The purpose of alumni relations is to ensure that alumni remain involved with the chapter through events and communication to help in the promotion, advancement and support of the mission and goals of the chapter. At the chapter level, we stand on the shoulders of the men who came before us. An investment in your alumni relations program is an investment in those men as well as the best way to highlight the bigger picture outside of your undergraduate years.
Organize the Committee
With a growing alumni base, a well-rounded alumni relations program can’t be properly maintained if it falls on just one man’s shoulders. The implementation of a committee is vital to a successful program. An example committee might consist of the following roles:
- Identification Captain – the primary organizer and overseer of the alumni database and conducting events such as an alumni phone-a-thon to update alumni information.
- Communication Captain – the primary organizer and developer of the physical and electronic alumni newsletters.
- Cultivation Captain – the primary coordinator of all alumni events coordinated by the chapter and works in conjunction with the Alumni Association where applicable.
The Four Areas of Alumni Relations
There are four areas of a successful alumni relations program; identification, communication, cultivation, and solicitation. The chapter is charged with completing steps one through three.
Before the chapter can actively engage their alumni, they need to create an alumni database. An alumni database will provide the chapter with the information needed to reach out to their alumni. This is the first step in alumni involvement and one of the most important pieces in a strong alumni relations program.
Communication is essential when it comes to alumni relations. The alumni want to hear from the chapter! Most alumni will not go out of their way to contact the chapter; this is why it is very important for the chapter to put extra time in communicating with the alumni. The best avenues of chapter-alumni communication is through a semesterly/quarterly newsletter and social media.
Alumni cultivation is a major player in having an effective alumni relations program. Once a line of communication has been created between the alumni and the chapter, the next step is to host an alumni event. Chapter alumni events are generally held in conjunction with an alumni association event. Chapter alumni events are just like recruitment. First impressions are essential to creating an atmosphere where the alumni will want to come back.
A comprehensive alumni relations program, which properly identifies, communicates, and cultivates alumni annually, will allow the chapter to build its local alumni entities. If the chapter executes steps one through three, the chapter can then solicit time from the alumni.
The Alumni Database
The alumni database is a basic but essential part of the chapter’s alumni relations program. Without an accurate database, the chapter’s alumni relations program will be ineffective. Just like recruitment is the lifeblood of the fraternity, the alumni database is the lifeblood of alumni relations. Good alumni databases contain the updated information for all chapter alumni. Over the years, databases get skewed with alumni moving, changing emails and changing their phone numbers without informing the Memorial Headquarters or the local chapter of the changes. This is where the alumni relations committee comes into play. Having an accurate alumni database usually consists of five basic pieces of information: name, phone number, email address, mailing address and initiation year. Many chapter databases are expanded to collect as much data as possible including but not limited to:
- Email address
- Mailing address
- Initiation year
- Offices held in chapter
- Donor Level
- Events attended
Many chapters do not realize that the Memorial Headquarters has a full database as well as many of the alumni associations. Instead of having three separate databases (chapter, alumni association and MHQ), it is recommended to consolidate all the databases into one. The most effective way to keep track of the chapter’s alumni is to update the chapter records and the alumni association records with the MHQ. You can contact the volunteer department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newsletters and social media updates are the two best avenues of communicating with alumni. This is the chapter’s chance to reach out to the alumni and inform them of chapter and alumni updates.
The newsletter, a fundamental component of the alumni relations program, allows the alumni to stay informed of the lives of their fellow chapter members. The purpose of the newsletter is to make alumni feel that they are a part of the chapter “community”. It creates ties between generations of brothers and is a great forum for announcements about alumni events, alumni updates, and significant chapter news. For more information and examples for publishing an effective newsletter, take a look at the Alumni Relations Handbook.
Planning and executing a successful alumni event is the third step in creating an outstanding alumni relations program. This is your time to recruit the alumni. Tell the chapter to treat alumni events just like recruitment. Be well dressed, clean cut, and practice the one-two punch! There is always an alumnus out there that will be impressed by the chapter and want to give back. The chapter needs to make the alumni feel that the chapter has grown and prospered since he left the chapter. An alumnus does not want to go to his alma mater chapter event and see that the chapter does not care.
Most chapters develop their programs in conjunction with alumni related activities at the university such as homecoming, or chapter related activities such as Founders’ Day or International Workday. In order to get the best response from alumni, these events should be scheduled around the same time every year with at least a two-month notice to alumni and guests. Your chapter may supplement these activities with family picnics, golf outings, workdays, community service events or sporting events.
When organizing the chapter’s program, it is important to remember that it is not the number of events sponsored, but rather the quality of the alumni events. In many cases, two alumni oriented activities per year are sufficient to fulfill the needs of alumni for continued contact with Pi Kappa Alpha. Remember that many of the alumni have families, jobs, and other responsibilities. They might have one free weekend a year they can spare for PIKE related activities. The chapter needs to host events that the alumni will remember and always want to come back to. One good event could start a tradition of alumni gatherings that will grow every year. One bad event could have the same effect and drive all the alumni away from the chapter for years to come.
Effective alumni relations can provide a chapter with a mutual support system that is invaluable. Invest in your alumni, and they will invest in you!
Jarrett M. Way
Director of Educational Content & Strategy