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

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! 

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 8, 2007 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

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.

Posted by Don Philabaum on July 30, 2007 at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

April 29, 2007

Amherst College - Keeping in Contact after Graduation

In May and June all over the world, college graduates receive their diplomas from the Dean or President of their college or university.  Then, several months later, they lose access to their unique college email address they've had throughout their college years.  This is the standard, and it can create a gap later when the alumni association wants to contact alumni.  One of the jobs an alumni association often has to do in order to create a fuller online alumni community is an email acquisition program.  With this in mind, it would make sense for colleges to offer another lifetime email address to students upon graduation, so they would be able to keep in contact with their alumni for the rest of their lives.

IT departments, unfortunately, have been reluctant to provide these lifetime email address because of the potential cost and the customer service issues surrounding them.  The positives in supplying such an email address, however, far outweigh the negatives.  Amherst College recognizes this.  They have taken a proactive step in recommending and encouraging their students to register in their online community before graduating, and one of the things they offer is a permanent email address from the alumni association.

Commercial companies have long provided these lifetime email addresses to alumni from their alumni association. While these are NOT the same email address the students had while they were students, they are still branded with the university name and reflect to employers and others that they graduated from the institution. 

If you want to help your alumni get jobs, then a college branded email address is critical. First, it proves that they graduated, and second, it publicly promotes your organization.  I'd highly recommend you challenge your IT department to provide email addresses to your graduates.  It really does not put that much more of a burden on your system.  I know, because my firm provides lifetime email addresses for a remarkably small fee.

Successful ePhilanthropy strategies will become an integral part of your overall plan.  Online marketing will augment your existing communications and elevate the performance of your current tactics.

Posted by Don Philabaum on April 29, 2007 at 08:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | Links to this Article

April 11, 2007

St. Mary/St. Stephen Parish Schools - Filling in the Blanks of History

Who doesn't remember their school days?  Most people who are asked about the "days gone by" will not only remember very specific moments from school, but they'll also think of them warmly.  St. Mary/St. Stephen Parish Schools of Des Plaines, Illinois has decided to fill in the blanks of their history - with the help of their alumni.

The school recently posted a request on their Web site to all alumni, school supporters, and community members to help them rebuild the knowledge about their history.  This is important because the history of a school, especially one that has been in existence for as long as these two schools have.  St. Mary's has been around for one hundred years, while St. Stephen's is fifty years old.  By reaching out for assistance, the St Mary/St. Stephen Parish Schools of Des Plaines, Illinois will be able to begin building a history for their alumni.  Achievements, stories, and even rumors from those who walked the halls of St. Mary and St. Stephen Parish Schools are all welcome.

This idea could be used by any alumni association at any university or college to fill in missing areas of history, to enlarge current niches, and to create an ever evolving story of the school.  Who hasn't heard of  Using Wikipedia technology, universities and colleges can enable their alumni to take over the development and the publishing of the college history, much like Wikipedia has done.  In this case, people worldwide are creating a "people's" version of an encyclopedia.  Using this same philosophy within an alumni association could create an excellent resource for history, nostalgia, and stories that otherwise would have been long lost. 

College days are one of the most special times in our lives.  Using today's technology to create an online treasury of memories will continually pull alumni back to their alma mater - again and again.

Posted by Don Philabaum on April 11, 2007 at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

March 16, 2007

Illinois State University - Organization for Better Promotion

Annette Levitt of Illinois State University has created an Organizational Grid to reminder her, and those involved with Illinois State University's Alumni Association, what they want to promote about their online alumni community in each issue of their quarterly alumni magazine.  This grid allows everyone to stay on target in reaching their alumni with the proper promotional strategy throughout the year - from the planning of the alumni magazine to the implementation of it.

Within the grid, the four yearly issues are marked by season (Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring) with the marketing plans for each issue clearly displayed below.  Some of Annette's ideas include various pullouts - from photo albums, to web postcards, to merchandise, to update forms - general promotion articles, reminders about email addresses, alumni news, mentoring news - plus, many other ways to promote the online alumni community.

This grid fulfills several areas in ascertaining the alumni association is reaching their alumni via their promotional tools.  It helps the association stay on target, it clearly shows what marketing aspects have already been used, as well as which ones are planned for future issues of the alumni magazine.  This allows those involved with the alumni association to better focus on their goals as well as to see which promotional items worked.  By monitoring changes in their online alumni community, the alumni association should be able to see where and when increases in updating information, contributions, and networking have occurred - and then tie them into the most recent alumni magazine issue and the promotions that appeared.

