Students Are A Perfect Fit in the Alumni Engagement Puzzle
There is nothing more powerful then having alumni experience interaction with student's firsthand. Setting up these opportunities benefits both the alum and the student. The alum gets an understanding of the needs of the current student population and the student gets to network with a person on the field.
Always look for the opportunity for alumni to meet students. Think outside of the box as it doesn't have to be an executive in residence or alumni panel to make these things happen. For instance, my alma mater once had an event where we watched a performance of Rent and following the production was a reception. This is typical for most alumni events but the great thing about this reception was that the entire cast and crew attended and mingled with alumni. Theatre alumni got to speak to the students about their experiences and even regular members of the audience got the chance to interact with or ask questions of the performers.
I also have my interns outreach to alumni by phone to inform them about events. Alumni need to not only hear from student callers about gift requests but person invites as well. We encourage them to talk about their experiences at college and connect with the alumni during the conversation. This is also expressed to students that they should reach out to their fellow students and professors to get them involved in the Alumni Association as well.
Arranging connection for professors to visit alumni in the field with their classes is also a great way to connect alumni to the students. These trips often result in internships for students, gifts to the college and a stronger relationship with the faculty to alumni. Whenever I have an event I often reach out to faculty to see if they are willing to attend and when appropriate invite students come as well.
Lastly don't forget to be apart of things like Family Weekend, Homecoming, Little Siblings and traditions because these are events that are already established and you can help enhance them. Even if your primary alumni audience isn't coming you have the students and they are your future alumni.
Student centered approach enhances any alumni program. It is this type of outreach that will not only better connect returning alumni but create a more clear understanding for the student on what it means to be an alum in the future. These two pronged approach will make the greatest impact on the future of alumni engagement for your institution.