This is a WFUNA Youth Network podcast on Engaging Alumni, recorded in March 2012,
First up, my name’s Richard Evans.Until last year I was the National President of the UN Youth Association of New Zealand. Since then I’ve joined WFUNA’s Youth Advisory Group, a group of young people advising and supporting WFUNA to support UNYAs and UNA Youth Sections around the world. I finished my law and history degree last year and am now a law graduate in Wellington, New Zealand. There are some powerpoint slides accompanying this audio. I’ll tell you when to click through them. You’ll see the slide number at the bottom right of each slide.
WFUNA’s Youth Network include UNYAs just getting underway. Other UNYAs have been around for many years, and as they’ve developed so too have their alumni – those once involved in the organisation now doing other things. This presentation looks how UNYAs can engage with their alumni, seek their support and benefit from that support. First up, we’ll look at some of the reasons who may want to engage with your alumni. Then we’ll look how you can engage with your alumni before finally, considering who these alumni are and what you need to know about them. For the purposes of this presentation, alumni are former officeholders. By officeholders, I mean those people who have held positions in your UNYA and worked to deliver your programmes to young people. Much of what I’m going to talk about is, however, equally applicable to former members and former participants in your programmes.
UNYAs around the world run on the energy and ability of the young people that run them. But, as young people, there is a lot we don’t know.Your alumni are invaluable as a group with great knowledge, expertise and experience. What makes them especially valuable is the fact that they know your organisation and, although perhaps older than your officeholders, understand your UNYA’s youth-orientated character. They’ll be more sympathetic towards your flaws and so you can feel comfortable being open and honest with them. Mentorship and inspiration Alumni can provide important mentorship for your current officeholders. Think about your officeholders – about the volunteers running your programmes. Very often you’ll find they’re motivated, enthusiastic and intelligent. Consider what they’ll be up to in five or ten years time. Those I knew as a school student involved with New Zealand’s UN Youth Association went to great success at university. Now, they can be found achieving great things – in business, in law firms, in government departments and foreign policy, and in the United Nations itself. Many of these alumni regard their experiences in a UN Youth Association – the skills they developed, the relationships they formed and the understandings they gained – as central to their subsequent career. I’ve inserted two quotes from two of our former officeholders – at slide X from Robbie Allan, a former president of our organisation and currently an MBA candidate at UC Berkeley in California. THESE OFFICEHOLDERS PROVIDE POWERFUL EXAMPLES TO
And at slide5from Richard Higgins, a former officeholder now studying Development Studies at Oxford. These are powerful examples to current officeholders. They demonstrate to officeholders that the skills they’re developing in their work have broader application, valuable beyond your UNYA. We’ll talk soon about how you can make some of this mentorship happen.
Alumni can also provide a source of needed expertise – they have experience in areas relevant to your organisation’s work. Let’s say your UNYA is wanting to set up a trust for fundraising, or that it’s trying to register itself as a charity >>> it’s incredibly useful having a lawyer in your alumni, who you can go to for advice and support. You may need speakers for a Model UN or conference you’re running: again, it’s highly possible that someone amongst your alumni has the expertise you’re after? Don’t underestimate the diversity of talent that exists amongst your alumni – UNYAs and the Model UN programme are known to attract young people with interests ranging from international relations through to business, science and the creative arts. That’s certainly been our experience here in New Zealand. This third reason to engage with your alumni is a little more cynical, but valid nonetheless. Your UNYA may have alumni who have passed through university and are now in the workforce earning money. It may be that those alumni are interested in donating money to your UNYA. This could be in the form of direct financial support, with no strings attached. Alternatively, they may be interested in funding scholarships to delegates attending your programmes, to cover travel and accommodation costs, for instance. Every UNYA will have its own fundraising strategies, and so this will depend on your situation.
How do you engage with your alumni? How do you realise some of those benefits we’ve been talking about?First of all: keep them informed with what’s going on in your organization – updates on events and programmes your running, areas in which you’d appreciate support and expertise, and news of what other alumni are doing. You can do this by adding your alumni to pre-existing, general communication channels – add them to any Facebook, twitter or newsletter accounts you’ve already got. You may, however, want to create channels especially for your alumni – such as a Facebook page for alumni. That’s up to you – you may have messages targeted specifically at alumni. It may be that your main Facebook page is particularly busy with your main membership and that alumni could benefit from having their own platform to get in touch with each other.
A social media channel that you mightn’t use currently but which is particularly useful for alumni is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a less a social network and more a network of professionals, connected to each through organisations. It’s kind of like an online and interactive CV, which connects you to other CVs. Many of your alumni are sure to have a a LinkedIn pageSo, be sure to create your own profile at linkedin.com and, if your UNYA isn’t already registered on LinkedIn as an organisation, you can do that by clicking Companies > Search Companies and then “add company”. This way, your alumni can add your UNYA as an entry on their CV. You can also create groups on LinkedIn, like you can on Facebook. I don’t have time in this presentation to go through how to use LinkedIn, but hopefully you can play around and figure it out for yourself.
