What scares alumni teams

Happy Alumniween!

By MAX LEISTEN

The scariest day of the year is upon us so I thought it may be a good time to admit that even alumni pro’s can be frightened. Here’s our Top 10 list of what (so I have heard) puts the shivers into them in 2021.

1. Doing more with less. The great #resignation wave is hitting higher education hard. With remote work gaining traction, some are choosing work in the corporate world over a return to campus, leaving alumni teams with more openings than ever on their teams. 

2. No return to pre-COVID campus engagement. Many of us are still anxious about a return to pre-COVID travel (especially those with younger kids). There has been a lot of digital engagement innovation over the last 18 months, and alumni may never go back to physical events at the same rate simply out of convenience. What does that mean for staff and budgets?

3. Not enough digital volunteers. In the same digital engagement innovation vein, the demand for volunteers has skyrocketed. While it should be simpler to recruit graduates to help with a virtual event, it’s harder than ever to stand out from the increased digital noise we’re all subjected to. Sure, try texting them repeatedly …

4. Outdated alumni data. Ahh, the perennial favorite scare for every institution. More frequent job changes and relocations (especially with remote work) has made keeping data updated an even tougher task. The good news is that technology has made tracking simpler. If only integrating it would be …

5. Lack of engagement insights. More ways to engage digitally means more data that you need to measure, integrate and evaluate. Few institutions have a well-refined scoring model, and many we’ve talked to are scrambling with reporting (even something as frustrating as “I don’t have access to Tableau to get what I need”). 

 

6. “That will never work.” There’s a significant transition in how alumni can and want to engage underway, which requires unprecedented nimbleness, a hunger to test & innovate and yes, take uncomfortable risks. Yet many teams are paralyzed by the fear of upsetting that influential board member who’s most likely (frankly) out of touch. 

7. Not another app. The shift to digital engagement also means that there are more apps than ever to choose from not only for alumni but also for you (we’ve written about that mess here). And more engagement tools means more conversations with OIT, more staff time, and even fewer alumni adoption. 

8. The engagement cliff. We all need to be loved. Which is why it’s particularly scary when new graduates “fall out of love” with their alma mater and start dating other causes. Is there a “let’s just stay friends” engagement strategy? How do you (a) understand what they want and (b) develop effective strategies and tools that serve them (preferably without more staff time – see above). 

9. Data privacy and security. We are all (rightfully so) worried about this one. Alumni teams and OIT try to keep up with ever-evolving regulation (GDPR is changing again??), global nuances, and alumni expectations. And more vendors means more risk, more “attack surface.” Best to just take cover? 

10. Everyone’s a fundraiser. TL;DR: Yes. At many institutions alumni affairs have already been aligned under development for more cohesive strategy and execution (and efficiency!). Is everything you do “to make alumni happy” now up for scrutiny? Is it all about money? What happened to the mission? For what it’s worth, we think this helps universities more efficiently funnel scarce resources (such as talent). 

Oh. And we can help alumni teams overcome most of these. 


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