Cultivating relationships with alumni is critical to effective alumni relations. In today’s world of advertising overload and shortened attention spans, how do you capture alumni attention and build relationships that will strengthen your college or university? By sticking to the basics, it might be easier than you think.
Make Communication Convenient
You have a handful of communication tools at your disposal – from direct mail pamphlets to catalogues, calendars to websites, bulk emails, in-person events, phone calls, and the list goes on. Each one has its own pros and cons depending on the occasion so, taking a step back, which is most convenient for your alumni? Over 80% of American adults text, making it the most common cell phone activity. That percentage climbs even higher with recent graduates, as they prefer digital, on-the-go communication channels such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, etc. to email. By reaching out to them on the messaging channels they already use daily, you show that you value their time and engagement.
Convenience aside, you’re also more likely to be able to reach them via their cell phone as compared to more traditional methods. College grads are far less likely to change their cell phone number than their email address (typically email addresses show a 25-30% turnover each year) or mailing address (reflecting their increased mobility). SMS messages have a much higher chance of being read – boasting a 98% open rate compared to email’s 20% open rates.
Curate and Personalize your Interactions
Now that you’ve reached them, how do you make sure that your content is valuable instead of intrusive? You’ve read about the importance of listening, asking questions, paying attention to the whole person and remembering important things when building meaningful relationships. This is where relationship building really starts.
Ask your alumni directly about their interests and listen carefully. With Chatbox Instant Apps, you can send out personalized micro apps via SMS that quickly survey alumni about their interests, communication preferences, development priorities and more. Instant Apps are media rich, user friendly, super simple to configure and require no download or install. Chances are you already have some data points about your alumni – when they graduated, their major, perhaps extra-curricular activities and their current employment. You can use this basic info as a starting point to automatically personalize the Instant App at the outset. The data gathered from the Instant Apps automatically syncs to your back-end systems in real time, updating your alumni records as you go.
As you learn more about your alumni, you can keep curating the content they receive using our list management tools and Instant Apps so they receive only the content that’s meaningful to them. Our platform allows messages to be automatically generated on your end, while feeling personal when delivered to your alumni. You can even go further and proactively reach out to alumni to celebrate their birthdays, graduation dates, and other meaningful occasions with automated messages linked to their profiles.
Make it Easy to Act
Sharing relevant information in a convenient way is a great foundation for alumni relations. Eventually your alumni will want to act on something you share, be it to RSVP to an event, take advantage of a special offer, ask a question or make a donation. Delivering messages via SMS not only makes it more likely that your alumni will respond but it also makes it easier for them to do so. On average, SMS messages are responded to within 90 seconds vs 90 minutes for email and have a 45% average response rate. And since your alumni are already on their phone, it’s easy to seamlessly direct them to online resources or, using our Instant Apps, embedded donation processors, RSVP tools, personalized coupons for discounts, promotions, and more. Even better, if they have a question, they can simply text back their reply to immediately connect with a development office representative who can take it from there.
Measure and Improve Daily
With our real-time analytics, you can track who is responding to what, when and how often. You can test different content, frequency, angles and branding as you hone your alumni engagement approach. The more you learn, the more effective your engagement will become.
At the end of the day, cultivating alumni relationships is all about showing your alumni both the ease and value of being a connected and engaged alumni. It’s never too early (or late!) to start laying a solid foundation for a lifetime of alumni engagement and Chatbox is here to make it all work efficiently and seamlessly, the way it should.