Building an alumni network
October 12, 2012 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Does your High School have a fun and effective way of staying in touch with the alumni? How do they do it? Class agents?, Mass emails?, Facebook groups?, Annual events?, Online or hard publications? I am looking for your advice and ideas.

I was asked to build a high school alumni network for my alma mater to keep in touch with the alumni (~1000). They are spread around the country. I know most of the well-connected and popular alumni, and I would like to leverage them to multiply my efforts by building a "class agent" system. (However, I want to come up with a name other than "class agent" since many of the alumni stay in touch with others outside of their class.)

The goal is to have a robust and all-star team of alumni who will help me
(1) Promote alumni activities
(2) Contact alumni for updates on contact info
(3) Collect notes about honors and accoplishments from their fellow alumni.
(4) Recruit new class agents

Two questions:

Does your High School have a successful way of doing this? I am ready to start building the "class agent" network, but need a bit more advice and anecdotes from others on how their high school goes about it.

If you were in my position (access to the database, thorough understanding of how the alumni are networked, coordinating alumni affairs) how would you begin?

posted by yoyoceramic to Education (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a reason this can't be done through Facebook?
posted by Oktober at 9:49 AM on October 12, 2012

Facebook group works quite well for us. I was amazed at how quickly everyone was invited and the group was filled after it was created.
posted by Quack at 9:57 AM on October 12, 2012

I went to a very small high school in Phoenix and graduated in 1980. We have a Facebook group and many of us are each other friends on Facebook.

It's pretty fun after 32 years to still be keeping up with stuff. I don't live in Phoenix, but I see that there are invites to barbecues, happy hours, etc.

You could do a group in LinkedIn too if you like.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:59 AM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, yeah -- I am hitting facebook pretty hard with a group. People seem to enjoy posting to it.
posted by yoyoceramic at 10:04 AM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: I suppose I am looking for a way to "push" updates to the students via a direct method (personal emails or calls/texts by utilizing other alumni
posted by yoyoceramic at 10:05 AM on October 12, 2012

Best answer: I would start by enlisting the Class Presidents as your initial agents. At my HS, the presidents were responsible for organizing or delegating the reunions and thus developed contact lists (emails) for most classmates. Many of the classes have started their own blogs that members can post to. Our school had a 50th anniversary and there was someone (like you) who was named the coordinator of all the class contacts who were mostly presidents of their classes. He communicated with us through emails. I sent him my contact list and he melded it into a school database.

Like Ruthless Bunny, I too graduated HS over 30 years ago. I am still in weekly touch with 8 of my classmates by phone or in person and with a different 15 or so via a Yahoo Group. Facebook would be a partial fail among my peers. While many of my classmates are on FB, many of us are not. If this were done only through FB, at my HS, you would miss a lot of classmates. Maybe 50%. I imagine through the younger set, the FB acceptance level would be much higher.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:17 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I went to a small school where everybody knew everyone else. We have an alumni facebook page. A few of the "popular kids" from school are alumni liaisons, and post the "look at the cool things alumni are doing!" updates on the facebook wall and send out facebook messages and emails to other alumni. Since everyone knows each other, no one gets emails from people they don't know, but for a larger group of folks, the more liaisons you have the less chance you have of that happening.

It seems to be working out just fine. I have distanced myself considerably from the school because 1) they sucked and 2) I live 1000 miles away from them, but the people who actually care about the alumni events seem to be plenty informed and active.
posted by phunniemee at 10:28 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My high schools have Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, which works pretty well for getting a broad spectrum of people. The main high school I went to has a substantially larger alum base and they actively invite alums to things through both the alum-based groups and the larger group for the whole school. Every class has one or two reps who serve terms of a couple of years to get class notes and edit them (usually through Facebook, if they're close-ish friends, but I'm still a younger alumna). Development has their own system of contacting and recruiting alums for fundraising activities. These reps are mainly self-nominated, as far as I know, though friends might tap friends to do it.

The school also sends out regular newsletters and updates on events on campus and open to alums through email, which includes links to the alumnae pages and to have your contact info updated. In addition, alums will sometimes host local events or be invited to get involved with college students who have matriculated nearby. Those events are often put on the big calendar and newsletter schedule, but often coordinated through email (and announced on Facebook, though again this has some contact problems.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:56 AM on October 12, 2012

Oh, one other thing-- you might want to see if there are already unofficial facebook groups for your school or by class, and enlist the help of their creators, either for announcing official pages or for their support in building your agents.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:02 AM on October 12, 2012

We have a class rep for each year (a volunteer). They are responsible for collecting class news to be published twice a year in a school wide mailing.

We have a reunion rep for each year (again volunteer). Reunions are held every five years at the school with all of the classes celebrating that year.

Each year has its own Facebook Group for information.

We have an all alum monthly email bulletin to promote upcoming activities and school news.

Activities throughout the year are open to all alums and range from fundraisers for scholarship funds (bingo, 5k race), family day, wine tasting, book club, etc.

It has taken a while to get things to grow but it is so much easier now with things like FB and email.
posted by maxg94 at 12:27 PM on October 12, 2012

My best friend is the "class correspondent" (parts 2 and 3 of what you describe) for my small high school class - she is a terrific at staying in touch with people and plus an incorrigible gossip, which makes her well suited to the job, as she actually reaches out to people regularly to find out what their up to (she was recruited somewhat randomly by the school after the previous correspondent did a quite lackluster job - apparently just collecting info from the two or three fellow alumni she happened to run into from time to time - for a few years and then more or less fell off the map). She wasn't popular in high school, but people respond because everyone loves talking about themselves (and also she hounds them pretty aggressively). Whatever she collects is distributed in hard copy in the school news bulletin thing - I wish it came by email instead, because it seems to mostly end up being mailed to my parents' house. There is also an all-alumni email bulletin with news and events - this probably comes from the development office or something but I'm not sure.
The correspondent role is entirely separate from other alumni outreach for events and activities - our class president organized our reunion, mostly through our class Facebook page, which doesn't really seem to get used for much else.
posted by naoko at 10:39 PM on October 12, 2012

We have a Ning group. It's semi active. I stay in touch with my Spanish III teacher through there.

Our class (and other classes) have FB groups. A bunch of my old teachers are on FB, which is fun.
posted by kathrynm at 11:11 PM on October 12, 2012

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