Let’s face it, most Alumni Relations Directors are a little afraid of their alumni and they certainly don’t want unhappy alumni.
To some extent this is completely understandable. Unhappy alumni can be extremely vocal.
Some of you may remember an old blog of mine from a few months ago. It discussed the case of a certain alum from an Australian University who wrote a public letter on LinkedIn about how unhappy she was that her alma mater dare ask her for money when they had not been in touch for so long.
Yes, her negative blog received 10,000 views but schools must not draw the wrong conclusions from examples like this.
Let’s start with two home-truths.
Firstly, it is a statistical certainty that when an education institution does any alumni engagement activity then there will be a small minority that give a negative reaction. Engaging alumni will mean that a small minority may even give quite a vocal negative response via emails and phone calls. Despite their noise they remain small in number.
The second truth is that the vast majority of your alumni will probably silently be neutral at worst, and hopefully be very appreciative of your engagement activity.
Should the happy but quiet majority of your alumni be over-ruled by the loud minority?
I often find that some schools are so concerned about offending alumni and enduring their vocal response that it affects the frequency of their engagement. There is a fear about over-communicating with alumni that leads to a paralysis of engagement and transforming them into unhappy alumni.
The logic almost dictates that it is better to engage less with alumni if it means reducing the risk of causing some negative reaction, however small, from a minority of alumni.
I think differently. Schools need to be more confident. Engaging alumni requires self-confidence in the value you are bringing to your alumni.
Schools need to put the vocal minority into perspective and concentrate their efforts on providing alumni engagement that adds real value to the lives of alumni.
The best answer to disgruntled alumni is to offer them engagement that is actually relevant and valuable to their lives.
Don’t be afraid. Keep engaging alumni.
I would welcome your thoughts.
Please also read The Case for Mentoring.