Part four of our 5-part webinar series on #TheGivingEquation was about setting goals for alumni initiatives and measuring success using key metrics.
Hoya Gateway is the premier place for Georgetown students and alumni to connect with each other for career advice and professional development opportunities, and with PeopleGrove, the Georgetown team continues to grow and maintain engagement month after month.
For the entire webinar series, we are focusing on a simple equation to re-frame how we think about alumni engagement and university advancement:
We were joined by Bridget Holmes, Senior Director of Career and Regional Initiatives at Georgetown University in conversation with Matt Kelly, Business Development Manager at PeopleGrove and former Associate Director of Alumni Career Services at Georgetown University.
Holmes began her career counseling students and young alumni who needed assistance finding jobs. In this work, she saw similarities in the questions students and alumni asked.
“Alumni really want to see a value, especially now with college being so expensive,” Holmes said. “And parents, when they are looking at institutions with their kids, they are looking at it as an investment beyond four years. They want to know: what is the network going to look like once they leave their institution?”
Georgetown launched Hoya Gateway in 2013, although it operated much differently than it does today. The idea came from a volunteer who wanted to expand on an admissions alumni interviewing program — where every applicant interviews with an alumnus/a — and create a similarly powerful experience for students on their way out of Georgetown. The issue was scalability.
“At the time, there wasn’t a lot of technology that could help make this happen,” Holmes said. “We were trying to figure out how to make this work — we were hand-matching in Excel and using Post-it notes. It wasn’t going to be the solution we needed.”
Holmes said they tried using platforms that would connect contractors with those looking to hire, only Georgetown was using it for mentoring. It wasn’t ideal, but Holmes said they made it work for a little while. Then, following a run on a different software solution, Hoya Gateway was relaunched with PeopleGrove in 2017.
“We really liked the additional bells and whistles that PeopleGrove brought to the table in order to make what can be a really flat interaction online come to life,” Holmes said. “We wanted a solution where everyone was on the same system, but we could create sub-communities within the greater whole and that’s part of what PeopleGrove has allowed us to do.”
Over the years, the founding principles of Hoya Gateway have remained the same.
“We knew when we founded it that we wanted to have a ‘one Georgetown’ model,” Holmes said. “We started to hear about different, small mentoring programs popping up on campus. There were some folks that wanted a really curated experience for the small student groups or their small group of alumni and we really feel like the power is in the whole Georgetown network.”
Hoya Gateway has also maintained a brick-by-brick mentality, purposely starting small with the most active and engaged alumni in the system providing guidance for students. Holmes said that to this day, they still haven’t sent out a mass email asking alumni to join, because most of the marketing is via word of mouth or partnerships with different offices and groups on campus.
“The more reasons we are giving people to come to Hoya Gateway, the better,” Holmes said. “I think that makes the system more powerful, and it makes the connections more powerful. All of these student groups or alumni groups that are across campus or other, if they aren’t using this technology, we can bring them in, and they can amplify their efforts. It’s a win-win.”
Alumni Career Services worked across the campus with places like Georgetown’s Entrepreneurship Initiative where there are entrepreneurs and residents on-call. The program was using Google Docs and creating a system by hand for the on-call residents to connect with students.
Today, Hoya Gateway is the official networking platform of the Georgetown Alumni Association, and Holmes has worked to make it a one-stop shop for all of the university’s networking connections.
Georgetown funds Hoya Gateway using endowment funds, Alumni Association funding, and a programmatic budget from their Office of Advancement, making it a true trifecta between all three of those entities.
“If we wanted to create a legacy program that would have a lasting impact on future generations of Hoyas, it needed to be sustainable,” Holmes said. “We couldn’t be dependent on a person or people creating these matches. I wanted to create a platform for people to find that mentor. The platform was what was going to make it sustainable and then we brought it to life with supplemental in-person events.”
Holmes shared several of the reasons they chose PeopleGrove for their platform, including the ability to create custom spaces for individual groups within the community, such as affinity groups, clubs, or specific schools at the university. They also utilize profile badges as an incentive for those interacting on the platform and are preparing to launch an alumni job board.
“It was more colorful than a flat database. We wanted to create a dynamic ecosystem, and the different technology tools we are able to use in PeopleGrove allows us to make it much more of an interactive platform,” Holmes said.
The Alumni Association looks at three key metrics for measuring the success of Hoya Gateway: the number of meeting requests (annually and cumulatively), the meeting request response rate (how many requests are responded to), and the acceptance rate (how many alumni are confirming a meeting request). Last year alone, they had more than 2,300 meeting requests, increasing year over year since the switch to PeopleGrove.
“We’re all always on our phones, but people are also craving that in-person contact,” Holmes said. “Let’s match them within the technology, but encourage the alumni and the students to meet in the real world. We’re encouraging 1:1 conversations, and people are taking our technology and bringing it to life in their own way.”
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