Once your student-athletes graduate and move onto the next chapter of their lives, the hard work of keeping them connected to your program begins.
As Ben Hansen of Iowa Football so perfectly puts it, “Alumni are the only permanent part of a program.” Considering their immense long-term value to your program, it is critical to engage them in an authentic, meaningful way long before you ask them for money or support. It takes effort and commitment, but this approach ultimately improves fundraising and can even pay dividends in recruiting.
Unfortunately, for many administrators, supporting your alumni often involves a significant amount of time spent on:
- Working within burdensome processes and bridging the gap between disconnected systems.
- Requesting alumni contact info updates and manually entering data from the few responses you do receive.
- Directing traffic as you connect alumni to current student-athletes, their former teammates or coaches, and other resources.
As much as this work is intended to help your alumni, the truth of the matter is: alumni want to help themselves. Our modern culture – with the internet, social media, and mobile apps – has trained us to “DIY it”. Especially for Millenials, having to call or email someone to get what we need is groan-inducing.
The secret to engaging your athlete-alumni is to empower them to engage on their own terms. Give them control over their experience and they will stay connected to their former team and school while reducing your administrative burden. Below, we explore three main pillars of Alumni Empowerment.
To get more accurate data and sustainable maintenance of that data, move closer to the source: your alumni. This is one of the simplest changes you can make to have a greater impact on your athlete-alumni program and streamline your process.
NextPlay’s athlete community platform does exactly that. Once an alum joins the community, they set up and maintain their profile information through the team’s branded mobile app. Regardless of how many times their email or phone number may change, you’re always connected. In-app messages and notifications can be used to communicate directly with your athlete alumni without having to worry about bounce backs or voicemails.
Administrators no longer need to send surveys, collect the data, and manually update information. This new-found efficiency allows your staff to focus on the work that has a greater impact on student-athletes, alumni, and your program.
ORGANIC AND DIRECT CONNECTION
Social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are everywhere (like it or not). However, they’re built for mass connectivity – not intimate communities centered around a common bond. More importantly, they aren’t private, and you have little control over the user experience and data collected.
Instead, athlete-alumni programs like Iowa’s Hawkeye Legacy have created their own micro-communities powered by NextPlay’s athlete-affinity group platform.
With NextPlay, your team can quickly launch and easily maintain its own branded, private social network. Once admitted to the community, members are empowered to organically and directly connect with one another.
Rich profile information, sophisticated search tools, and direct messaging allow members to easily find one another on their own. If an alum wants to connect with a student-athlete about a job opportunity, they can. If a student-athlete wants to contact an alum to get some advice or mentorship, they can.
By creating your own athlete community, you eliminate the need for a “human conduit” to route requests and make introductions.
There’s no better way to ensure your community reflects its users than by empowering members to create their own content.
Users want to see stories from alumni, student-athletes, and coaching staff. They want a private and safe space where they can express their own ideas, struggles, and hopes for the next game or the next chapter of their life. It’s this type of authentic content that drives high and lasting engagement.
Your team’s branded athlete affinity group gives your alumni and athletes a private space and the tools to express themselves. While NextPlay’s Customer Success team moderates posts based on agreed-upon guidelines, each community ultimately reflects the personality of its members through user-generated content.
For those departments with the will and means to create their own content, production resources can focus on high-quality content to build your team’s brand, reinforce your message, and differentiate your program from the competition.
NEXTPLAY AS YOUR MANAGED SERVICE PROVIDER
To empower your alumni and reduce your administrative burden, you need a trusted and proven solution provider. Leading athletic programs at Duke, Iowa, San Jose State and other innovative schools have partnered with NextPlay to power their branded student-athlete and athlete-alumni communities.
To learn more about how NextPlay can help your program, schedule time to talk with us.