Getting the most out of an alumni event- Alumni Series Part II
Getting the Most Out of an Alumni Event
We may have all attended our high school reunions, often just to see how much everyone has aged, but is there really value in hosting alumni events at the career college level? Despite our changing world and new challenges with our millennials and social media, there is still value in face-to-face relationships and it is all about relationships! This is indeed why we call it – Alumni Relations.
What’s the value to us? Why go through the work of planning alumni events?
We know that maintaining contact with our graduates holds great value. Having an opportunity to reconnect with them not only provides us with updated contact information, but we often gather new externship sites and/or job opportunities both for our current students and graduates. Our alumni are walking, breathing advertisements for our institutions. Having an opportunity to appreciate our alumni and keep them apprised of our program offerings and facility updates provides them the information they need to talk about us. Casual conversations our graduates have about our institutions with their family members, friends and co-workers often lead to new enrollments. Also, many of our former students have moved into administrative positions or may be hiring managers. These connected graduates enjoy hiring students from their alma mater.
What’s the value for our graduates? Why would they want to come to an event?
The main reason our graduates return to our campuses or our websites is their need for job placement and career service assistance. I believe this is true for our alumni events as well. It’s important for our career services department to have a presence at our events. But, in my experience, another central reason our alumni attend events is to reconnect with instructors and fellow classmates.
Our graduates cannot wait to come back to tell their past instructors about their success. They enjoy telling an instructor how much they use a particular concept or procedure that their instructor spent extra time helping them master. They are proud to share how they have moved up into management positions. Many have lost contact with former classmates and enjoy reconnecting along with having an opportunity to network with other professionals in their career area.
If those reasons are not strong enough to bring in a graduate, offerings like a special event/venue or professional speaker, free food/drinks and alumni gifts may provide the necessary incentive to bring them to an alumni event.
Where do we begin? What considerations should we take into account in planning an event?
There are many event planning resources available to help with decisions and details. Organizing a Planning Team and guiding them through the process of deciding on your purpose is a great place to start. When we were planning our very first alumni event, our CEO said, “Our goal is to appreciate our graduates. We don’t want them to feel like we want anything from them when they attend these events.” We’ve stayed with that philosophy and it is the basis of our events.
How can we set up a simple low-budget event?
Since graduates enjoy coming ‘home’, you may want to consider hosting an event at your local campus to avoid venue costs. Although food can be a draw, typically graduates are coming for the connections. Consider timing your event so you can serve simple finger foods or desserts. We’ve even hosted Saturday morning events where we served coffee and pastries to keep costs low. Hosting a simple open house event with a brief program and plenty of time for mingling can allow you to host an event that fits a small budget.
What’s the ROI?
When graduates leave an event feeling good about themselves and proud to be a graduate of your institution, this is probably the most valuable return on your investment. It isn’t always easy to draw lines of connection, but we know these alumni talk in their break rooms at work or at the weekend BBQ which will result in more enrollments. Alumni word-of-mouth provides a very strong statement about your school and increased enrollment can be directly and indirectly attributed to alumni.
Beyond the typical measured returns of enrollments and increased job placement, alumni events are a huge ‘shot in the arm’ for instructors and staff. Hearing “Thank You” from their graduates reminds them of the impact they are making on lives each day.
Taking the time to plan and create opportunities and events for your graduates to come home and reconnect creates community. Our alumni communities are an integral part of our career colleges. Why not appreciate them?
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