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September 27, 2007

How Do You Promote Your Events?

The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, is celebrating their Fall Fest 2007, and as part of this celebration the Department of Dance is holding a big event.  The Sixth Annual Alumni Dance Concert will be held on September 29th in the Dance Theater.  Dance alumni from as far away from California, Vermont, and New York are returning to campus for this performance.

Sounds like fun!  When your alumni association has an event planned, how do you attract attention for it?  What are you doing to get your alumni to your events?  Most alumni associations are still sending a postcard or a letter, and unfortunately, they stop at that.  There is so much more than can be done!

Consider using social media tools to get the message of your event out to your alumni.  There are tons of possibilities that will excite, inform, and propel your alumni to participate.  Here are just a few to think about:

1.  Use www.blogtv.net to create a video that tells the story of your event.  Video engages people like little else does - so use that to your advantage.   

2.  Use a blog to build excitement about your upcoming events with interviews, photos, and behind the scenes information.  As your alumni become more interested, they're more likely to attend. 

3.  Emails are terrific methods to remind your alumni about your upcoming events.  But don't stop there!  Send multimedia emails to your alumni, complete with audio and video, to really get them excited.

If you take the time to create social media tools to get your message out, your alumni will respond.  And, they'll be more passionate about the events because they'll have had time for the excitement to build via the social media tools.  And, in the case of blogs, they'll also be connecting, reminiscing, and networking with other alumni.  People love blogs, and they love to comment on blogs!

I have plenty of other ideas that can be used, but I won't share them here.  You've got to email me!  So, if you want to hear about some of the different ways you can use social media to promote your events, drop me a line!   

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 27, 2007 at 11:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

September 26, 2007

Everyone wants in on Facebook! What about you?

Facebook is now zooming past 38 million readers - that's HUGE!  And that means that Facebook is attracting YOUR alumni.  In fact, the hugely successful social networking site has opened their software (API) to any organization that wants to connect with their members.  This means that you have an opportunity to use Facebook for your organization.  Everyone wants in on it!  Even the New York Times

Why use Facebook?  It attracts more users, and that is a benefit that shouldn't be ignored.  Your alumni are already familiar with Facebook, so why not use that familiarity to your advantage?  So, how can you use Facebook to connect and engage your alumni?  Let me count the ways:

1.  You can develop a tool that your alumni can use to access the campus calendar.

2.  You can create a program where your alumni can access the alumni online directory through Facebook.

3.  You can develop official alumni group pages that your alumni can join to connect with others.

4.  You can create applications based around photos, profiles, and events.  Think of the possibilities!

Does this sound interesting to you?  It should!  Facebook has done the work for you - there's absolutely no reason not to take advantage of this.  By using their API, you can easily create widgets, mashups, and a variety of other tools that will increase the participation of your alumni.  And remember, a more connected alumni is a more giving alumni.  Get Facebook to work for you and your alumni, and you'll see the benefits in no time.

How would you like to use Facebook to increase participation in your alumni online community, increase communication, and/or connect your alumni?  I'd love to hear your opinion!  Let me know your thoughts and ideas on Facebook's API! 

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 26, 2007 at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

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.

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 24, 2007 at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

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?

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 21, 2007 at 08:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

September 19, 2007

Engage More Alumni by Live Casting!

Drury College is recognizing alumni for their outstanding participation during their alumni weekend.  I've talked before how important it is for alumni associations to honor and recognize their alumni, so this is great.  However, Drury College is missing out by narrowing their thinking to local instead of global.  With just a little bit of effort, they could turn their alumni weekend into a global event.  How?  By live casting!

I live only thirty minutes away from my alma mater, but most of the time, it might as well be 3,000 miles.  There are many events held that I'd love to attend, but can't due to meetings or travel time.  I've often become excited about a speaker, dignitary, or celebrity who's going to be talking, but find that I'll be out of town on the date of the event.  When this happens, it doesn't matter how excited I am - I can't attend, so I have to miss out.  How many alumni wish they could attend an event, but can't - either because they live too far away from their alma mater, or as in my case, they're traveling?

