Having a strong alumni relations program for engagement and/or fundraising means connecting with and understanding your alumni. This means collecting and keeping up-to-date information about your alumni from their name and graduation year to their work history and current address. Here are the components of a system to manage this data effort as effectively and easily as possible.
1. Choose a Database Management System: Select a robust and user-friendly database management system (DBMS). Some options include big names like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and HubSpot, it might be a specialized alumni management software like AlmaShines, or it might start with Excel. It is important to consider the potential for growth and how it relates to other systems in use at your institution.
2. Decide on Data: Determine the necessary data fields for your alumni profiles. Think about your aspirations for the data to be as comprehensive as possible. Common information to collect includes name, email address, phone number, graduation year, birthday, current employment, location, and preferred communication methods.
3. Standardize Data Entry: Implement consistent data entry practices to avoid duplicates and errors. Use dropdown lists, checkboxes, and standardized formats to ensure uniformity across records.
4. Integration: Integrate your alumni database with other systems, such as your school’s website, email marketing platform, and event registration tools. This integration ensures seamless data flow and reduces manual data entry.
5. Gather Data: Collect accurate data about your alumni. You can upload this information from existing records at the school, gather data from event registrations, surveys, and social media, and ask your alumni for updates.
6. Regularly Update Data: Set up a system to regularly update and maintain your database. Send periodic emails to alumni requesting them to verify and update their information. Offer incentives for updating details, such as exclusive content or event invitations.
7. Data Enrichment: Enhance your database with additional information about alumni, such as their social media profiles, career accomplishments, and affiliations. Some CRM tools offer data enrichment services to fill in missing details.
8. Training: Train your team on how to use the database effectively. Ensure that they understand how to input, update, and retrieve data, as well as how to generate reports and segment lists.
9. Analytics and Reporting: Use the reporting features of your DBMS or CRM to analyze engagement trends, event attendance, and other metrics. This data can help you make informed decisions and tailor your outreach efforts.
10. Continuous Improvement: Regularly assess the effectiveness of your alumni database management practices. Seek feedback from your team and alumni to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes.
As you set up your data management system, keep in mind these key elements:
Segmentation: Make sure the system helps with segmenting your alumni database based on various criteria such as graduation year, location, career field, interests, and engagement level. This segmentation will help you target specific groups with relevant communications and events.
Data Privacy and Security: Ensure compliance with data protection laws (such as GDPR or CCPA) by obtaining consent to store and use alumni data. Implement security measures to protect sensitive information and provide alumni with options to manage their privacy preferences.
Automation: Utilize automation tools within your chosen DBMS or CRM to streamline processes. Set up automated emails, reminders, and workflows for tasks like sending event invitations, birthday wishes, and engagement follow-ups.
Data Cleansing: Regularly perform data cleansing to remove duplicate or outdated records. Clean and accurate data improves communication efficiency and reduces errors.
Knowing your alumni and maintaining an easy-to-use data management system is foundational for a strong alumni relations and development effort. It is well worth the time and effort to identify and implement a robust system before focusing on collecting the information.