Educational institutions are changing the way they see and interact with their alumni community. Earlier, alumni and their alma-mater were treated as separate entities wherein one’s existence was independent of the other. Local alumni chapters were formed as a means to interact with other fellow alumni. However, these associations seldom had any interaction with the institution they graduated from.
With the advent of Social Media, alumni relationship has taken a different flavour altogether. Universities have started to harness the power of alumni through various networking platforms like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter etc. by creating their alumni groups and profiles on them. As per a survey conducted by Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (an association of university and college professionals in development, alumni affairs and communications) in 2012, 83 percent of U.S. colleges and universities are using social media to engage alumni, with 96 percent on Facebook, 80 percent on Twitter, 73 percent on YouTube, and 68 percent on LinkedIn.
Alumni are the brand-ambassadors of the institution they graduated from. We have seen many institutions declaring the list of their notable alumni as a way of connecting their successes with what the college has provided them. However, in this era of social networking, the connect with their past students doesn't stop with this. Institutions have realised how a strong and a positive relationship with their alumni can benefit them socially, academically and professionally. Likewise even the alumni community have realised that it's not just a mere nostalgia that they associate their alma-mater with, but it's much beyond that.
As mentioned earlier, today we find numerous alumni groups on various social networking platforms with many active members in them. Institutions should harness this social media presence of their alumni for activities that are beneficial for students, college management and alumni. As per a study conducted by The Ambix team on a group of Alumni Relations Managers at higher education establishments and qualification awarding bodies across the UK, the goals of alumni management varied from Institution to Institution. The image below shows the areas where they were interested in:
(1) Fund-raising - A strong alumni association can be one of the biggest benefactors of an institution that can contribution towards various developmental activities of the institution.
(2) Placements - the alumni network of a college is one of the biggest sources of placement opportunities to the students. Alumni can help students get placed at their respective organisations.
(3) Mentorship and Scholarships - alumni can play an active role in voluntary programmes like mentoring students in their areas of expertise. They could also play a significant role in contributing scholarships to deserving students.
(4) Career Guidance - alumni is a huge talent pool whose guidance can be beneficial to many students and other fellow-alumni in their respective areas of study.
(5) Networking Platform - alumni network by itself is one of the best professional networking platforms available today.
Leveraging the alumni community can be a win-win for both the institution and the alumni. Many of them are willing to 'Give-Back' to their alma-mater as a sign of their gratitude and affinity towards the institution. However, most of them are unsure of how and what should be done towards this. An effective alumni network assures the alumni as a significant stakeholder by making them actively participate in the institution’s developmental activities.
According to Margaret C. Andrews, an effective alumni relationship begins with providing a successful experience to the students. The attachment that alumni have towards their alma-mater depends on the effort that a college takes to make their days memorable as students. According to her, the Cycle of Success has four main phases:
A strong alumni network by itself can be the best source available for building relationships, both business and personal. However, with the presence of many alumni groups on various social networking platforms, the attention and time spent by the alumni on each of them gets diversified. It therefore becomes important to bring them under one umbrella as it lets the alumni, students and college to collaborate and communicate on a single platform. The ten points mentioned in Vadim Lavrusik's article on the 'Ten Ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media' highlights some of the important features that a strong alumni network could posses. These points if inculcated into a single network can be a successful recipe to satisfy all the stakeholders of an educational system!