Higher ed professionals looking for new ways to use their technology to engage university alumni

4 Ways to Leverage Your CRM to Connect with Alumni

Your university’s alumni don’t just give back by donating to fundraising campaigns. They also help current students, represent your school in the community, and so much more. Because of all they do for their alma maters, engaging and connecting with alumni regularly is a priority for most universities.

But to engage thousands or tens of thousands of alumni—all with different interests and relationships with your university—you need the right tool. 

Your constituent relationship management (CRM) system houses all the data you need to successfully communicate with alumni. We’ll cover four strategies for leveraging this impactful tool to improve alumni relationships. Let’s dive in!

1. Identify opportunities to improve alumni offerings.

According to Redpath Consulting Group, one of the biggest benefits of a robust CRM is that it gives you a holistic, 360-degree view of every constituent in your database. By centralizing data in alumni profiles, your staff can get a better understanding of your alumni and the ways they want to engage with your university, allowing you to improve your offerings based on their preferences.

For instance, say that you track survey results in your CRM and recently sent out a survey about your Young Alum Mentoring program. You can analyze survey results both:

  • Individually in alumni profiles. For example, maybe Jane wants to see more STEM mentors available and Javier didn’t hear about the program enough to form an interest.
  • Across entire groups of alumni. You might learn that the class of 2021 expressed the most interest in the program or that liberal arts graduates as a whole feel underrepresented.

To engage alumni based on the feedback above, you might put extra effort into recruiting more STEM and liberal arts mentors. Or, if you discover that the most highly requested change to the Young Alum program is the age cutoff, you can extend the program to anyone who graduated in the last 10 years. 

2. Personalize alumni outreach.

In addition to using the information in your CRM to improve your offerings, you can use information about your alumni’s interests, habits, and preferences to personalize your communications. The more tailored and relevant your alumni outreach is, the more likely each recipient is to read and engage with your messages.

A robust higher education CRM can help you enhance your alumni communications with the following features:

  • Automated personalization: By creating email or text message templates, you can set up your CRM to automatically populate messages with individual alumni names, event attendance, past donation amounts, etc. 
  • Alumni segments: Organize alumni by shared characteristics and send messages that appeal directly to certain groups. For instance, you might segment alumni by class, field of study, career, demographics, and charitable interests to send more relevant messages.
  • Action-triggered email series: With integrated email automation tools, such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud, you can use your CRM to set up entire email series that are triggered by alumni actions. When someone first joins your email list, for example, they might trigger a series of welcome emails.

To see these tactics in action, take a look at this example email message that recognizes recent alumni donors who graduated from a university’s business school:

Felicia, thank you so much for your generous $200 donation to the Randolph School of Business. Your gift will go towards scholarships for BIPOC students with dreams of earning their MBAs just like you did. Our current and incoming students appreciate your passion for excellence and inclusivity—thank you again!

3. Manage events.

Events are one of the most common ways that universities engage their alumni, whether they take the form of class reunions, volunteering events, or virtual public lectures. Your CRM can help you manage all of your alumni events by centralizing event data and automating reports and outreach.

A comprehensive CRM solution will allow you to:

  • House information about event logistics, plans, and invitations.
  • Send personalized invitations to relevant alumni.
  • Track event registrations and attendance.
  • Manage relationships with event sponsors.
  • Identify, recruit, and communicate with volunteers.
  • Report on the success of event marketing messages.
  • Send personalized thank-you messages and post-event surveys.
  • Track event-related donations and fundraising goals.

Plus, you can analyze data about your event’s success after the fact, helping you improve future event marketing and management. For instance, Double the Donation explains that tools like Google Analytics can help you report on user behaviors on your alumni website. By tracking website engagement data in your CRM, you can discover how engaging your event landing pages are and identify ways to improve them.

4. Engage alumni in fundraising.

Higher education CRMs include a variety of features designed to help institutions track and boost fundraising. You can record donations, monitor fundraising metrics, send personalized donation appeals, and more. 

By leveraging these features with alumni engagement in mind, you can increase the number of alumni who participate in your fundraisers and improve their experiences. Features like donor segmentation, marketing automation, and donation histories allow you to streamline alumni fundraising and track your results.

For example, say that you’re promoting a capital campaign to renovate a beloved dormitory and give students living there a better experience. You might use your CRM to take the following steps to engage more alumni in fundraising:

  1. Search alumni profiles for financial capacity markers that indicate which alumni might be good candidates for major giving.
  2. Create a segment of all the alumni who lived in that building while on campus.
  3. Reach out personally to alumni in that segment to ask for donations.
  4. Design and automate an email series about the capital campaign’s purpose, progress, fundraising needs, and expected impact.
  5. Track donations from alumni and send personalized thank-you messages that include their names and donation amounts.

Once the campaign is over, you can easily use your CRM to follow up with all the alumni who participated in or engaged with the capital campaign. Then, you might add them to a new segment of capital campaign donors and tailor future appeals based on their interest in this campaign.

If you need help taking full advantage of your CRM or feel that your current system isn’t meeting your university’s needs, connect with a higher education technology consultant. These experts can analyze your tech stack, recommend new solutions or integrations to fill gaps, and even implement a new CRM for you. When you have a robust CRM you can leverage strategically, you’ll be able to engage alumni more effectively and efficiently.