It doesn't have to be this way!  Today, you can live cast your own events and make them available for others.  Not only for alumni, either!  Alumni who are speaking at their alma mater, or are receiving an award, likely have family members that live too far away to attend.  Maybe Grandma would love to be there, but is unable to travel.  With live casting, Grandma can see the event from the comfort of her own home.  It's not just family and friends!  Colleagues could be notified and watch the award ceremony/event as it happens.

Live casting your events will engage more people.  An engaged alumni is a connected alumni, and a connected alumni is a more-giving alumni.  So, why aren't you doing it?  Visit www.upstream.tv or www.mogulus.com to see free technology that will let you broadcast your events live! 

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 19, 2007 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

September 17, 2007

Mentor Students - Virtually!

Schools, from elementary through college, often have alumni return to their alma mater to provide mentoring in the form of speeches, speaking with the students, and answering questions.  I was reminded of this recently as I read an article at the GainesvilleTimes.com.  In this case, the school is an elementary school, and Mr. Charles Morrow returned to Fair Street Elementary to speak with a class of second graders.  Mr. Morrow talked to the kids about the way their school looked in 1941, the year he graduated.  By sharing his memories, the kids were able to connect with history through his eyes.

This is an amazing opportunity to connect your alumni with students.  Unfortunately, it's not always easy to arrange these types of events.  There's another way, a simpler way, but one that offers more far-reaching benefits.  High schools and college alumni associations are missing a valuable opportunity to bring alumni to students by the use of webcams.  Think about it!  By using a webcam, a data projector to project a computer screen, and Skype phone service to connect alumni, you can have alumni visit your classrooms without ever leaving their offices!

By using the technology that is available today, you can have more opportunities to mentor students than ever before.  And more alumni can contribute - as it won't matter where they live.  Whether they're in the next city over, or a city thousands of miles away, they can still speak and mentor students at their alma mater.  The benefits are huge!  There's much more flexibility in the process, less expense, and the sessions could then be placed on your alumni online community for endless viewing.  This will pull other alumni back to the site to check in on a regular basis, which increases the overall connection, engagement, and viability of your community!

Alumni have valuable information to share with students and other alumni.  Making it easier for them to contribute and mentor by the use of webcams is an opportunity that shouldn't be overlooked!

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 17, 2007 at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | Links to this Article

September 15, 2007

Put Pressure on Hazing

Every year we hear about students becoming seriously injured and dying because of the long tradition of hazing.  This year is no different.  I read an article in The Philippine Star about a University of the Philippines student, Chris Anthony Mendez, who recently died because of a hazing incident.  The president of the University, Emerlinda Roman, expresses her grief and outrage at the tragedy.  I have to agree with what is said.  I think it's time for alumni to become involved.

Alumni could be strong advocates to end hazing, and maybe the students would be more apt to listen and pay attention to them.  Many alumni read about these horrible tragedies, but don't have a vehicle to share their opinions, thoughts, and possibly even firsthand experiences on hazing with the kids that are affected the most.

Organizations should use the example of Chris Anthony Mendez and the University of the Philippines as a proactive stance against hazing.  And, they should begin this immediately, rather than waiting for the day it happens on their campus.  By using blogs, podcasts, opinion polls, talk back tools, and wiki's to collaborate, alumni could create content that students will understand.  Allow for a medium in which students and alumni can talk about this, and other issues, your campus faces.

Just because hazing has been around for a long time, and just because it's always been done that way, doesn't mean it has to continue.  It's been proven over and over again how dangerous hazing is.  Give your alumni the ability to be heard, and maybe they can put the pressure on to stop hazing in its tracks.

This doesn't have to start and end with hazing, either!  Use social media tools to get your alumni's input on all the tough issues you know your campus is dealing with.  It's another way to mentor, network, connect, and make a real difference.

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 15, 2007 at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Links to this Article

September 12, 2007

Use Video to Bring Events to Alumni

Our industry is not using video nearly enough.  Video allows you to connect your alumni, no matter where they live, any time of day, 24/7/365.  This, on its own, is amazing, but when you consider the abilities to engage, connect, and share with your alumni, plus the benefits that will result, video has a power that little else does.  When you combine the power of video with the power of the Internet - you have the best of all worlds.