This is an excellent method in increasing online registrations by using a free marketing channel, plus, it's a simple and effective method for all involved.  Organization is essential in the proper layout of any Internet strategy, and by utilizing a promotional grid such as the one Illinois State University is, the results can only lead to success.

Posted by Don Philabaum on March 16, 2007 at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Links to this Article

January 26, 2007

Cornell College - Board Meeting Minutes Online

One of the toughest jobs any alumni association has is keeping everyone informed, connected, and up to date on alumni happenings.  While online alumni communities go a long way to narrowing this gap, there are still things that tend to fall through.  Cornell College's Alumni Association has gone an extra step in ensuring that all of their alumni association members are kept in the loop by posting their annual Alumni Board Meeting Minutes online.  This is a fantastic idea on many different levels!

For one, any alumni association member, no matter where they live, can view the board meeting minutes - whenever they choose.  For another, those that aren't able to make the meeting can still be informed on what happened in their absence.  Lastly, by allowing all members to have access to these minutes, Cornell College's Alumni Association is communicating that every single member is important to the association.  These three things help to create a fuller alumni experience for every member.

Communication is a key component to establishing, retaining, and growing alumni involvement in any college or university.  When communication is open, online alumni communities tend to thrive, as each member feels valued and accepted.  This is an excellent method to increase participation in all areas of the alumni community.  Whatever the need, alumni are more likely to lend a hand and help - whether that means volunteering, mentoring, networking, attending alumni events, or any other alumni function. 

Cornell College's Alumni Association recognizes the importance of their alumni association members.  By posting the board meeting minutes for all to see, they are encouraging communication, participation, involvement, and excitement for the alumni association and for Cornell College.  With an active alumni association, new graduates are more likely to become members quickly - which only enhances the benefits of the association, for everyone involved.         

Posted by Don Philabaum on January 26, 2007 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

January 24, 2007

Saint Mary's College - Touring Jerome

While most, if not all, colleges and universities have an online alumni community, Saint Mary's College Alumni Association has taken their community a step further.  To begin with, their online alumni community has a name, Jerome!  In addition to naming their community, Saint Mary's College Alumni Association has also created a visual tour of the community itself.  The tour is easy to understand and guides alumni through each aspect of the community, with complete descriptions and explanations on how to make the best use of the community.

The tour begins with an overview of the online alumni community as a whole, and explains the benefits alumni will receive by utilizing the community.  It quickly moves on to detailed instructions, tips, and examples of how each section of the online alumni community works.  The tour covers everything that alumni need to know on using the directory, searching for profiles, connecting with other alumni, mentoring, networking, clubs and chapters, communication via email, setting up profiles, volunteering, and much more.

By offering this tour to alumni, Saint Mary's College Alumni Association is supplying the information needed for current Alumni Association members to take full advantage of every area of their online community.  Beyond this, however, they are also ensuring that young alumni, and those alumni who are not yet members of the association, all have a visually compelling format in order to understand how the community works, how it will benefit them, and ways they can give back to their alma mater.

It's important for all colleges and universities to keep their alumni connected, interested, and involved.  Without ongoing participation, online alumni communities don't thrive, volunteers are hard to find, and everyone loses out.  Encouraging participation is vital.  Saint Mary's College Alumni Association is not only encouraging this participation, they are teaching all of their alumni everything they need to know to succeed - within the alumni community and out.  Jerome, and the tour, is a win-win situation for everyone!

Posted by Don Philabaum on January 24, 2007 at 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Links to this Article

June 14, 2006

Are you investing enough in your Alumni/Advancement Internet strategy?

Technology is LAVISHED on students but SQUANDERED on alumni!

In the last 10 years – colleges and universities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating and installing technology that enables students to register and pay for classes online, provide campus email, take classes online, check grades etc. 

Millions more have been spent to provide a wireless campus and provide software and support for the students on campus. Campus IT directors have rightly pushed the budget as far as they could to get the very best technology and services for students.  Pressure to become high on the “Most Wired” campus lists, lead to a virtual “arms race” among campuses.

However, what kind of technology commitment has your college or university made to your alumni?

