge to the fullest benefit. What can Alumni Association's do? Well, when you stop and think about it, an Alumni Association can:
1. Help recruit new students to the university.
2. Increase participation at games.
3. Help the president and consultants sway lawmakers' decisions.
4. Increase contributions through gifting and annual giving.
5. Mentor students throughout their college years.
Not to mention career help, communication, and just generally keeping every one informed and connected - the list goes on and on. And, in today's highly technological world, all of this is even easier! In the past, Alumni Associations were limited in contacting alumni to help the various departments because of the cost of communicating the needs of these various departments on campus. The Internet has completely changed the landscape of how well we can communicate, and how quickly. Now with a simple push of a button, the alumni office can send out broadcast emails to targeted alumni. This makes the bridge that the Alumni Association can build between the alumni and the university all that much stronger.
Kent State University's Alumni Association did just that for their admissions office. For one, they created a referral page to refer prospective students to KSU, and they also sent out an HTML email to the alumni that gave them an option to opt in and mentor students on campus. I like to remind alumni that there are three ways to give back: Time, Talent, or Treasure. Congratulations to Kent State University's Alumni Association for building an electronic bridge to the admission office, and for reaching out to help them reach their goals.
One other thing! As you begin to develop these relationships with the different departments on campus, keep in mind that you should charge them. It's a great way to offset your costs and to fund a new Internet marketing position!
June 26, 2007
Viadeo - Free Private Social Networks for Alumni Associations
I've often talked about how essential networking is for your alumni. When an alumni association provides the means for networking within their online alumni community, amazing things happen. From mentoring, to career assistance, to building personal and professional contacts that last a lifetime, networking is one of the very best methods any alumni association can use to connect, inform, and engage their alumni.
So, how do you do this? There are lots of different methods alumni associations can utilize to build an active networking online environment; and many of them have been discussed here in prior blog articles. Today, I'm going to discuss another option if you've been considering the best way to encourage networking within your alumni.
Viadeo is now offering free private social networks for alumni associations. What is Viadeo? Viadeo is one of the largest business social networks in the world. With the launch of their free private social networks, alumni associations will be able to network with their members and to form contacts within Viadeo's extensive business social network.
What's great is that while the private Community Groups will be developed and hosted by Viadeo, alumni associations can own, run, and even co-brand their private areas. In addition, they set the rules for membership and participation within their portal. Basically, Viadeo will set everything up, give you an exclusive URL, and then let you run with it.
Alumni association members will then be able to communicate with each other, find information, organize events, connect with like-minded alumni, look for jobs, find a mentor, be a mentor, and any other networking possibility you can think of! From the viewpoint of the alumni association, they'll have a tool to facilitate easy and direct communication with their members. From any perspective, it's a win-win situation.
Whether you use a service such as Viadeo, or you create your own online networking portal, giving your alumni the ability, and the opportunity, to network is critical to their ongoing relationship with the alumni association and their alma mater.
June 22, 2007
Indiana University - Online Voting for Trustees
The Internet is miraculous. We can do almost anything we want to do from the comfort of our desk chair. From purchasing airline tickets, to ordering concert tickets, to getting driving directions - almost any purchase, any information, is available online. Your alumni are experts at using the Internet, so anything that you can offer them online is sure to be successful. Indiana University has recognized this in a very unique way.
Beginning next year, Indiana University will introduce online voting for trustee elections. This means that alumni will be able to vote online at their leisure. This is a terrific idea to encourage voting, especially for young alumni, who traditionally don't vote in large numbers. When something as important as voting is made more accessible to the voters, participation is sure to increase.
With the introduction of online voting, Indiana University will still accept the check and mail in ballots - at least for now. The hope is to gradually move away from the paper ballots in favor of a complete online voting system, according to Doug McKinney, Trustee Elections Supervisor for IU Libraries. He goes on to say, "We're expecting to see, in the next five years, a significant number of alumni move from paper to an electronic system."
Connecting with your alumni isn't always easy, but the Internet makes it far easier than it used to be. By utilizing today's technology to its fullest, you have an opportunity like never before to connect, engage, inform, and encourage your alumni. Allowing alumni to cast their ballots online is not only an impressive use of technology, but it will help increase the total number of voters for the trustee elections. This increase of participation will continue to other areas of the online community as alumni check back to see what else is available to do online.
If you're looking for new ways to use technology, consider online voting for your alumni. In addition to the ease of use for the voters, it will also be easier to count the ballots than the current, tedious system of opening and hand-counting 30,000 ballots.
June 20, 2007
Stanford University – Lifelong Learning through iTunes
Stanford University is among the first universities that are reaching out to alumni, and the public in general, to share courses recorded by their faculty. On their iTunes Web site, they allow visitors to download courses, faculty lectures, interviews, music, and sports. What an amazing way to grab alumni interest and keep them connected to the University!
In my book, "Alumni Online Engagements," I remind alumni associations that lifelong learning should be one of the key services delivered by the alumni association to alumni. Colleges need to recognize that the alumni association is the bridge to their alumni. Without this bridge, everything from volunteering time, to annual giving, and to the connection between alumni will suffer.
One of the ways to build this bridge is by delivering interesting and entertaining courses that are recorded by the faculty. This is a terrific method to share with your alumni, and to encourage lifelong learning. Especially when advanced learning opportunities through the Masters and Ph.D. programs are offered.
Colleges today are losing out on an opportunity to go back to their customers to offer these advanced degrees. Organizations like national universities, Phoenix University, in addition to many small entrepreneurial colleges, are all developing - and offering - weekend and online programs that are attracting the graduates of other undergraduate institutions. When, in fact, the undergraduate colleges probably provide the same Master and Ph.D. programs, either online or through weekend courses.
If you are looking for additional ways to connect with your alumni, and your institution is not providing courses like this - make a phone call to one of your favorite or more popular faculty members. Ask them to record their next quarter's classes, so that you can then share them with alumni. I'm certain your faculty will be delighted by this, and if you continue on, you'll end up with a collection of lifelong learning courses that will keep your alumni coming back to your Web site.
May 25, 2007
Binghamton University – Alumni Web Sites
If you are a regular reader of this blog, or have read my recent book, you've heard me suggest that you should make "heroes" out of your alumni. Making heroes out of your alumni can be done in several different ways, and the method doesn't matter nearly as much as the outcome. And, because of where you are, you are in a terrific position to recognize alumni in all walks of life for their achievements and accomplishments.
When an alumni association takes this extra step, they are not only creating excitement for the particular alumni they are recognizing, but for all alumni. This excitement transfers over to a more connected online community, greater giving campaigns, and more participation - both online and at alumni events.
Binghamton University has made use of this method in the past, and they are rolling up their sleeves in preparation of getting ready to use it again. Their e-Newsletter, Alumni Connect, has often focused on their alumni's achievements in a unique way. More Cool Alumni Websites appeared in several installments of their e-Newsletter in the past. My personal favorite from this particular page is the alumni who has developed his own Web site that features bridges. He's an engineer with a hobby!
Steve Seepersaud, Alumni Communications Specialist, Binghamton University, has this to say, "The e-Newsletter was re-designed in 2006. It has a much more sophisticated look now. Even though 'Cool Alumni Websites' isn't a dedicated section of each newsletter, I'm always interested in hearing about Web sites our alumni have set up. We'll be mentioning them in the Newsmakers section of upcoming issues of Alumni Connect and in the Class Notes section of our University Magazine."
Whether you choose to highlight careers, Web sites, hobbies, or any other special achievement or accomplishment of your alumni, the recognition will help your online community flourish!