Are you dating your alumni population?

3 ways to connect online for increased alumni engagement

If you’ve attended university, chances are you’ve heard from your alma mater in one way or another. Usually it’s a phone call, letter, mixer invite, or information on joining a website dedicated to school alumni. However, this article shows how universities need to flip the script. Instead of asking for alumni to come to you, seek out those relationships with your engaged graduates where they are. Below I’ve included 3 ways for universities to “date”, or connect online with alumni, and how it will pay off to help your organization.

The First Date: Provide Something

In a national survey, 82% of schools solicit fundraising to new alumni within their first year of graduating (1). For students facing student loan debt repayment, new careers, and life transitions, this is the wrong move.

Show alumni you aren’t just looking for money. Instead of asking for donations as soon as the student becomes a graduate, provide support. Consider ways to surprise new graduates with gifted exclusive merchandise, mentoring groups, or one year free membership to the alumni association (for large universities). Follow this up with milestone recognition. These small investments will help alumni feel valued long beyond their time as students.

The Intrigue: Networking

Gone are the days of keeping alumni conversations limited to membership websites and newsletters. Facebook and LinkedIn are two great existing resources to create alumni groups to share job opportunities, alumni events, and user-driven conversations. University alumni are more likely to engage in a Facebook group than a website or newsletter submission form (2). Alumni driven conversations will convert into usable content, but we’ll get to that later…

The Connection: Engagement

Once alumni feel valued and involved, they’re ready act. With hashtags, alumni accounts, and repetitive days for certain themes and events, social media channels can encourage users and alumni to interact (3).

Capitalizing on the nostalgic connection alumni have with universities is key to engaging your key audiences. Instead of only using online platforms to fund-raise, instead focus on stirring up old memories for alumni, and encouraging them to share their own stories.

The Franklin College @grizalumni account features multiple photos from other users/alumni tagging the account on its page, a sign of engagement.

The Payoff: Free Content

A 2018 study of higher education marketing (3) showed universities which promote their involvement outside its own community and impact in the world increase engagement from alumni. The more alumni can connect with their alma mater in ways relevant to their career, the more likely they are to encourage others to attend the same university.

85% of people consuming content online are more likely to trust another consumer’s content over than brand produced content (3). As you engage alumni on social platforms, you can crowdsource user generated content to give real life success stories as a recruitment tool for prospective students and alumni alike.

Check out this video for Harvard University interpretation of real world alumni success stories:


Which stage are you at right now with your alumni association? What other ideas do you have? Sound off in the comments!



  1. Toyn, G. (2016, January 19). When development treats alumni like their atm. Alumni Access. Retrieved from http://blog.alumniaccess.com/stop-treating-alumni-like-atm
  2. Stephenson, A. & Yerger, D. (2014). Does brand identification transform alumni into university advocates? International Review on Public and Nonprofit Marketing. 11:243-262.
  3. Peruta, A. & Shields, A. (2018). Marketing your university on social media: a content analysis of Facebook post types and formats. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education. 28:2, 175-191.

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