I’ve been an Auburn alumna for 67 days now. In those 67 days, I’ve received weekly “This Week at AU” emails, several Auburn Athletics emails, Auburn Commons alumni emails, a few from parking services...heck, I’m even still getting email about potential student internships.
Needless to say, it’s driving me crazy. There’s a right and a wrong way to keep in touch with alumni. Understandably, Auburn University has a lot more to keep up with than who is on the massive email list. I’m sure I could easily unsubscribe if my finger didn’t subconsciously swipe the email into the trashcan before I even opened it. But what would the ideal University and Alumni relationship look like?
For me, and many other folks who are swarmed with emails on a daily (hourly) basis, the ideal relationship would be – less is more. Here are some ways to establish strong relationships with alumni and keep them.
1) The Money Will Come
I kid you not, I was already being asked to give money to our alumni association while I was sitting at graduation. Seventy-five percent of us didn’t even have jobs yet and they were already (although not directly) asking. I completely understand the need for donations and I am an advocate for being a member of the alumni association, but you have to make people want to donate to your school. I want to donate to Auburn when I have a well-paying job that I couldn’t have gotten without them. Not when I’m sitting at graduation wondering what the heck I’m going to do with my life. Make your students and alumni aware of what you can do for them before you start asking them to do things for you.
2) It Starts with the Students
Dedicated, engaged, lively alumni stem from dedicated, engaged, lively students. You have to create that experience for them while they’re still attending your university. Inform students of the alumni connections when it comes to looking for jobs and internships or studying abroad. If you show them how alumni can make their college experience better, they’ll appreciate and acknowledge that in the future.
3) Keep People Informed (but not too informed)
I’m only speaking for myself, but I have absolutely no interest in receiving emails about student job openings or what musical the university is about to debut. Keep your alumni informed about issues that pertain directly to them. Sure, some of them may live in the area, but most don’t, which means they don’t want a university play-by-play. A great way to get input is through an alumni survey. Ask questions about what kinds of information your alumni want to receive. You could even include a section where they pick and choose what kinds of emails they want to receive and which ones they want to unsubscribe from.
Getting to know your alumni starts when they’re still students and continues throughout their lives. There’s a fine line between keeping your university on their radar and making them want to rip their hair out if they see your name in their inbox one more time. If you're struggling connecting with your alumni, these tips are a great place to start.