Private schools pride themselves on the strength of their communities. That community extends beyond the classroom to alumni, who provide essential financial and promotional support to develop the school’s reputation and build its resources. In an environment where there is increased pressure on schools to excel in its programs and students’ career advancement, alumni connections are an essential tool.
A school’s relationship with its alumni has progressed as technology has made communication easier and more personal. Innovative administrators have worked to enhance these relationships with personalized messaging and targeted donor marketing campaigns. As alumni are asked to do more than give money – on-campus participation is now often expected–schools have to work harder to impress former students and emphasize their importance to the institution. Administrators who have combined software solutions that keep information about students in one place have an easier job when it comes to reaching out to their former graduates.
Schools Rely on Alumni Contributions
In the absence of public funds, private schools rely on tuition fees and alumni contributions to fund their programs. Significant costs, such as the capital expenditures of new buildings and replacement of aging equipment, are often funded by donations. Scholarships and financial aid support students who meet the rigorous academic requirements of a private K-12 school but do not have the wealth to pay full tuition. Schools want top students; alumni donations provide the means for them to create an environment that encourages enrollment.
Alumni provide services that significantly enhance a school’s reputation. Their willingness to promote the school on social media, at industry events or upon return to campus for events is a testimonial to the institution’s quality. In particular, when alumni go on to have success in post-secondary education and in their industry, the school adds to its list of distinguished graduates. This makes the school more attractive to future generations of students.
Former students may have a more active role to play. They may directly assist in student recruitment by identifying star K-12 students at another institution or in the public system, who could benefit from transferring to the school. Alumni act as valued mentors to current students, providing advice and direction concerning future educational opportunities and promising careers. Schools, therefore, receive a significant return on the time and money they invest on alumni relations, as institutions and students alike have an enhanced experience as a direct result of alumni involvement.
How Integrated Information on Alumni Improves Relationships
Comprehensive student systems allow schools to keep all information they have on an individual in one place. In a segregated system, the student’s admissions, grades and coursework, financial records, and extracurricular and club activities are separate from one another. Integrated systems permit administrators, or those with relevant information access and authority, to create a snapshot of a student’s entire history with the school.
This snapshot is of great value to an institution that wants to improve its alumni relations. Administrators can identify basic information, including years of attendance and destination upon graduation. They can also see who came in as a scholarship student and who was a legacy candidate–the latest in a line of attendees from one family. Specific interests, such as clubs, sports, and competitions, such as science fairs or debate teams, might also be in this database.
Schools can use this specific information to improve alumni relations. Previous scholarship winners might be invited back to speak at an event honoring new recipients of the same award. Donation campaigns might be specifically targeted, so alumni can contribute to an event or activity in which they participated. Previous debate team members might give money to new advocates. Science fair competitors might support budding scientists showing off their innovations.
Alumni know that their schools want their money, but institutions have to take that extra step to demonstrate that they are remembered and valued. In addition, targeted campaigns make alumni feel more connected to the school’s cause. It is often easier to raise funds from former students who know firsthand the value of the program, cause or piece of equipment the school is trying to support.
Database for a Comprehensive Student History
Transitioning to a comprehensive student system has many benefits. Staff members with a need to access several types of student information–course history, athletics, admissions, financials–can do so using one database. Privacy controls can also be implemented to protect students from breaches.
Since integrated systems require only one entry, in many cases, for each student, there is less room for error concerning biographical and contact information. With less paper and data entry, staff can save time and focus on more important tasks. Most importantly, it takes mere moments to create a snapshot of each treasured student. When those students become alumni, they will have a lifelong relationship with the school. As the school shows it has a vested interest in each student’s success, those students will reward that loyalty with its money, time, knowledge and mentorship.