When you think of a college homecoming weekend, what are the first things that come to mind? A football game, networking with fellow alumni over hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, a stroll down memory lane as you walk around campus?
Passionate alumni love to relive their “glory days” and reconnect with old friends and faculty during homecoming weekends, and these events often play a role in their decision to donate to their school.
COVID-19 has forced colleges to cancel or reconsider traditional homecoming activities, but the need for alumni support remains. If done right, a virtual homecoming can still create a sense of community - but you need to build a communication strategy now. Consider texting alumni a schedule of events with links to register or add events to their calendar, and check in with them following homecoming weekend to get their feedback.
Here are some ways to connect with alumni through a virtual homecoming.
Create a virtual game day experience
Many colleges and universities have not cancelled football or other fall sports seasons, even if they’re unable to have fans in attendance. Consider hosting a virtual tailgate or watch party through a video conferencing tool like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or even Facebook Live, to live stream the game and allow alumni to chat and cheer on their team.
Drive community conversation on social media
From contests to designated hashtags and live chats, there are endless opportunities to bring alumni together on social media. Encourage alumni to post a picture on social media wearing your school colors or share how they’re celebrating at home. Implementing a specific homecoming hashtag, like Miami University of Ohio, across marketing materials will help organize the social media conversation in one place.
Host virtual campus tours
One of an alumni’s favorite things to do during homecoming weekend is to take a campus tour to see what’s new and what hasn’t changed since their days on campus. Many colleges are already hosting virtual tours for prospective students, so it’s easy to repurpose these for former students as well.
Take a new approach to fundraising
Despite the pandemic and the switch to virtual events, there are still effective (and sensitive) ways to seek financial support from alumni:
- During a virtual game watch party, offer incentives/discounts to attendees if they purchase a single game or season tickets for next year. Watching a game from afar is likely to give them a sense of FOMO, and they may be eager to attend a game in person when it’s safe to do so.
- Text a discount code to alumni so they can purchase gear online from the university store - then they can proudly represent their school wherever they are.
- Share stories of how past donations are helping students today. There’s no better feeling than seeing your hard-earned money go to work to support students in need, critical research (especially around COVID-19), or athletic programs that traditionally rely on in-person spectators. Creating specific funds around diversity initiatives, cutting-edge research, or scholarship programs can encourage alumni to donate to a cause that they’re passionate about.
If you’re looking for more tips to virtual advancement and alumni engagement efforts, we’ve got you covered!