A close look at building alumni relationships

Having a consistent message, look, and feel are important parts of marketing an institution, but a successful brand goes deeper than that. It’s the entire student experience, from the time you have your first interaction with a student all the way through graduation. And because there’s no better advertisement for a school than students who become successful professionals, creating and maintaining alumni engagement is absolutely critical.

Successful alumni are proof that your institution delivers. They build the credibility of your programs in the most authentic way possible.

Engaged alumni are likely to become faculty, staff, guest speakers, connections for student internships, mentors, and/or donors.

Alumni can enhance the current student experience, bolster your curriculum, and build loyalty.

Alumni can be one of your strongest sources for quality student referrals.

How schools are reaching graduates today

The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) asked its member schools to share ways they were talking to alumni.*

Ways schools keep in touch

What type of tactics are used

23EVENTS
5CAREER
FAIR
4INVITATION
TO SPEAK
IN CLASS
5CONTINUING
ED OR FREE
AUDIT
CLASSES FOR
ALUMNI
5RESUME
REVIEWS
AND JOB
PLACEMENT
SUPPORT
3PROGRAM ADVISORY COMMITTEE SERVICE
3CONTINUOUS
TRACKING
3ONE-ON-ONE
MEETINGS
BEFORE AND
AFTER
GRADUATION
7OTHER
*Data collected from ACCSC member 2015 survey, 100 responses

Although it’s important to build relationships with those who are already alumni, it’s equally important to focus on current students to make sure they continue their involvement with your school long after they graduate.

Focus on relationship building activities at every stage of the student lifecycle.
ADMISSIONS
ORIENTATION
CURRICULUM
GRADUATION
POST
GRADUATION
quote-photo
I truly believe that consistent support for students from all departments within the school throughout the student journey is the way to establish a lasting connection with students who will become graduates. This can’t simply be the responsibility of one entity within in the school but must be a collaborative group effort.
Jill Moody, Ph.D. • Director of Education, Atlanta School of Massage
The activities you use to build relationships with students and alumni fall in three areas:
pride-flag
Successful institutions have alumni that are proud to have gone there. They spread the word about how awesome their experience was, and how it’s made an impact on their lives.

How are you instilling pride in students and alumni?

HERE ARE A FEW WAYS SCHOOLS ARE MAKING IT HAPPEN:

Spirit wear and logo item gifts at orientation, graduation, and as alumni thank yous

Host “Invite a friend to school” day when students and alumni are encouraged to bring a friend to school for festivities

Give special distinction awards at graduation

quote-photo
Our team of instructors take the education of the students very seriously and it shows though the professional relationship you see building with each course. Students are free to contact an instructor seeking technical advice even out of class.
Tim Brokaw • Automotive Technology Program Manager, JTech Institute
Benefits
To stay engaged with your school, alumni need to know what’s in it for them.

What’s the benefit to alumni for staying involved in your school and how are you letting them know about it?

HERE ARE A FEW WAYS SCHOOLS ARE MAKING IT HAPPEN:

Create a comprehensive list of benefits for alumni. Distribute widely at orientation and before graduation, and individually through Career Services.

Offer free professional headshots for alumni

Provide continuing ed opportunities for alumni

quote-photo
Our Career/Placement Department offers life-time assistance. They will update resumes, assist with mock interviews, and offer different interview techniques. If a previous graduate is in search of a new job, whether it’s in the area or out-of-state, we are here to offer assistance in their search.
Allison F. Mosier, BS • Student Services Coordinator, Great Lakes Institute of Technology
obligation
One of the most effective ways to get alumni participation is if they already feel like they’re supposed to participate. It’s a fine line—you certainly don’t want to send the message that alumni “owe” you. But you can extoll the virtues of assisting current students reach their full potential.

How are you enabling alumni to be an active part of providing the same opportunities to students that they were given?

HERE ARE A FEW WAYS SCHOOLS ARE MAKING IT HAPPEN:

Invite alumni to share their professional expertise:

as guest speakers at orientation or in class

as mentors for students

as mock interviewers

as judges for student contests

as Program Advisory Committee members

as Advisory Board members

Count on alumni to connect students to internship and job opportunities

quote-photo
We go an extra step and make our alumni want to be part of our alumni network. We constantly have alumni on campus as guest speakers, mock interviewers, or presenters. We publish and announce their accomplishments in local papers, in blog write-ups, and through social media which adds to their portfolios. We offer our “Together Program” which allows alumni to come back and audit classes for free to stay current and competitive in the job market as technology changes rapidly. We make sure our alumni play an active role in each other’s success and in making the network successful. We create ways for our alumni to hire each other and pass business opportunities. We recently let a graphic design alum create the logo for our alumni network.
Dax Gomez • Career Services Director, Nossi College of Art
Put it into action
So how can you make this work for you?

1. Assess the situation.

List the activities you’re already doing to build alumni relationships. Categorize them into pride, benefit, or obligation. Then identify where in the student lifecycle they fall. You can use this worksheet to organize your list.

2. Identify any gaps.

You don’t need to have every single square filled in, but are there categories or student lifecycle periods where you don’t have any activities?

3. Fill the holes.

Brainstorm tactics for any blank spaces on your worksheet. Pick the best ones, prioritize, and execute.

Now go make some loyal alums.

As always, we’re here to help with strategies, creative ideas, or tactical execution.

At Cyanna we’ve seen how education can transform lives.
And we’re committed to being a fundamental part of delivering education to everyone.

We serve institutions and related regulatory agencies in four key areas: