Building an Exceptional Alumni Community: A Comprehensive Guide
January 25, 2024
Bootcamps. YouTube. Udemy.
If someone wants to learn new skills, they have plenty of options. That means that schools can't just teach if they hope to survive this decade.
For a bootcamp or university to grow, they need to focus on the real reason people attend in the first place: community.
Community gives your students a sense of belonging and connections to opportunities. It's a human touch that can't be easily replicated.
Without the connections your school offers, students can go to cheaper, quicker options online. So don't settle for an alumni Slack that no one uses. Read this guide to learn how you can build a thriving alumni community in no time.
Commit To Making It Work
Contrary to popular belief, communities don't pop out of nowhere. There is a consistent level of management that's needed to make it useful.
You might be thinking "but I don't have time". However, you will want to make some time since your school or bootcamp alumni community can help you with:
Getting job seekers hired faster
Growing your partner network
Mentoring existing students
Marketing and events to show success stories
Over the long run, you will save time by getting previous graduates to help you out with providing career support. So pull out your calendar right now and set aside 3-5 hours per week for working on your community.
Once that's done, let's work on deciding what you will do with those hours to provide value to community members.
Why Should Alumni Use Your Community?
Just like with all products, your alumni community is not about what it can do for you. You have to put yourself in your alumni's shoes and think why should they use your community?
The best way to find out what your community members want is to ask. Send a survey using Google Forms to your alumni email list. Include questions like "what do you need most in your career right now" to get some useful responses.
If you want to skip the survey though, here are some ideas on how to provide value to your alumni community members:
Extended career support services like resume reviews and access to a Job Tracker.
Community Job Board where alumni can share roles from their company and earn referral fees.
Leadership growth through a mentorship program or speaking opportunities.
Remember: alumni are your customers in this situation. Focus on building a product you can "sell" to them.
Choosing an Alumni Community Platform
The alumni community platform you choose is more important than you might think. It determines what is possible for your alumni community.
Slack: Most bootcamps use Slack because it's what their company already uses. With integrations and extensions that can boost the alumni experience, it might make sense at first glance. Channels, while good for conversation, are not great for sharing events and jobs. Plus, since people use Slack for work, alumni might want to avoid this platform in their spare time. Not to mention how expensive it becomes on the paid version.
Graduway: Many colleges and universities choose software like Graduway which focuses on extracting value out of alumni. Donations are the focus, and it's quite good at that. But the whole point of your platform should be to boost alumni engagement. Put alumni first and skip this platform.
Discord: If you decided events is going to be your focus, Discord might be a good option. You get traditional chat channels like Slack in addition to live audio and speaker channels. This makes it great for events. Plus, it's free.
On the downside, if someone doesn't check in for a while, it can be a lost cause to catch up the conversation. Lack of threads means if you share events or tips, they can quickly get lost.
Prentus: Prentus allows you to have a branded alumni community platform powered by gamification. Since it's career focused, members get both job searching tools and a community optimized for professionals.
Features include a social-media style Feed, an Event Stream, a Job Board, and Mentorship all in one place. That means no more messy channels where information gets lost.
Every time a community member shares something helpful, they earn points. This allows them to measure their impact and make it a competition of who can help the most.
If you want a community platform that gets people engaged and hired, Prentus is your best bet.
Setting Up Community Guidelines
No matter which community platform you choose, you will need to set community guidelines. This is basically a set of expected rules on conduct and usage that guides alumni on how to use the community.
The specific guidelines will depend on the bootcamp or school, but some good ones to consider include:
What value can alumni get out of your community
What NOT to share in the community (ex. advertising your own company)
Reminder to keep personal information and questions private
Legal disclosures such as to respect copyright laws and not share internal school materials
Write up your guidelines and make it to pin it on your alumni community platform. Optionally, add a welcome email that is sent to each community member containing these guidelines too.
Launching Your New Community
When launching your new community, you want to make sure it seems alive. First, do your part by adding some posts to start discussion and sharing some events so your alumni community platform isn't empty.
Then, try to bring on new members in cohorts. By having a few bootcampers or alumni join at the same time, there will be an influx of intro messages. People quickly judge a community and this will make it seem more active.
Start with students who may be graduating soon, instructors, and staff members. These early adopters have the most to gain and can serve as community influencers.
Watch engagement during this first week. If it's not where you want it to be, try to provide more value and then bring on a new cohort. This will be a constant test.
Keeping Your Alumni Community Active
Once your alumni community has launched, the work isn't over. Schedule a few hours a week of management to create content and engage with members. This will help keep your alumni community active.
Some ideas to get engagement are:
Weekly challenges or discussion questions.
Articles or blog posts written by alumni or staff members.
Career advice from alumni who have recently landed jobs.
Don't forget to host events where your alumni community members can connect. You can host happy hours, office hours, stand ups, or whatever else might be useful.
People might get busy and stop engaging. Don't lose them forever. Make sure to send a monthly update to your member so they can catch up on what's new. This also reminds them that your community exists and is thriving.
So there you have it! A guide to setting up and managing a bootcamp alumni community.
If you follow these tips, your alumni community will be thriving in no time. With a more engaged community, business will grow as people tell their network.
And who knows? It may even help attract new applicants! So get started today and see for yourself how beneficial an alumni community can be!
We’ve created one, cohesive experience where alumni can find everything. Alumni chapters, directories, events, and more are all at their fingertips. (Source: www.peoplegrove.com)