Keeping in touch with your graduates is not easy these days. You must communicate via snail mail, web portals and social networks.
In the old days you sent a chatty snail mail letter to your graduates. It was full of news about marriages, grad school, jobs, and so on. Of course, it was always had updates and information about goings on at school, sports results and a word from your favorite teachers. Those kind of newsletter mailings to alumni still go out. But they have been largely supplemented by interactive school web sites where graduates can log on and keep in touch with their classmates.
Well, that was the theory and practice. It worked for a year or two until alumni relations staff suddenly twigged to the reality that their most recent classes don't stay in touch that way. Snail mail is fine for the class of '70 and earlier. Web portals may be effective for the classes prior to '00. But these recent grads are a completely different beast.
The classes from 2001 onwards are the text, cellphone and Facebook crowd. They are all about social networking. Put a class reunion on YouTube and the fallout will be tremendous. When one of your alums creates a group on a social networking site, it will invariably draw other alums. They all love keeping in touch, but doing so on their terms, electronically.
So, what is a harried alumni director supposed to do? Embrace all three forms of communication. In truth you do have three quite different constituencies. Send out your quarterly snail mailings. Encourage interactivity and donations via your web site. Fan the flames of social networking. That's how you communicate these days.
Snail mailings A beautifully done newsletter is still effective if you can afford to have it professionally produced. The advantage any printed material has over electronic communications is that the printed newsletter can be left out on a table or counter. Some schools send out quarterly and annual publications. If you can afford it, print publications can provide a lasting window on your school, its activities and accomplishments.
Web presence Most schools have dynamic web sites. By dynamic I mean that they are constantly being updated and kept fresh and interesting. Your graduates will enjoy looking at the extensive photo galleries you have created on your site. "A picture is worth a thousand words." Make that a thousand dollars perhaps? After all, a flood of happy memories will encourage the graduate looking at photos of his old teachers and dorm to make a gift to the annual fund, or possibly even some other fund. Just be sure to put a call to action somewhere in those photo galleries. Something like "Donate to the Able House renovation project today. We need $55,000 more."
Social networking Social networking is a very powerful tool in your communications kitbag. Learn all you can about how it works from others who have used it successfully. As with any other kind of communications consistency of message and frequency of publication (fresh postings) are the keys to success here.
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