With every class that leaves your school in a maelstrom of mortarboards and tassels, the effectiveness of how you communicate with them after graduation is in constant transition. The way you communicated with alumni who graduated ten years ago may fall on deaf ears when it comes to more recent alumni.
So, here’s a quick list of things to keep in mind when you’re looking to engage recent graduates.
1. Always be adding value
The mistake many colleges and universities make is coming into every interaction with their hand out. This approach is especially counterproductive when it comes to your recent graduates, who probably have enough tuition debts to choke a decent sized elephant.
Instead, your approach needs to be one of a value proposition. You have to show them what you can do for them before you can expect them to return the favor.
For example, instead of just asking for money, a more effective proposition would be giving them something valuable to show that they matter.
One example of this would be to create a simple document that comes from your office that provides information about navigating the university after they graduate. You could give them information about getting their transcripts, career development opportunities, or a how-to on using other resources that travel with them after graduation.
You’re showing them that they matter, that they’re a key part of the community.
You’re asking them to belong and giving them value long before you’re asking them to give.
2. Shift your perspective
Remember that your graduates are your best marketing tools. And how you define them in your outreach approach is going to set the stage for how you’re going to craft your message, as well as how they’re going to receive it.
They are the heroes of the story, not the institution. You are the guide. And approaching them as the hero can create a tectonic-level shift in your relationship.
This shift in perspective is true across the board, no matter what donor demographic you happen to be targeting. But it’s especially true when you are attempting to engage recent graduates. Younger alumni will get involved if you show them that they’re valued by the institution in a legitimate way, and you give them opportunities to be part of something that speaks to their heart.
(You can read more about this important distinction here)
3. Offer Career Networking Services
Just because they’ve got a diploma in one hand, it doesn’t mean they have everything figured out. It’s also the case that a lot of graduates don’t end up in the field in which they got their degree.
So, offering continuing career advice and networking services is a great way to keep these young graduates engaged with you. Putting them in contact with older alumni with similar life journeys could also be a great value-add for young people just now jumping into the deep end of full-blown adulthood.
4. Offer resources for navigating post-graduate education
What are you offering your recent graduates who may want to continue their education, either at your institution or at another school?
Again, value is the key word here. Any help you’re able to offer them—through online content, email lists, or special events held on campus—are going to go a long way in maintaining their engagement even after graduation.
5. Find ways to engage with them in real life
Hold a dinner celebrating their importance to your institution. Organize an informal lunch with a keynote speaker who can offer advice that’s relevant to where they are in life. It really doesn’t matter what it is; the important bit is to show your appreciation and engage them personally.
Get creative and put on an event to remember!
6. Always show your gratitude
Whatever messaging you craft to reach your recent graduates, it should always be peppered heavily with how much you appreciate them. “Thank you” is a powerful word. And if they feel as if they’re still in your heart, still an important member of the family, they’re going to be receptive to whatever else you are communicating.
7. Be positive about their future
Along with gratitude, positivity about their future should always be at the core of what and how you’re communicating with them. You’ve given them the tools and experiences to thrive, and keeping that as a touchstone within your messaging strategy reinforces the value you’ve already provided them.
8. Reach out to them where they are
Recent graduates live far different lives—and communicate in far different ways—than graduates who entered the “real world” even a decade ago.
Knowing where they are—whether that be social media, in messaging apps, or any other platform they engage with regularly—is just as important as what you’re saying to them. You could craft the most engaging message in history, but if it doesn’t get to them, it’s not going to have any impact whatsoever.
So, as you begin to engage recent graduates, keep each of these things in mind. Again, this demographic is a powerful force when it comes to being brand evangelists for your school. Capturing their hearts, providing them with a massive amount of value, and keeping them engaged will pay off in spades in the future.