Lately, I've been talking about a concept called NET Centered Alumni Associations.  The idea behind this is that you can serve more alumni via the Internet than you can through events.  Recently, I ran across this really interesting article in The Advocate about an alumni band who is going to be performing in October.  As I read this article, it occurred to me that the thousands of alumni that can't make this performance would love to see if the old members still have "it."  Easy to do!  A couple of video cameras managed by a few alumni can capture the entire event.  Imagine the response if this video was available for viewing from the alumni online community?  Add a place for comments, and watch the fun begin.

You can do this too!  Have alumni videotape events, students could do the editing, add splashy music and/or graphics, and you have a showstopper guaranteed to pull alumni interest.  If you really want to have some fun, use a laptop with a broadband card, and a web cam, and offer a live cast of the event in your alumni online community.

Videos can be amazing tools to pull your alumni together, and when they're used to bring events to those who can't attend, they'll feel even more connected.  Once connected and engaged, your alumni will return to the alumni Web site more frequently to see what's new! 

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 12, 2007 at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

September 10, 2007

Online Directories - Increase Participation in Events

Tulsa World recently posted an article focusing on Nathan Hale High School Alumni Foundation's Annual Golf Tournament.  This tournament is an annual event in which the proceeds go toward scholarships for two Nathan Hale High School Seniors, and includes an impressive array of prizes for the participants.  What does this have to do with online directories?  Well, think about the events your alumni association is involved with and how obtaining increased participation from alumni would be beneficial.

Your online directory is developing a significant amount of relative data that can help you, and can increase the participation at your events.  Using data mining technologies, you could find individuals interested in specific events.  For example, alumni who mention travel could be targeted for travel opportunities.  Alumni who mention golf could be invited to local golf tournaments, like the one mentioned above.  Have alumni who are writes?  Invite them to hear authors speak.  I'm sure you get the idea!  Your alumni have lives filled with interests, hobbies, goals, and careers.  All of these can be used to increase participation at events that line up with their passions.

When alumni participate, they feel more connected to their alma mater, which makes them more likely to continue to volunteer their time and to make donations.  And, chances are, as they become more and more involved, they'll donate more often and in higher amounts.  Developing a full online directory is the first step to being able to utilize the data within each profile.  The next step is getting as many alumni registered in the directory as possible.  I've written other articles in this blog that give you ideas to increase your registrations by developing an Internet strategy. 

Using your online directory to increase participation in events is just one more reason that proves getting your alumni registered is not only smart, it's essential!

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 10, 2007 at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

September 07, 2007

Austin High School - Using Video to Remind Alumni of a Common Bond

Austin High School in Austin, Minnesota, has been working on a video for the past four years for their students, alumni, and faculty.  This film, titled, "Reflections: A History of Austin High School," is ready to make its debut on September 16th in an Austin, MN, theater.  The video showcases Austin High's fight song and school song, pictures, other music, interviews with retired coaches and teachers, and even some footage of the school being built in 1940.  In addition to the public viewing of the film, DVDs will also be on sale, both at the showing of the film and also by order.   

Video is a terrific way to remind alumni of a common bond - their alma mater, but it's also a great way to tell a story.  Sharing special moments of the school's history; interviews with alumni, current students, and faculty; clips from events such as football games and dances; and pictures of points of interest on campus are all bound to tug at the nostalgia factor for all alumni.  Add in the school song and jazzy graphics and you have a tremendous way to bring your alumni back into the fold.

While selling the DVD copies is a great way to bring in some revenue, you could also allow your alumni to view the video for free in your alumni online community and/or on YouTube.  This would give alumni the opportunity to connect instantly, without waiting for a DVD to be mailed to them.  And, once they view it for free, they may decide they want their own copy.  Also, by offering it on the alumni site, you could then give the alumni the opportunity to rate the video and comment on it.  By doing this, you open more paths for your alumni to connect on.

One last thought is to have your students and faculty create the video for you.  Not only would students have a lot of fun with this, but it's yet another way to begin the transition from "student" to "alumni," because the students will see firsthand some of what is available to alumni.  Plus, having the students and faculty create the video is very cost effective. 

Developing a video for your alumni is a lot of fun, and by sharing a story with them, you'll remind them of the bond that exists.  This bond is critical in your ongoing relationship with your alumni.

Posted by Don Philabaum on September 7, 2007 at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article