Top 10 Ways to Engage Alumni During Homecoming Weekend
Homecoming weekends foster school pride and offer an opportunity for alumni to reflect (positively) on past memories while visiting their alma mater. Traditional events such as tailgates, homecoming football games and parades/pep rallies help enhance the homecoming experience. Whether universities provide a week-long array of homecoming events or just a roster of weekend activities, homecoming presents opportunities for alums to connect with current students, faculty and other alumni. Here are 10 ways a college can engage their alumni during homecoming weekend:
Illinois State University Homecoming Homepage (Truncated)
1. Share info on-the-go
Leverage your school’s main app or alumni-focused smartphone app throughout the weekend for informing participants about fun events, important scheduling ideas, etc. A couple of schools that currently offer a homecoming section within their mobile app include Dartmouth College, the University of Virginia and The College of William and Mary.
2. Start a friendly competition
Incorporate raffles, contests and sweepstakes where winners receive school apparel and accessories. Among other possibilities, schools can use a hashtag challenge on social media, or incorporate a raffle within the school’s mobile app as a sweepstakes platform. As a great example, Illinois State University’s Homecoming Photo Contest encourages alumni to tag their photos with the hashtag #BacktheBirds for an entry into the contest to win a spirit package with Illinois State swag.
3. Get out and cheer
Offer a range of sporting events to attend. Whether a soccer match, field hockey game or traditional football showdown against a loathed rival, sporting events foster school pride and allow alumni to cheer on their alma mater against a rival team. While this is certainly the most obvious – and traditional – homecoming idea on this list, school officials and admins should not overlook the potential of homecoming sports to fire up alumni and help them reconnect with their alma mater.
4. Join the party
Host a pep rally or tailgate before the homecoming game sponsored by the alumni association. Many alumni already feel connected to their Greek organizations and other traditional tailgate sponsors, but adding an option from the Alumni Association is a great way to get more alumni involved.
5. Cast a wider net
Host both on- and off-campus networking events for current students and alumni. Incorporating opportunities for alumni to engage with current students while back at school can encourage the younger alumni to donate to the university, and can foster the employment prospects for recent and soon-to-be graduates. For example, Colgate University offers a Professional Networks reception during homecoming.
6. Show off the goods
Provide campus tours to show alumni the changes to their alma mater. Cornell University features range of tours for all ages, including a homecoming-specific tour of the Johnson Museum of Art Exhibits and a General Camps Tour.
7. Give back
Offer community service events that alumni and students can unite around for a common cause. For example, the University of Wisconsin features a blood drive during homecoming.
8. Make a name for yourself
Use a Homecoming Grand Marshal with name recognition to generate excitement about homecoming. In addition, have the Grand Marshal help cultivate and honor donors, volunteers and university ambassadors. The Grand Marshal can also share remarks at campus events, interview with the press and meet students and alumni. Both the University of Minnesota and Penn State University are among the colleges and universities that nominate and select a homecoming grand marshal.
9. Tag memories, share the love
Generate (and promote) a hashtag that alumni can use on social media channels, not just for challenges and sweepstakes, but for all images, statuses and updates from the weekend. A few examples include The College of William and Mary’s #wmhomecoming, Bentley’s #BentleyHomecoming and the University of Iowa’s three homecoming hashtags #OURIOWA, #Homceoming2015 and #UIHomecoming2015.
10. Don’t miss the opportunity to cross-promote
Integrate campaigns, annual fund drives or other giving opportunities into homecoming weekend. For example, Wake Forest University incorporates class reunion campaigns within homecoming, while Bucknell used homecoming 2012 as a platform to launch the public phase of its WE DO fundraising campaign.
For more information on Alumni Monitor and our research on alumni outreach and engagement, please contact Dana Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at alumnimonitor.corporateinsight.com.