Higher Ed Hero’s Top 5 Strategies to Re-Engage Lost Alumni

Social networking concept

In the first few years after college, your former students and (hopefully) one-day donors are likely to move often, change their numbers and often become lost to your institution. If they’re not engaged during this period, it becomes much more difficult to get in touch with them and build a meaningful relationship later. This can significantly affect your alumni relations and donor efforts. And with the disappearance of landlines, gone are the days you can simply look them up in the phonebook. Therefore, reconnecting with your lost and elusive alumni and keeping them engaged with your university are vital to your advancement efforts. But, you need to know how to find them and what to do once you do. Here are Higher Ed Hero’s top 5 strategies to re-engage lost alumni to help you get started today.

The Social Medial Search

No surprises here – social media is ubiquitous with today’s youth culture and, as more time passes, with the whole of modern society. In fact, social media is infamous for reconnecting old school friends after long years apart and the most popular social network, Facebook, started as a college networking site. If your students aren’t listed in any known directory, you can most likely find them online. However, getting too invasive on an alumnus’s social network could have the opposite effect of re-engagement. We’ll explore some more specific strategies for effective engagement in the later tips.

The Mobile Revolution

It may not seem like a diverse tool to connect, but with more people (especially the young), connecting to the internet, gaming and otherwise interacting on mobile devices, you need to think mobile in your efforts. And I know what you’re thinking – how can I connect on mobile if I don’t have their number? Good question. The answer: apps. Mobile applications are tremendously popular. Utilizing unique apps for your school can entice your lost alumni to re-engage with your institution in a way that is unique to them.

Gathering Contact Info Online

There are certain, unspoken rules to pulling contact info off of social media. If an alumnus were to make a public post with something along the lines of “My new number is…,” it’s okay to use that information. However, going into their profile to pull an email address or phone number might be seen as invasive and an abuse of the social network. It is better to engage first through posting, re-posting and commenting and build the relationship online. Once that relationship has been cultivated, it will be easier to ask for personal contact info and in some cases, the alumnus might volunteer their info.

Outside of social media there are several sites that offer the ability to look people up. Most of them are at cost, so your institution would need to okay using their services. In addition, your alumni might feel uncomfortable with having their information purchased. If there was no engagement beforehand they might ask how you got in contact with them and that could make for an awkward conversation. This isn’t to say pursing any of these options isn’t worth it (there are certainly advantages), but a more authentic approach to connection and engagement will ease the process of cultivating an alumnus into a donor.

Personalized Content – From Connection to Engagement

Once you’ve found a lost alumnus and connected on social media or via your college app, you need to take that connection and turn it into actual engagement. The first thing you need to do is to identify the particular interests and values of the alumnus. Then create a content strategy that will allow you to post content from your subscribers and your institution that is relevant to those interests and values. This should be coupled with a strategy to share the experience of your school and reconnect your alumni to their school experiences.

You also need to always remember that your online social interactions are a conversation. Treat it as such. Communicate in a direct and human way. Remember the point of this stage is pure engagement. Avoid any marketing or donation pitches. It’s fine to invite an alumnus to a campus event on social media, but don’t ask if they can contribute a donation. People on social media mostly want to avoid being marketed to and doing so can turn them away.

Going Offline – Cultivating Found Alumni into New Donors

Once you’ve begun the process of building a relationship with your once lost alumni online, it’s time to take things to the next level. Inviting alumni back to campus for a special event, whether big or small, keeps the relationship alive. This can be as large as a reunion or something small like a wine tasting event. Again, knowing the particular interests and values of an alumnus or group of alumni will help you to select which events will be the most effective. If you have a large enough group of alumni with the same interests, you can even plan a special event for them. This type of  relationship-building will keep alumni engaged for a long time, especially when social media is strategically used to keep the conversation alive when you’re not face-to-face. While it is a bad idea to make the ask on social media, the in-person ask is more respectful, honest and, ultimately, effective.

We hope you’ve found these tips from Higher Ed Hero effective. Engaging lost and elusive alumni can be a difficult challenge for alumni relations and advancement professionals alike. However, there are always steps one can take to improve chances of success.

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Kevin – Higher Ed Hero

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