Alumni Engagement: the Power of Storytelling

The positive impact created by STAUFFER’s ability to combine UX with storytelling makes us the go-to solution for some of the nation’s top higher learning institutions. Our digital storytelling abilities go far beyond building the dynamic web platforms that serve as launchpads for alumni engagement, we complete the equation by helping craft those narratives which serve as key drivers for higher learning institutions fostering benevolent relationships with alumni.

When used effectively, great storytelling keeps past graduates engaged with their alma mater in ways that encourage them to give back in a variety of ways and means. Alumni engagement goes beyond fundraising; it encompasses a range of activities, such as mentoring current students, participating in networking events, and providing career advice. Alumni aren’t just donors but potential mentors, advocates, and lifelong ambassadors for the institution. A college or higher learning institution’s alumni provide valuable insights into job markets and trends, benefiting current students and advising faculty on the shape of their current curriculum. Their insights and stories are a resource that must be tapped into and used to elevate an institution’s reputation.

This article will discuss how storytelling can be used to ingratiate and motivate alumni to stay engaged with their alma mater. We will first examine some work with our clients, and offer some key insights from STAUFFER’s best storytellers.

Highlight the impact of engaged alumni

In our work with Claremont McKenna College, we saw an opportunity to drive donations through great UX that reminded alumni about what made their own time spent their so impactful. Claremont McKenna College’s holds a special place in academia. It’s distinguished by a commitment to prepare students for the future world of affairs, to pursue thoughtful and productive lives, and exhibit responsible leadership in business, government, and the professions. With that positioning in mind, CMC embarked on The Campaign for CMC: Responsible Leadership. 

The campaign has already raised $1 billion, in partnership with nearly 11,000 donors. The STAUFFER team worked closely with CMC’s team to build a site for the campaign designed to grow the number of donors and engage audiences through a forward-facing design language that provides clear pathways for users to explore and contribute to the campaign. By demonstrating the value of alumni through showing what their donations provide, Claremont McKenna can count on our work to assist with creating a groundswell of sustainable donations to their College.

The Crucial Role of User Experience (UX)

The role of UX designers

Our UX designers work closely with top-tier institutions like Claremont McKenna and have built bridges with their alumni via user-friendly portals and mobile apps that can be used to access resources, event information, and alumni directories. UX designers implement straightforward navigation and intuitive interfaces, ensuring alumni can easily find information about events, resources, and connections. While often unseen by the untrained eye, their nuanced work makes all the difference in enhancing users’ overall experience.

The need for user-centric design

UX must always be built with the end-user in mind. In Claremont McKenna’s case, Alumni users and their stories were central to the design process. A well-designed user interface can significantly impact alumni engagement. For instance, the UX for the campaign site was built with engagement in mind.

The Art of Digital Storytelling

Defining digital storytelling

Digital storytelling includes sharing alumni success stories, showcasing alumni contributions’ impact, and highlighting successful graduates’ journeys. Institutions create emotional connections that inspire pride and engagement by sharing alumni success stories, such as a first-generation college graduate who achieved career success.

These stories bridge many gaps – for the institution, they can ingratiate their most successful graduates and platform their success. The alumni themselves get a chance to tell their story with the hopes that it provides some sort of relatability and inspiration for the next generation of students. 

There are no shortcuts to good storytelling

When telling a story, it has to come from the heart. It is easily understandable that when reaching out to top alumni, colleges are often trying to get time from a willing but quite busy pool of professionals. This may cause institutions to feel that the juice just may not be worth the squeeze; on the contrary to this thought, our executive director of accounts, Cole Gray, has worked with many of America’s top Universities and has this to say about alumni storytelling:

“While it can take a little time and coordination, but gathering authentic perspectives and stories from some of your most inspiring alumni should be seen as anything but a chore. It’s rather an incredibly rewarding opportunity to create connections with the individuals who could become your institution’s most compelling brand ambassadors for years to come.”

An institution’s story is more than the history of its growth, it is an anthology of the lives of their graduates, taking time to memorialize those stories is an opportunity not to be taken lightly.

UX as a storytelling tool

STAUFFER’s UX designers have successfully integrated storytelling elements into alumni engagement platforms for various clients, enhancing user experiences. The UX team at STAUFFER often incorporates interactive storytelling modules, showcasing alumni achievements and their journeys, enhancing alumni engagement and connection.

Our Director of Product, Dallas Petersen, says this on UX and storytelling:

“People love stories. If spun well, stories are naturally entertaining and educational. Much like my best university professors, higher education institutions benefit by employing storytelling structure with the content and organization of their websites and applications. Understanding their heroes (student, faculty, and alumni users) and their journeys (goals and objectives) helps institutions to create not only intuitive, user-friendly websites but craft compelling stories that motivate existing students and invite others to join them in the future.”

Building an Alumni-Centric Ecosystem

Using data analytics to identify alumni interests and preferences assists in creating compelling content and campaigns that resonate with alumni. A seamless experience, such as having an alumni portal that integrates storytelling elements, can enhance engagement and foster a sense of community.

Alumni connections elevate everything

Storytelling is a potent tool for fostering emotional connections, promoting engagement, and maintaining lifelong alumni relationships. It is always a best practice for STAUFFER to encourage institutions to prioritize UX and digital storytelling to enhance alumni engagement and ensure that alumni remain connected and engaged with their alma maters.

Engaged and connected alumni networks provide institutions with valuable resources, from mentorship opportunities to donations and advocacy, ultimately benefiting the entire institution. If your higher education institution is not fully taking advantage of these basic alumni-centric tactics, we can help. Book a Zoom meeting with STAUFFER’s strategy team today.

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