While the campus is rushing to make the “most wired campus” lists, the alumni association and advancement offices are stuck with budgets that frankly just can’t match their alumni expectation. While the IT department adds web designers, content managers, and system engineers to support the burgeoning web based campus Internet strategies, the alumni and advancement office are lucky to get new monitors or computers, let alone technology to help them manage, communicate with and connect tens of thousands of alumni and friends on a monthly basis.

One major trend I’ve noticed in the last 10 years is the campus IT and upper management’s lack of support to provide technology to alumni.

  • Nearly 50% of small alumni associations - still have not developed an online directory and or community
  • Few alumni or advancement offices have a written Internet strategy that includes a yearly capital investment in additional software and technology
  • For those that have online directories most are not investing enough to keep their site relevant to alumni

Also, at most institutions around the country, the IT department traditionally shuts off graduates email addresses within weeks of them walking across the stage to receive their diploma. While the university has shown a commitment to provide all of the best technology and software they can afford while the students are on campus, there is a serious lack of commitment for them once they become alumni. And these are net savvy Internet users!

As a result, it’s not unusual for an alumni association to have less than 30 percent of alumni registered in their directory.  An unofficial, quick survey of associations with online directories shows an average of 17 percent of alumni registered.

What’s your technology investment per alumni?

One way to bring to the attention of upper management the lack of investment in Internet technology for your alumni - is to ask your IT department what the average investment per year of information technology is per student enrolled. Then show them the average IT investment your campus is making per alumni.  If you have 50,000 alumni and no online directory - of course the average investment per alumni is ZERO.  If you have 50,000 alumni and you invest $20,000 per year on your Internet strategy, you are investing an average of 40 cents per alum. That’s not much more than a postage stamp!

Keep in mind that the number of students on your campus pales to the number of alumni you have. A campus with 2,000 students might have 30,000 alumni.  I’ve met and talked with alumni and advancement directors around the world and have found them ALL fighting to get some budgeting to offer technology to alumni. 

Why should they fight for the budget?

  • With Internet technology they can communicate more frequently
  • Students show more communication results in more contributions

The lack of commitment from the college in investing in software, technology and developing a written Internet strategy is resulting in alumni associations and advancement offices failing miserably at engaging their alumni via the internet. While commercial networks are signing up alumni rapidly, few are being attracted to the alumni online community. While non profits are finding it easier to fundraise online, annual giving programs are using technology (the phone) invented in the late 1800 and the Post Office which was developed by Ben Franklin in the 1700’s.

This lack of commitment comes at a time when the last 5 years of graduates are living, working and playing ONLINE.   While our research has shown the vast majority of alumni associations have less than 17 percent of their alumni registered in their online community, spammers have 100 percent of their alumni email addresses.  So what do you do?

Are you expected to prove you deserve more funding?

While it’s important to continue to improve the technology offered to campus, isn’t it also important to continue to improve the technology for alumni.  Yes, students provide millions of dollars to your campus each year to fund the operations, but alumni too contribute millions and in many capital campaigns today, hundreds of millions of dollars.

If your campus is looking for an ROI, try this. Determine the value of an email address. 

Think about how much money you save each time you email.  What would it cost you to send a letter or invitation to your alumni?  50 cents, a dollar?  Let’s assume that you are going to send an email twice a month, if you said the savings was 50 cent, the value of having an email address to communicate with your alumni is $1 per month or $12 per year.  A number of our clients are receiving unsolicited contributions.  One in particular has averaged $200,000 per year over the past 5 years. Currently they have 10,000 alumni registered which when divided into the total contributions provides a value of $20 in contributions per email address. Add the savings in postage and the contribution value and you have a yearly value of $32 per email address

While this inequality has occurred commercial websites are stealing your brand

The alumni online directory and community are one of the greatest services you can offer to your alumni to help them network with each other to get jobs and do business with each other. 

However while the institution has failed to develop an investment strategy and a written Internet strategy, commercial websites are capturing the behavior and participation of your alumni.  Your current students are graduating and staying on MySpace and Facebook. Your older alumni are participating at Classmates, LinkedIn, Tribe, Friendsters and Ryze. 

