Alumni Networking: Say Goodbye to your Graduating Class. Forever.

Alumni Networking: Say Goodbye to your Graduating Class. Forever.

The countdown has started.

It is already March, and for many schools, it is just 12 weeks until graduation.

Time to celebrate? Well not if you are involved in the advancement department of an education institution.

Let me be a little provocative. For what percentage of your alumni will graduation be the last time you ever hear from them again? 30%? 40%? Or worse?

For many of your graduating students the commencement ceremony will be the beginning of a lifetime of zero interaction with your institution.

The big question is why? Why do schools lose touch so quickly?

The technical answer is that the first summer post-graduation will, for many of your alumni, mark big changes in their personal and professional lives.

They will probably start a new role or job. They will probably move location. And of course they will probably have new contact information. Within weeks all of the contact information you hold on these individuals (address, email, phone number) will be out of date.

But that still leaves the underlying question – why? Why do schools lose contact so quickly even if these changes are happening?

Alumni Networking

The answer is because many schools often only decide to stay in touch with their alumni after they have already left.

In short, schools leave it too late.

In an ideal world, your institution will start to build its culture of philanthropy and alumni engagement not on the last day, but the first day of school.

For those interested in a strategic approach to this, please see Elise Betz, Executive Director of Alumni Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, who recently gave an inspiring keynote speech at the Graduway Global Leaders Summit. Her talk, ”Cultivating Roots: Building a Culture of Student Philanthropy and Engagement”, was a bold example of how a school (albeit a top one), can strategically invest in their culture of giving with an eye on the very long term.

However what if your school is unable to think that long term and needs a solution in place within the next few weeks?

Here are three tips for you:

  1. Connect via social networks – get connected with your graduating students via their social networks. Alumni may well change jobs and location but their Facebook and LinkedIn connection details will stay constant.
  2. Make them part of the alumni network now – while it is understandable that you only want to reward students with membership of the alumni body once they graduate, it is simply too late. In particular facilitating alumni networking and alumni mentoring in particular is critical.  Invite your students to join your alumni portal or alumni directory now.  Alumni networks are for students as well!
  3. Give them a reason to stay connected – show them before they graduate how being part of an exclusive alumni network can help them both professionally and socially.

The clock is ticking. You still have time to save your connection with your Graduating Class, but you need to get moving now.

Alumni networking seems to be a big part of the answer.

I would welcome your thoughts.