As a recent graduate of Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA and an alumnus of the Fenn School in Concord, MA, I am fully aware of the importance for schools to develop solid relations with alumni while they are still young. I also know firsthand what does and does not work for independent schools to keep recent alumni engaged and connected with their alma mater.
The first six months to a year after graduation is when recent grads have their most vivid memories of the time they spent at school; it is vital for alumni and development offices to reach out to these young alums at this time. However, there is a fine line that schools must walk as to avoid seeming too eager and greedy, particularly with young alums.
Within a few weeks of graduating from the Fenn School in June of 2007, I was contacted about a young alumni wiffle-ball tournament in August. It was the perfect opportunity for my alma mater to foster valuable relationships with my class as new alumni before sending us letters in the fall, appealing for the annual fund.
Fenn’s efforts to keep me involved did not stop at just one event. Instead they organize several events a year. This is a great way to keep me interested about my former school. Alumni want to experience a strong connection with their school rather than feel that they are a mere piggy bank for the development office. In my opinion, interactions with alumni should more often be directed to alumni events and school news than fundraising if an institution plans to have success with young alums.
As a young alumnus, I recognize that being too passive does not work well. I do not want to be left completely out of the loop about what is going on at my former school. A good way to combat this potential hazard is to work hard to update alumni when their school has important events or goes through major changes. These updates should also be across many channels of communication because the more methods of contact a school uses, the greater the chance alumni will be engaged.
Lawrence Academy has done a great job of keeping in touch with me through mail, but because I am a college student living away from home, I do not receive that mail very often. Sending email and using social media on a regular basis would increase exposure to my fellow young alumni and me.
When it comes time each year to decide whether or not to support my former schools, I am much more likely to donate if each school has succeeded in engaging me.
What has your office found to be most successful in connecting with your most recent alums? What communication mediums, or events has your school hosted that have you seen the most positive results with? Let us know!