After a challenging 2020, alumni teams are beginning to look ahead as prospects for 2021 appear more positive. The disruption to alumni relations has prompted the necessity for new methods of engagement, combined with efforts to support the additional hurdles alumni face.
Many universities have been moving forward across all their external communications with an expanded repertoire of online events, networking opportunities and services, adapting their traditional in-person events and support services to work in this universal shift to the virtual.
With Covid-19 also resulting in a spike in unemployment, many graduates are turning to their alumni careers services, already one of the foremost benefits of alumni membership, to seek out employability support, networking and job opportunities as the competitive job market becomes increasingly focused on personal recommendations and timely introductions.
As with all other aspects of university life and provision, the challenges of the past ten months have also created unique conditions for rapid change in the alumni space. We found some great examples of alumni team creativity and new approaches to engagement in a quick scan across alumni websites which included:
- Digital coffee mornings
- Interesting and engaging lecture series
- Virtual book clubs
- CV, interviews and careers advice online
Many of these new approaches enhance existing alumni services and support and will no doubt become more permanent fixtures in alumni engagement strategies as we move into the new year.
To maximise the positives of this year’s innovations, it also seems likely that alumni engagement managers will want to look more closely at their transnational alumni and unmet needs and opportunities within those segments. Gretchen Dobsen, a global engagement strategist, suggests that higher education needs to ‘remain creative and opportunistic about where, how and with whom it builds transnational partnerships’ starting with ‘developing or updating international databases’, surveying where their alumni are based and how they want to be involved and supported.
Alterline is no stranger to supporting the needs of alumni teams who want to develop or renew their strategy to mobilise their own alumni engagement in challenging market conditions. Back in 2015, we were commissioned by London South Bank University (LSBU) alumni relations team to conduct research with their internal stakeholders and alumni that would help reposition them as an important contributor to the university with some incredibly powerful results. “We use the report produced by Alterline as the foundation for all our work” – Olivia Rainford, Head of Alumni Relations
You can read more about the work with LSBU here on our website as well as finding out how your team might get involved with our new Alumni Life Pulse service to help you understand your wider alumni audience needs better and increase engagement opportunities with them. We’re already working with the alumni teams at UEA, Lancaster and Liverpool John Moores universities, if you’re considering the insight you need to plan for the year ahead and want to understand more about the new and emerging needs of your alumni we’d love to hear from you.