You might want to consider a newsletter for alumni, or else create a section of your current newsletter targeted at alumni. If you’ve got a website, think about making a special page for alumni – with profiles of alumni and news of any alumni-targeted events or opportunities. Perhaps the most effective form of alumni engagement is face to face – build relationships with these people. On the side of a meeting or conference you’re running (when you’re officeholders are going to be around) hold a dinner for alumni – at which you get current and past officeholders together. This can be so simple –post a message on Facebook or wherever and say, we’re meeting for dinner at Restaurant X – come join us! Make it cheap, jolly and chilled out. Every now and again, you may want to do something more special. In New Zealand, for instance, we throw an annual birthday party to which we invite alumni. Alumni pay to attend, with some of these funds supporting the organization. The photo you see here was taken at our organisation’s eleventh birthday last year.
It may be a good idea to target particular officeholders and particular alumni. Can you get all of your organisation’s past presidents together, for example? To talk about the challenges of leadership, different leadership strategies and the like. Host alumni as speakers at your meetings. You may want to consider a more formal mentorship programmes, matching particular officeholders with alumni – putting them in touch with each other and encouraging them to keep in touch so that the alumnus can support the officeholders.
Much of what I’ve been talking about depends on knowing your alumni. By understanding who your alumni are, you’ll be better able to engage with them. Are they mostly university students? Or are they employed? This will determine how much time they have to support you or perhaps how much money they have to donate, if that’s what you’re after. What’s their incentive for keeping in touch with your UNYA? Is it because they want to support your organisation? Or is it because they want to catch up with each other, socially? Is it both? This will determine whether you organise a party for your alumni, or a more formal meeting at which to update them on happenings in your UNYA. What skills do they have to offer you? Which of those alumni are happy to offer their skills? Knowing that could be the difference between engaging with your alumni and pestering them.
One way of getting to know your alumni is by doing an online survey, using this to put together an alumni database. If you use a Google spreadsheet, this will database will essentially create itself. It’s really easy. On slide X there’s a link to a YouTube video explaining how. Another good tool to use is Survey Monkey, for which you can find instructions at this link. These surveys can be emailed, placed on a website, or linked to from Facebook. Information to gather might include: name, date of birth, occupation and, in the case of students, which university or institution, the position they once held in your UNYA, their expertise and whether they’d be happy to advise or support your UNYA if asked to.
So there we go. Engage with your alumni: they’re a source of mentorship and support for your officeholders, they’re a source of needed expertise and might even be a source of funding. This needn’t be complicated. Adapt your existing communications channels to target alumni, or else create new channels especially for alumni. Think about some simple social functions you can organise to get them together and get to know them. Invite alumni to speak to your officeholders at meetings. Consider a more organised mentor programme, matching past officeholders with current officeholders. Before you do that, consider who your alumni are. Do some research, using an online spreadsheet or survey. Tailor your engagement to what you know about your alumni. Get it right and your alumni will feel appreciated and acknowledged. It’s because of their work in the past that you’re organisation is where it’s at today. Remind them of this and they’ll feel like they’ve got a stake in your UNYA and a reason to hang around.
1. ENGAGING ALUMNI Richard EvansWFUNA Youth Network – March 2012 WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 1
2. WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 2
3. Outline1. Why engage with alumni?2. How do you engage with your alumni?3. Know your alumni WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 3
4. Why engage with alumni?• Mentorship and inspiration – It’s shaped how I view the world, what I do, who I spent time with, and even where I live. Model UN helped me realise the importance of personal relationships in any organisation and better understand real dilemmas that diplomats face. As president of UN Youth I learned what teamwork is all about, how important preparation is, and, again, the difference that personal relationships make … The skills I learned in UN Youth helped me transition easily from university to the working world - Robbie Allan, former President of the UN Youth Association of New Zealand, MBA Candidate at UC Berkeley WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 4
5. Why engage with alumni?In 2010 I completed a BA/BCom conjoint degree at theUniversity of Auckland, majoring in Economics, Finance andInternational Business. During that summer I worked for anInvestment Bank in Sydney. Last year I was awarded aRhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where I now studyDevelopment Studies, a topic I’ve never studied formallybefore. UN Youth definitely helped craft a yearning tounderstand how the world works from multiple perspectives– for me, it meant considering economics and financethrough a more “human” lens. - Richard Higgins, former officeholder and Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University. WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 5
6. Why engage with alumni?• A source of needed expertise• Financial support WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 6
7. How do you engage with alumni?• Keep them informed – Online WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 7
8. WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 8
9. How do you engage with alumni?• Newsletters• An alumni page on your website• Face to face WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 9
10. How do you engage with alumni?• Face to face – More intense relationships with key people.• Alumni as guest speakers• Mentorship programmes WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 10
11. Know your alumni• Where are they at in life?• Why do they care about your UNYA? What’s motivating them to keep in touch?• What skills do they have and are they happy to offer them? WFUNA Youth Network | Engaging Alumni 11