  • While your college spends money protecting your brand, these organizations assemble your alumni behind your brand. 
  • While you college spends time trying to gather correct email addresses, update physical addresses, these organizations acquire the latest information and profit from it.
  • While your organization spends a great deal of time trying to gather career changes and other data updates, these organizations get it and market opportunities to alumni based on it.

So what can you do?

Go to your VP’s and those on the Presidents council to discuss the need to serve alumni with the same level of commitment in technology they experienced on campus and are experiencing via commercial websites.  Begin to draft a written Internet strategy that includes a budget and planned implementation of products and services that match the universities strategic plan and your alumni expectation.

If you need any help, drop me an email. [email protected]

Posted by Don Philabaum on June 14, 2006 at 05:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

April 10, 2006

Webcasting – an E-Publishing Option for Non-Profits

Guest Blogger - Jim O'Hare
SmarComm, President

Jimohare20kcropped_3So, all your metrics indicate you’ve done a good job of building your online community. You’ve nurtured a substantial and clean email list that grows and improves with each issue. Your team is strongly linked to your organization’s constituents, its mission and most importantly, its sustainable future.

Still, you’re always willing to consider different communications technologies, especially ones that provide both a sense of excitement and immediate feedback. Maybe it’s time to consider a live web broadcast, a webcast, to augment your core communications strategies.

Webcasts appeared as early as 1997, but uneven bandwidth and poor application services added up to a media tool that was not ready for prime time until 2001. Since then, the explosive adoption of broadband and an increase in understanding of how to produce effective multimedia for the web led to an embracing of streaming media and other forms of webcasting by both producers and consumers.

Typically, webcasts have been employed in the technical and business-to-business marketplaces. Today, though, they are also earning rapid adoption from organizations that directly target members, communities or consumers. These include any organization that benefits when it can “meet” live to directly address those interested in news or updates:

  • associations
  • colleges, universities, school districts, private schools and other educational institutions
  • libraries
  • foundations and philanthropic organizations
  • economic development groups
  • other types of non- and not-for-profit organizations.

The benefits of webcasting are too compelling for organizations to ignore. With a webcast, it’s possible to invite and deliver a live production totally online. The result is that expenses are greatly reduced as compared to a live meeting. This means that an audience hears you speak, sees complementary graphics (typically PowerPoint-type slides) and perhaps video, plus is able to respond live to polling questions – and sees the results immediately, if you choose to share. Also, audience members typically ask questions live via online chat to the presenting team. Depending on the time frame and questions, answers can be shared live “on the air” or afterward via a document you compile and send out via email.

Five tips to consider when exploring webcasting:

  1. Start small
    Invite a segment of your larger audience, perhaps 1000 to 2500 invitees who have a common interest, central to your webcast. In this way, you can hone your production skills and internal processes first, and then scale to an appropriate size.
  2. Center your first webcast on a timely announcement or event
    Don’t commit your organization to a regular webcast schedule until you learn if the media is right for you and your audience.
  3. Consider a “Webcast about Webcasting”
    Schedule a webcast to an internal audience to acclimate them to the tool, get input and ideas for the broader group, and to allow the webcast production team to produce a “real” but controlled event
  4. Start simple
    For your first webcast, don’t even consider live video feeds of presenters; you’re message probably won’t require it, your audience won’t expect it, and you’re organization is likely not ready the very first time.
  5. Focus on your audience and your message
    Webcasting technology is not the story – your message and your audience should be your primary concern. Instead of attempting to build your own web broadcasting tool, partner with a service provider that can ensure your webcast will be simple and successful

Webcasting is not intended to be the cornerstone of any organization’s communication platform. When best implemented, a webcast complements your primary goal: directly communicating and engaging your community with in-person visits and other forms of direct, personal contact that strongly builds loyalty, engagement and support.

Still, webcasting is increasingly becoming an important element in the communications plans of many universities and other non- and not-for profit organizations. This is especially true for those organizations with audiences and presenters located around the world, but strongly connected via their hearts  . . . and via an internet enabled computer.

In next issue:

  1. How much does a webcast typically cost (and can it really be free or even return revenue?)
  2. Tips for sustaining an effective webcast production schedule
  3. How large of an audience can I expect?
  4. What do I do before a webcast . . . and what’s important to do afterward?
  5. Answers to your questions, and an invitation to a webcast:
    Webcasts for Schools and Other Nonprofits

Posted by Don Philabaum on April 10, 2006 at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (13) | Links to this Article