December 01, 2007

You are in the People Business - Promote Staff!

While I'm sure you already recognize the importance of your staff, have you thought about putting some effort toward promoting them within your alumni online community?  Cedarville University does a terrific job of promoting their staff by devoting an entire section completely to them.  Their Meet Us section is a creative blend of photographs and information for alumni to consume.  Cedarville University begins with large group pictures of their staff, and then gives a link to individual pictures with baseball card style data for each person. 

What's so great about this is a lot of information is delivered in a simple, eye-catching way.  Visitors learn all about the alumni staff with a simple click.  And - they learn far more than just the basics of their individual job responsibilities, though those are included too.  The staff shares information about their hometowns, education majors, favorite bible verses and colors, hobbies, unusual facts, favorite college memories, and why they enjoy working with alumni.  I'm really impressed with Cedarville University's recognition and promotion of their staff to their alumni - and I am positive it's making a difference.

What type of a difference?  Alumni who are proud of their alumni association and believe it is run by a competent team of people are going to be willing to contribute and participate more often.  That's a pretty big bonus!  In addition, promoting your staff to your alumni in a method similar to Cedarville University's will help personalize the staff to your alumni.  This helps to forge bonds between the alumni association and the alumni.  It's a win-win situation!

When you build up your staff and give your alumni the opportunity to get to know them, you'll find they will reconnect on a more frequent basis.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Posted by Don Philabaum on December 1, 2007 at 04:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | Links to this Article

November 12, 2007

Gordon College - Add Content and Tell a Story with Photo Journals

Keeping your alumni online community updated with new content is a never-ending goal.  Without new content for your alumni to consume, they'll spend their online time at other websites and communities, and will only visit yours sporadically.  I've written many other blog articles about different methods you can use to keep your content new, interesting, and fun for your alumni.  Gordon College uses photo journals as one of their methods to keep their alumni coming back for more.

Gordon College alumni go out into the world - not only to travel, but to share, help, and learn.  The college has provided an opportunity for their alumni, students, and faculty to share their experiences with others via their website.  Not only can alumni, students, and faculty of Gordon College use text to share these experiences, but now they can do so through photographs, as well.  This is a great way to add new content and to keep alumni connected, interested, and involved with your alumni online community.

Photos add depth, fun, and so much more to a plain written story.  Plus, photos are a terrific way to connect with those visiting the site.  In fact, this is great content to use on the admission side, as well.  Prospective students and their families will be impressed to see what graduates are accomplishing.  When you think about it - the difference in "telling" versus "showing" is massive. 

Photo journals can be used in a variety of ways to increase the connectedness, participation, and ongoing interest in your alumni online community.  What are your ideas for using photo journals on your website?  I'd love to hear about them!  If you're already using this tool in your community, let me know how it's worked out for you

Posted by Don Philabaum on November 12, 2007 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (37) | Links to this Article

October 29, 2007

Newsletter Video Captures a MILLION Words!

Do you send, either by regular mail or by email, a newsletter to your alumni each month?  If so, how many hours do you spend each and every month preparing the newsletter?  After all, you have to write it, proof it, run it by others, and then worry that you missed something.  All of this can add up to a lot of man hours each month.  Who reads your newsletter, anyway?  Is all this work in creating a product well spent?  Maybe, maybe not, but here is another idea to consider:

Ramapo College of New Jersey decided to move into the video era and use video for their monthly newsletter.  This is a fantastic idea, so I had to share it!  Each month, Ramapo College alumni conduct interviews for their monthly Newsletter Video.  Once they're ready, they go on the alumni website, so it's easy for alumni to find, view, and enjoy.  This is such an easy technique that can also be a lot of fun to do!  So far, Ramapo alumni have interviewed department chairs, student government leaders, faculty, and more.  Check it out!

If you're interested in the idea, I'd definitely recommend it.  Your challenge will be to include changing content, so that each month is new and different than the previous month.  However, it's a great project for your PR/Journalism students.  Once you get it set up properly, it can be their responsibility to keep it going.  Everyone wins in this scenario.  You get the content you want for your alumni website.  The students get real life experience.  And - your alumni have terrific video newsletters to view each and every month.

Think about the different ways you could utilize this concept in creating video content for your alumni to consume.  I'd love to hear more, so drop me a line.

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 29, 2007 at 08:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

October 15, 2007

Bring Your Alumni Back To Campus Using Web Cams

Our behavior is changing.  We are living in a "digitally now" era more than ever before, and as we become more accustomed to it, it continues to change and affect our behavior.  The resources available today give you a fantastic opportunity to engage your alumni and bring them back to campus as often as you want!  How is this possible?  By using web cams!

The University of Texas Medical Branch is already using web cams to give their alumni a birds-eye view of campus.  They have three web cams set up at various areas of campus, and they've made it really easy for viewers to check out what's happening!  Beyond the three areas the University of Texas Medical Branch already has set up with web cams, they also ask for suggestions for other areas to use web cams in.

The great thing about web cams is they truly do give any alum a birds-eye view of what's happening at that moment.  Consider placing web cams strategically around your campus where events and activities are occurring.  Some ideas are:

1.  Student Commons
2.  Football Field
3.  Student Recreation Center
4.  Student Center
5.  President's Office!

Okay - just kidding on the president's office!  Though, I'm sure others would love to see what the president does all day long.  Heck, now that I'm seriously thinking about it, a web cam in the president's office could be a really fun campaign to run - A Day in the Life of the President! 

The point is to be creative and to use web cams as a way to give your alumni a method to reconnect to the campus and to their memories of life on campus.  When your alumni feel more connected, amazing things happen.  Give web cams a try and let me know how it works out!

Posted by Don Philabaum on October 15, 2007 at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

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 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 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

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  Your alumni could mix and mash.  Another example is, 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.

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 31, 2007 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | 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 20, 2007

Ashland University - Making a Statement with Mouse Pads

After graduation, one of the toughest jobs an alumni association has is nabbing the interest of the young alumni.  There are certainly a variety of ways this can be done, but some definitely work better than others.  So, if you're looking for a way to keep your alumni association in front of alumni, and hopefully propel them to register within your alumni online community, what do you do?

Ashland University has come up with a unique twist in order to give their graduating seniors a friendly reminder about their alumni association.  They've provided their graduating seniors with a mouse pad as a way to drive them to register in the alumni online community.  I've seen alumni associations offer key chains, water bottles, and other trinkets in order to remind their alumni about the benefits of the alumni association, but this is the first time I've seen something like this offered.  It makes sense.

The mouse pad has the Web site URL for the alumni online community and it's got a fun, fresh design that any graduate would be proud to have their mouse resting on.  Even more importantly - it's a continuous reminder every time alumni sit down to their computers to log in and check out the alumni online community.  While other possibilities, such as coffee mugs, pens, and the like, are also great ideas - a mouse pad always sits next to a computer, so chance are high that alumni will see it every single day.

The response from the graduating seniors has also been terrific.  Gifts like the mouse pads can be given to the graduates on graduation day as they walk off the stage as a present from the alumni association.  Others I've talked to are considering having a separate graduation event that teaches graduates to network with alumni through the alumni online community.  These events would then be a great place to provide the student with the alumni association graduation gift. 

You have to do something to get the MySpace/Facebook generation registered in your online community.  Start thinking out of the box and come up with a fun, annual concept that your graduates will enjoy.

Posted by Don Philabaum on July 20, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article