Advancement experts share their favorite digital strategies to engage alumni

Advancement teams in today’s age must use a variety of tactics to engage alumni. Traditional methods like direct mail and phone calls will always have a role. But more and more, alumni prefer to be reached online, and digital channels can prove very effective.

With that in mind, we asked some of the web’s leading advancement experts to share their favorite digital strategies for engaging alumni!

Connie Skingel: Three strategies for digital advancement

Director, Oberlin Annual Fund, can be followed on Twitter at @CSkingel.

Software platforms: For me, it has become increasingly important to identify software platforms that enhance alumni engagement through social connectivity. Alumni need to be able to connect with the institution and one another easily. Our various platforms can’t require clunky log-ins and hard-to-remember passwords. We need to provide services that allow for one-click social media log-ins, an online user experience that mirrors that which they will find on Amazon or Facebook, and a functional mobile user interface. I have found that, if we make it easy and enjoyable, alumni are more likely to connect with us and to share our messages with their classmates.

Virtual events: I think there are many creative ways that we can use video to engage alumni. This past year we had success hosting a prerecorded virtual training for all of our alumni advancement volunteers. It included informational sessions from administrators, student performances, and a student panel. The video format not only enabled us to reach many more alumni than we could with a traditional on-campus training event, but also has “shelf life” so we can continue to share it with a broader alumni audience throughout the year.

Livestreaming: I had some great fun using livestreaming this past year. We livestreamed our day of giving this past spring and found it was an effective way to help alumni feel like they were on campus and were a part of the action. Since it was live, they were able to see the exact moment when we realized we hit our donor goal. They could share in the excitement in a way that we could never replicate via email or a tweet. We used a combination of both online livestreaming and Facebook Live to provide multiple perspectives and found both to be useful tools to help alumni feel like they are right there with us during important moments.

Read More: 3 ways that Facebook Live Video can support your advancement initiatives.

Steve Klingaman: Proposing the monthly email ‘mini-magazine’

Principal at Fundraising Strategies in Minneapolis, author of “Fundraising Strategies for Community Colleges,” on Twitter at @frstrategies and on the web at

Unfocused messaging and an over-reliance on social media as the primary engagement tool can combine to give alumni shops the feeling that they are doing much while accomplishing little.

As a better first step, I would propose greater exploitation of an earlier format, the monthly blast email “mini-magazine.” Combine strong photos with a compelling editorial voice that reveals college breakthroughs, powerful stories of student engagement and alumni achievement, together with a section on alumni milestones (with photos) and you have a package that possesses a greater chance of being opened. Count clicks and time spent per page for engagement metrics. You can re-purpose the copy on Facebook, and tweet the photos to tighten up your social media brand.

Joanne C. Anderson: Engage alumni with events

Principal at J.C. Anderson Consulting, you can follow her on Twitter at @joannecanderson.

Keeping Alumni Engaged: Events are an effective way to engage your alumni, regardless of their ability to attend. Alums, especially recent graduates, are interested in knowing about events at their alma mater, even if they can’t participate in person. Be sure to include an event hashtag in all of your event promotional materials and encourage participants to use it during the event. Include the hashtag on giveaways, table tents, signs, and programs. Follow up with an email recap of the event to keep the energy high and to inform alums who couldn’t attend. They want to know what they missed!

Bart Caylor: Raise friends first, funds second

President & Owner at Caylor Solutions, you can follow him on Twitter at @bartcaylor.

If you can make a friend through your marketing, development should have no problem making a donor out of them.

And what did our moms tell us about making friends? First, you have to be a friend.

Use rich content in your marketing to help alumni solve a problem, inspire them, encourage them, or teach them something new.

This goes well beyond telling them about the latest and greatest updates from campus. Craft your marketing messages around the felt needs, aspirations, and challenges your alumni face every day.

Inspire. Provide career advice. Become the curator of content they value about life.

And you’ll make a lot of friends.

Using LinkedIn to engage alumni

As Bart Caylor suggests, if you can make a connection and a bond with your alumni, converting them to a donor becomes a lot easier. That’s why we put together 10 templates to engage with, assist, and steward your alumni on LinkedIn – the top social platform for alumni engagement. Download them here!