How a Career Access Approach Can Help Alumni Relations Fulfill Alumni Expectations in Multiple Ways
Alumni Engagement in the Old World
“Congratulations on your graduation from our esteemed university. We did a great job with you, didn’t we? Show how much you love us by giving a gift today!”
That’s basically what most graduates are hearing from their alumni association after they cross the stage. You might not be saying that specifically, but trust us, that’s what they’re hearing. And seeing as your recent alumni have lived through three different economic downturns (two of them recessions), the message is starting to wear very thin.
Thankfully, most institutions have put significant work into trying to change that message over the past decade. Advancement offices now talk about their Young Alumni or their GOLD alumni — Graduates of the Last Decade. This segmentation has allowed alumni relations to construct specific strategies around these younger professionals, and avoid awkwardly asking for money from a generation saddled with huge student debt.
Unfortunately, where alumni relations still struggles is in determining what that first touch point should really be. What should we be saying to graduates after they cross the stage?
Thus, alumni offices have gone back to some of the tried and true engagement tactics like happy hours or gamewatches. They try to keep the good times of college alive through homecoming and regional club parties.
But there is a more effective way to keep young graduates in the fold. One that also helps extend the culture of philanthropy that institutions seek to build.
What Alumni Expect of Alma Mater
The truth is that alumni still have very high expectations of their institution. Specifically, survey1 after survey2 tell us alumni expect the alumni association to help them “identify job opportunities for graduates” and to help them “network with other alumni.” It’s two of the top three areas where alumni say their alumni association falls short.
For students, these responsibilities typically fall to Career Services. So Alumni Relations professionals often expect their colleagues in that office to also support alumni when they ask for it. However, with an average ratio of 2,377 students to every 1 student-facing staff member3, it’s just not practical or feasible to expect that career staff to shoulder the burden of possibly hundreds of thousands of more stakeholders to serve.