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Lots of different types of organizations have alumni—schools, foundations, internship programs etc. These alumni constitute a specific group of people who require a different form of outreach than other types of donors/volunteers/members. They have a personal attachment to your school or organization, and hopefully feel a life-long bond that will keep them willing to help you financially and, where applicable, physically for years to come.
Instead, you need to look for specific alumni management software that will allow you to reach out to your alumni and keep them involved in your organization long after their official time with you has ended.
Here are some important topics to think about as you consider whether alumni management software is right for your organization:
What is Alumni Management Software?
The key aspect of alumni management software is that it unites a variety of tools for general membership management (like donor management, event management and volunteer management) with tools for alumni to log into a personalized portal and gain access to networking opportunities, including job boards, localized events and mentorship opportunities.
In short, alumni management software combines general membership organizational tools with specific functions that are useful to a membership made up solely of alumni.
Alumni Management Software vs. Membership Management Software
Alumni management software is very similar, in many ways to membership management software. Those similarities include:
- Membership management software is a database for hosting member contact details and interactions, payment due dates, relevant interests and more. Its purpose is to simplify business management tasks and communications for membership-based organizations.
- Alumni management software includes a database that hosts alumni contact details and interactions, allows for the collection of dues, tracks relevant interests and more. It simplifies management tasks and communications for alumni organizations and administrators.
However, there are also crucial differences to note between both types of software. Those differences include:
- Membership management software is generally inward-facing, meaning that it exists primarily for administrators within the organization to automate tasks related to contacting and organizing members (though some systems do have portals for members to check their donation/volunteer history and update their contact information).
- Alumni management software features both inward-facing tools, like membership manage software does, as well as outward-facing portals that allow alumni to network with one another through job and discussion boards, mentorship opportunities, the creation of local volunteer and/or social events and so forth.
Common Features of Alumni Management Software
The number one thing to consider when purchasing any type of software solution is the features that it will make available to you. For alumni management systems, this features list is vast, and includes the kind of functionality you'd find in membership management software (like a contact database and donor/event/volunteer management) as well as alumni management-exclusive features (like portals and networking):
|Membership management||Manages alumni contact details and interactions, payment due dates, relevant interests and more. These tools simplify business management tasks and communications for alumni organizations, especially in regards to collecting dues from members.|
|Contact database||In order to serve the other features on this list, alumni management systems need to have an accessible, easily updated contact database that will allow representatives of the alumni organization to keep in touch with membership.|
|Alumni portals||Alumni management systems will not only provide you with internal-facing tools, but also allow you to create portals that your alumni can log into so as to check their own donor/volunteer history, sign up for future opportunities and/or utilize networking opportunities.|
|Alumni networking||Once they sign into the alumni portal, individual alumni are able to access job boards, discussion boards and mentorship opportunities, allowing you to develop a social networking community amongst alumni that helps strengthen their ties and encourage the growth of your alumni organization's brand.|
|Donor management & fundraising||This will allow you to campaign for and track alumni donations while simultaneously managing existing donors. These tools work together to recruit, engage and retain alumni donors while optimizing your strategies for future fundraising campaigns.|
|Event management||This functionality helps you automate the process of planning, organizing, marketing and ultimately analyzing promotional alumni events. Event management tools facilitate event registration, ticketing, onsite operations management and seat allocations.|
|Volunteer management||This feature utilizes your contact database/information to track volunteer engagement amongst alumni, including their participation history and availability. Scheduling functionality also provide outreach tools to contact those who've volunteered for upcoming events and to track responses and availability.|
|Reporting & analytics||This tool will generate reports about your alumni membership, including donations, volunteering, and other metrics of engagement. More advanced systems will also provide analysis of those reports so that you can strategize appropriately.|
|Email marketing||In order to reach out to your alumni for donations and for volunteer opportunities, email marketing features provide you with the ability to run and automate common email marketing tasks, to measure the engagement and impact of each email marketing campaign and to help you find better ways of segmenting your alumni contacts.|
Of all these features, what makes an alumni management unique from a general membership management system is the alumni portal, which will allow your alumni to interact with one another. Here is an example of such a portal from 360Alumni:
360Alumni's alumni portal homepage
Other factors to take into consideration when picking the best alumni management software for your business include:
- Integration with other systems. Depending upon the business model of your alumni organization, you may require that your alumni management software is able to integrate with a member management system or, for educational alumni organizations, either school management software or even a learning management system. If you think you will need this type of integration, be sure to check with your vendor that the systems are compatible, so that you don't face problems connecting important aspects of your organization.
- Organization & donor base size. If you run a small summer internship program that only has five new alumni a year, you'll likely require a limited set features compared to an international university that has thousands of graduate every semester. Be sure to check with your vendor that your level of functionality accurately reflects your needs based on your organization's size (especially in regards to your donor base).
- Standalone software vs. suite. Though alumni management software naturally brings together a variety of independent software functions (donor, volunteer and event management, amongst others), there are standalone alumni management vendors as well as general membership management vendors who feature alumni management tools. If, for example, you're a nonprofit that wants alumni management for your former interns, you may want to consider solutions that are part of a larger membership management suite. On the other hand, if you are a nation-wide alumni network for a large university, an independent, standalone piece of alumni management software will be more likely to fit your needs.
- Cloud-based software vs on-premise software. On-premise software is a system that is housed at your location, meaning that in addition to requiring available space you also need to purchase hardware and have dedicated IT resources (in terms of both people and money) to implement the software and keep it running smoothly. Today, that sort of software system tends to be used only by giant, enterprise-level corporations that have the space and resources to spare (which may potentially include alumni organizations for giant universities). Much more common, particularly for smaller businesses/organizations, is cloud-based software, which are accessed over the internet via the cloud. This requires no extra space, fewer IT resources and lower up-front costs, making it a more manageable solution for most organizations.