After years getting their undergraduate and graduate degrees, alumni are eager to get out in the world and start their careers. Universities can become like sieves, burdened by the work of staying in touch and continuing to engage alumni after they've finished their degrees.
Most universities have formal club structures, and some less formal. One alumni leader may take up the charge of staying in touch. A group may form in a Facebook group. A department in the university might keep an email list for their annual newsletter update. In any case, there’s a lot of opportunity and a demonstrated desire to keep alumni in touch with each other and with the university.
We worked with 2 major American universities to help their clubs with the tools they need to keep their alumni active.
No doubt there’s a glut of software geared specifically to alumni groups and clubs. So, why NationBuilder? Alumni software is geared towards high capacity associations. Updates and maintenance are often complicated, expensive, time consuming, and top-down. Universities that want to empower their alumni clubs with simple and usable tools are looking for other solutions.
Alumni associations want to be able to make data-driven decisions when it comes to outreach and fundraising.
How will they know who their most engaged Alums are? Keep accurate information? NationBuilder allows you to set up a parent nation (the association) and subnations (the clubs). The subnation data is shared up to the parent. While your clubs are out there having networking events, that data is synced back to you so you can tell who is showing up. The integrity of this data is important, and was top of mind during both projects.
Both university clients we worked with had spent years supporting their clubs and troubleshooting their issues. They knew that moving them to a new system and training them on new tools, while a valuable and much needed exercise, would come with challenges of buy-in and a steep learning curve. They wanted their tools suites to be something their clubs would see themselves in, and be proud to use and send their members to.
Our process was front-loaded with research, discovery, strategy, and consultation. For both projects, cStreet conducted surveys and research with club leaders and the alumni association staff. We had three core user groups: our clients, the alumni associations, the groups who were using the product, and the users, alumni themselves.
Getting buy in from the clubs was one of our core goals. We ran a presentation with club leaders during their national conference where we presented some of our ideas for how to address their challenges, listened to their feedback, and answered their questions.
We used this feedback and discovery to design website themes for the clubs, with some custom tools built in that met their specific needs and solved some problems that cropped up. We designed and developed training programs that were a mix of webinars and documentation for the club leaders, and in-person training and ongoing support for the alumni association staff members.
Data Each client had a different data structure at their university, and so we developed a combination of built in and custom software solutions to make sure we maintained data integrity and passed up interaction data (i.e. who was attending events). We used NationBuilder’s open API to sync back to the university’s internal system and tag sharing to make sure that the individual clubs were being passed data from the parents that was relevant to their jurisdiction while maintaining the privacy and integrity of the larger ecosystem.
Website A big part of getting the club leaders to ditch their old tools and work with the university was giving them a gorgeous website with an easy-to-use back end. NationBuilder gave us a lot of the functionality the clubs would need, and we built some customizations on top of it like photo galleries, job boards, alumni directories that showed custom information, and profiles for alumni that showed employment and contact information, to name a few. The themes we developed for the website were modular, so that they could customize their homepages to reflect their priorities. For example, a club that held a lot of events could feature a calendar with multiple events on their homepage, while a club that only had a single monthly event could feature just that one
Membership & Privacy Chapter organizations often need to create unique value for their members, like locked content, or event tickets discounts. Using NationBuilder we were able to build in these levels of access easily
Custom Software Using the NationBuilder API, we built a series of applications to enhance the existing suite of tools. Our Searchable Directory queries the parent database and returns alumni based on a bunch of criteria, from current employer to the city where they live. A Global Calendar searches every club in the network and amalgamates their events into one calendar.