Welcome to Part B of Part III of a now 5-part series (should I say “saga”?) on alumni engagement. See the previous Part I, Part II, and Part III-A. Part B continues from A with a plan to communicate and engage those alumni after creating a goal, a committee, and a database with records you found.
V. Connect & Communicate
Please note as your committee starts to create your alumni database: a school will need to connect with alumni first and ask for money later. Your first letter to your alumni or the first enewsletter should not be with your hand outstretched for a gift. Resist that urge; reconnect first. That is, “friend-raising” will lead to fundraising, so don’t rush the ask. (But still plan to ask for support if that is part of your overall goals from Step I.)
After a period of time, such as a year or so, and you have at least 200 or more names, send a mass mailing to the names with addresses that you have. It can be a newsletter, or simply a, “welcome back to the family, alumni!” detailing your efforts. Use a local mailing house (Pakmail, Postmasters, etc.) to send the mass mailing through the bulk mail department of the US Post Office and ensure that the envelope has “Return Service Requested” on the outside.
First, the mailhouse will “scrub” your mailing list and correct any bad addresses, reflecting moves within the last 6 months. Next, if someone has changed addresses in less than 6 months, the post office will forward you the new address. The address forwarding and mailing will cost, but now you have a much more accurate database. Remember to make all of the address corrections in your database!
In addition to this first communication, create a plan to regularly communicate with your growing database of alumni. You can also look to connect with an alumni blog, online alumni directory, social media, even a phone call campaign. We suggest at least two contact times per year to start. St. Peter-Immanuel Lutheran in Decatur simply put a note about their endowment match in a church bulletin, and an alumnus was in town visiting family saw the information and gave a generous donation to the match…
Now that you have a goal, a growing database, and a communications plan, start to engage. those alumni; maybe send a survey to ask how they want to connect; personally visit or invite small groups to lunch or a reception; maybe invite them back to your campus as guests for key activities, such as the following:
- Existing events
- Invite the alumni to existing events – sometimes at no charge
- Confirmation Weekend
- Lutheran Schools Week
- Grandparents Day
- Sports Tourney
- School Play
- Arts performances
- Christmas service
- Athletic events
- New events
- Alumni Awards
- Lunch with students
- New Fundraiser event
- Alumni Day: interact with students, assemblies
- Social get-togethers
- Speaker breakfasts or lunches
- 8th grade/senior class project
- Existing events
Be aware of the ages of the alumni as you plan these efforts, and don’t wait until alumni are are older to engage. There is no reason why you cannot engage younger alumni now even current 8th/12th grade students, so that once they graduate they will keep those warm-fuzzies feel connected as the school faces will still be familiar.
Still with me? Next week is our last article on alumni engagement and summaries the main points we have been discussing and will highlight some local success stories of our schools working to engage their alumni.
P.S. I understand there is a huge amount of additional work to do in-between these 6 points, and that is why I am here for our 19 Lutheran schools: to help them create a customized plan of action and help them achieve their goals.
Picture Source: Time-Life Archives on Google, “Walnut Hills High Calculus Class”