I’ve spent some time recently meeting university alumni teams discussing some of the challenges they face in today’s climate with higher education under increased scrutiny and pressure.
We talked about current approaches to encouraging recent graduates to join the alumni fold; recruiting older graduates to be active alumni and finding the best way of reaching out to them if email is not their channel of choice. With their ability to positively influence current students, active alumni are the lifeblood of a vibrant, progressive institution.
Form our conversations it became clear that many of the challenges facing alumni teams centre on one fundamental issue, that of engagement. How can teams have strong relationships when alumni don’t interact or respond to outreach activities? How can they ensure that the events they carefully plan and manage are fully attended? How can they get alumni to support and work with current students? And how can they generate and grow funding from their alumni?
Developing alumni programmes that drive positive engagement seems to be the key, but with such a diverse audience how can alumni teams ensure that their engagement programmes resonate strongly enough with all their members?
The value of the exchange
Reflecting on these conversations, I’ve come to the conclusion that successful engagement is an outcome of better understanding what the nature of the exchange is for alumni. Every day we are faced with decisions centred on the value of an exchange. The exchanges we may recognise most readily are transactional exchanges, buying goods and services, looking for deals and making judgements on whether the item we are about to buy represents value for money.
There is a cost - the price we have to pay; an opportunity cost - the things you can’t do having committed to this transaction; and a reward - enjoying, using or consuming what we buy.
We also engage in a series of social exchanges based on our interactions with other people. As with transactional exchanges, social exchanges include an element of cost, such as time, energy and effort and a benefit, which is often related to an emotional outcome, how it will make us feel and will the exchange will lead to a stronger, more rewarding relationship? For both transactional and social exchanges we make judgements on the value of them and if we don’t think we will get a satisfactory return on our investment we’ll walk away.
Through a conversation with a director of alumni relations on the matter of exchange, it was clear that for some of his alumni members, altruism is what initially motivates them and they like to know what the positive outcomes are from the time, money, energy and effort they contribute. And for many that first step to altruism is dependent on the strength of their affinity with the institution.
Driving engagement by gaining a better understanding of the exchange for alumni is something that has really intrigued the team here at Alterline. So, we’ve put our heads together and are working on an alumni solution, the Alumni Life Pulse, that is focused on supporting alumni teams to increase and drive engagement through insight-driven intelligence by:
- Understanding what the nature of the exchange is? What alumni want from the alumni team and the university as a whole? What will motivate them to join the programme and stay engaged? And what it is that is holding back more disengaged members?
- Investigating how the current programme is performing. What’s working well and what can be improved?
- Analysing how strategy needs to adapt to effectively engage different audiences from recent graduates to business and organisational leaders.
So please, watch this space and please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss the nature of the exchange or find out more about our Alumni Life Pulse pilot.
So please, watch this space and please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss the nature of the exchange or find out more about our Alumni Life Pulse pilot. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can reach me by phone on 0161 503 5760.