Who Are Your Alumni, Really?

Who are you talking to? On the surface, that seems like an incredibly simple question. You’re talking to the person or people in front of you or the people who are at the other end of your digital or physical communication (Hi! btw).

Except, it’s not always so simple. Because if you haven’t caught up with someone in a while, or made an effort to keep up with them, then you’re just talking to a representation of who you think they are. You’re not really talking to who they are now.

It’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot since Mike Troiano gave this presentation at our conference, RAISE, last summer.



There’s so much of this that still rattles around our brains to this day:

Nostalgia Only Gets You So Far

There’s no doubt that nostalgia can be a powerful motivator, so it’s not worth ignoring. People tend to have an emotional connection with their alma mater. But you can’t rely on it to do everything for you. Because, over time, interests, passions and hobbies change over time. Balance the pure nostalgia play with something that speaks to who constituents are now.

If they’re CEO of a startup, something as simple as a retweet from the business school or an invitation to participate in an on-campus entrepreneurship conference can do wonders to build your relationship.

Why Should Learning Stop at Graduation?

“Learn people.” Apologies to our English professors, but a good quote is a good quote, regardless of grammar. Anyone who’s been out of college for more than five minutes knows learning doesn’t (and, honestly, can’t) stop there. People are constantly changing their careers, and for many, the degree they graduated with stopped becoming relevant three jobs ago.

Your institution exists to educate people. Keep doing it! Offer opportunities to learn new things that will help their careers or even take the first step towards changing their career. Not only will such opportunities create goodwill with donors, it will give you new information about where their interests lie, allowing you to understand them better and make more appropriate asks when the time comes.

Knock with Your Feet

Because your hands are full of gifts. That could be lifelong learning opportunities, but it could also be much more. Instead of bluntly asking someone to make a gift, show up with something. For example, your school has a vast pool of alumni. But any individual within it only knows so many other alums. If you can connect people who can mentor one another or compare notes about the businesses they just started, you’re providing value, not simply asking for a gift.



It takes a little effort to understand how the lives of your alums have changed. But to get people excited about you in their current lives, you have to connect with areas that are relevant to where they currently are in their lives and career.

What ideas will be rattling around in our brains a year from now? We’re not sure, but we have a pretty good feeling we’ll find them at RAISE in September. Get your ticket today.

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