Picture the scene. You’ve just launched your alumni program or have had one in place for some time. You want to generate greater value from it – a task that’s been made more complex by the suspension of physical gatherings during the pandemic. What do you do?
First, some key principles. Whether you’re a corporate or an academic institution, your alumni program won’t deliver value without dedicated resources and investment. And even with these in place, your program’s success in tracking, connecting and forging strong, value-creating relationships with former employees will depend critically on having high-quality, up-to-date information about where your alumni are, what they’re doing and who they know.
The Ideal Tool for Alumni Programs
This is precisely the type of data that BoardEx can provide – making it the ideal tool for managing an effective alumni program. Indeed, in the words of Martine Davies, a leading advisor on leveraging relationships in professional services: “BoardEx is a great advanced relationship mapping tool that I have used in several organizations. It’s a really easy, quick way to segment your alumni data when you’re looking at relationships, even mapping the strength of relationships you have across your organization and across your client base, key accounts or target organizations.”
Hardly surprising, then, that BoardEx is at the heart of the alumni programs run by more and more of our clients. Corporates across different sectors are using BoardEx to track and monitor influential alumni in order to plan and target relationship-building activities with them. And in academic institutions, developmental offices are using BoardEx to maintain and strengthen relationships with alumni and their connections through warm introductions.
The Benefits on Offer
As such activities underline, alumni programs are right in BoardEx’s sweet spot. But why should you have an alumni program at all? In the corporate space, our everyday conversations with clients highlight a wide range of benefits from nurturing alumni relationships. Corporates invest heavily in training and developing their people, and in making them feel proud to belong to the company “family”. Many of these people will leave to work elsewhere – and if they’re allowed to walk away with no further contact, that investment is effectively wasted.
This means building alumni relationships should start before people leave, through the development of networks for all employees and a company-wide culture where everyone is encouraged to maintain their relationships with former colleagues. All of this is proven to drive business development by generating referrals and developing ambassadors for the business. BoardEx acts as the engine of the program by making all alumni connections visible – including those with future leaders rising up the corporate ladder.
The benefits of alumni programs are every bit as clear in academia, where they help to sustain funding, donations and lifelong relationships. Experience shows that having dedicated alumni relations teams and development offices is crucial for academic institutions, given their need to maintain huge numbers of relationships with former students, faculty members and staff – often 100,000 people or more. BoardEx makes it easy to identify and track them all by labelling each historic affiliate with an “alumni” tag within the database.
Challenges to Overcome
Inevitably, realizing the full benefits from your alumni will involve overcoming some key challenges. An overarching issue for all organizations is keeping the mass of dynamic and constantly-changing information on alumni up to date – a need that BoardEx’s dynamic data is equipped to meet. A particular challenge for corporates is securing continued investment into the program, along with finding opportunities to re-engage with alumni. In academia, the biggest issues are around getting funding from alumni and sustaining lifelong relationships. Again, BoardEx helps – including by providing details not just of an alumnus’s main job and employment history but also their relationships, non-executive board memberships, charitable activities and more.
COVID-19 has added a further dimension to the challenges facing alumni programs by making traditional dinners and other face-to-face gatherings impossible. This means creative thinking is required about how to maintain engagement and enthusiasm among alumni, with growing use of remote forums such as online communities, interactive presentations and webinars targeted at their interests. The breadth and depth of BoardEx’s data makes it a great way to identify inspiring topic and speakers and generate interest for these initiatives.
Three Common Themes
When corporate or academic clients are running an alumni program that successfully overcomes these challenges, we find that three key themes usually come to the fore – each supported by BoardEx.
- Grow the network: Sometimes alumni will not voluntarily update the information you hold for them. BoardEx can help you keep track of lost alumni and find new ones. And since it aggregates and structures data from publicly available sources only, it’s information you can trust.
- Maintain the network: Interests, activities, sector information and so on can all help you segment and curate content for your alumni, and keep them engaged with relevant information. BoardEx supports and enables this.
- Get value from the network: This includes identifying new opportunities with warm introductions and referrals from your alumni, and tracking alumni movements to shape client relationship management and pitch strategies. This can be supported by integrating BoardEx into your alumni portal as well as the CRM system.
The Alumni Perspective
While the benefits of a successful alumni program are clear for organizations, how does it look from the viewpoint of the alumni themselves? Our BoardEx colleague Ayasha Ali is a former MBA student at Imperial College Business School. She has experienced Imperial’s alumni program both as a student seeking career support and also as an alumna providing it – demonstrating what she calls the program’s “reciprocity”.
She explains: “Imperial’s careers service gave me access to an alumni network that helped me decide on a career in consulting, with insights from professionals already working in the industry. It also helped me build and grow my professional network. After I graduated, I was on the other side where current business school students approached me via the service for advice and information on careers in marketing. Imperial’s corporate partnerships also supported me with my MBA research project, enabling me to connect with Gartner and complete the project with them.”
Realizing the Value of Alumni Programs
Stories like these underline the huge value of alumni programs both for organizations and talent. But for alumni programs to realize their full value, one vital ingredient is imperative: the right data. Whether you’re building alumni relationships, engaging the community, generating relevant content or identifying expert speakers for a webinar, having accurate, comprehensive and up-date information is key. And that’s where BoardEx comes in.