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What Is Your Picture of Alumni Engagement?

What Is Your Picture of Alumni Engagement?

When it comes to alumni engagement, we often get lost in the detail.  To be more precise, we often get lost in the alumni engagement metrics.

There is the big question about what to measure that will capture both the ‘Fund-raising’ and ‘Friend-raising’ nature of alumni relations.

As my friend Chris Marshall from GG+A has cited to me in the past, most education institutions will actively measure alumni engagement metrics typically centered around:

  1. Donors – alumni that gave their money (however big or small)
  2. Attendees – alumni that participated in an event (in person or virtually via social networks)
  3. Volunteers – alumni that gave their time

Donors.  Attendees. Volunteers.  There are all critical engagement areas and I am very supportive of measuring and ranking your individual alumni by them as well.

Yet at the same time I also feel some schools may take false comfort from these metrics that camouflage the true status of an institution’s engagement.

Forget the metrics for one moment, and let me ask you a different question.

The old cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words seems appropriate here.  If you were asked to draw a picture of your alumni engagement, what would it look like?

Let me give you two examples:

1.  Empty theater
This picture highlights fundamental problems with your alumni above and beyond engaging them.  If this is your picture, your focus is probably on physically finding lost alumni and having the basics in place like up to date phone numbers and emails.

2.  Standing in silence
This in my opinion is probably the most common picture of engagement.  The basketball arena is packed with fans – literally standing room only.  Yet look closely.  These fans turned up, but they are standing there in complete silence.  They want to be associated with you and are proud of their alma mater but have not found their voice.  You probably have not provided them with the value proposition required, the motivation, to find their voice.  However the potential remains huge.

The picture of what your engagement currently looks like is important.  It will help to focus your institution.

Yet what could be potentially even more important than your current engagement picture, is your future one.  What is the vision for your institution’s alumni engagement?

Draw both pictures.  Draw them with your team, and you may have taken the first important step to transforming your alumni engagement.

I would welcome your thoughts.

Also worth reading The Case for Mentoring.

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