A growing priority for international and independent schools in the Middle East is maximising alumni engagement and maintaining a strong relationship with their alumni, who often move away from the region to pursue further education and advance their careers.
Advancement Directors understand that by effectively leveraging their network of alumni, they can increase admissions and enrolment, improve their school’s reputation, and boost fundraising initiatives. In this regionally focused blog, we explore how schools can use a range of mediums and channels to communicate with their alumni, keep them updated on the school’s achievements and events, and provide them with opportunities and motivation to network, mentor, and donate.
Maintaining an engaged alumni community can be challenging, but with the right processes and technology in place, admissions, marketing and advancement leaders can establish a strong student-school relationship that builds throughout the student lifecycle and continues beyond graduation.
Some of the advancement challenges faced by international and independent schools in the Middle East are:
Lack of continuity and stability: Many international and independent schools are either new or have a high turnover of students and staff. This affects their ability to create a sense of identity, loyalty, and connection among their alumni, and to track and engage them effectively over time. Download our free guide ‘Building Your School Brand: A Blueprint’ to help with this.
Diversity and fragmentation: The private K-12 sector in the Middle East is very diverse and fragmented, with schools offering different curricula to their pluri-lingual and multicultural student populations (learn more about overcoming language barriers in our recent blog). It is essential for schools to create a unified and coherent community that caters for the varied needs and preferences of their alumni. Schools must also consider the challenges facing alumni seeking to network across geographical and linguistic divides, or to collaborate with each other across occupational sectors.
Competition and saturation: The private K-12 market in the Middle East is highly competitive and saturated, with more schools entering the market and competing for the same pool of students. This potentially reduces the differentiation and value proposition of schools and makes it harder for them to retain their students’ (and by extension, alumni’s) attention and loyalty. There is a golden opportunity here for schools to regularly innovate and improve their offerings and services to attract mission-fit families and also satisfy their alumni.
Cultural and social factors: The Middle East has a rich and diverse cultural and social landscape, which influences the attitudes and behaviours of some alumni towards their schools and each other. A few of these factors include the role of religion, family, gender, and politics in shaping the values and expectations of alumni, the level of trust and openness among alumni, and the extent of civic engagement and philanthropy among alumni communities. Schools must ensure they attract families that align with their mission and vision through proactive communication (explore our power-packed parent communication cheat sheet for some helpful tips). They must also develop communications that result in a high level and quality of alumni involvement for the future.
Best practices to lock alumni engagement and and boost these valuable relationships include:
Collecting useful information about your alumni, such as their contact details, interests, preferences, and feedback. This will help you segment your alumni into different groups and tailor your communication and outreach strategies accordingly.
Creating persona maps for each alumni group, based on their demographics, psychographics, behaviour, and goals. This will help you understand their motivations, needs and expectations, and design relevant and personalised messages and offers for them.
Using a mix of broadcast and conversational messaging to reach your alumni effectively and efficiently. Broadcast messaging can be used to send reminders, invitations, and updates to large groups of alumni, while conversational messaging can be used to have one-on-one dialogues, solicit feedback, and build rapport with individual alumni.
Leveraging social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, to showcase your school’s achievements, share stories and testimonials, and create a sense of community and pride among your alumni. You can also use social media to create groups, events, and campaigns that encourage alumni participation and interaction.
Services and Benefits
Offering value-added services and benefits to your alumni, such as career guidance, professional development, networking opportunities, and access to exclusive resources and events. This will help you demonstrate your appreciation and recognition of your alumni, and increase their loyalty and affinity to your school.
Activities and Initiatives
Involving your alumni in your school’s activities and initiatives, such as mentoring current students, volunteering for events, speaking at seminars, contributing to newsletters, and serving on advisory boards. This will help you foster a sense of belonging and ownership among your alumni, and leverage their expertise and experience to enhance your school’s reputation and performance.
Soliciting donations and fundraising from your alumni strategically and respectfully, by aligning your request with their interests, values, and financial means. You can also use gamification, storytelling, and recognition techniques to make your fundraising appeals more engaging and compelling.
Examples of international or independent schools in the Middle East that have successfully implemented some of these best practices include:
The International School of London Qatar has a vibrant Alumni Association that aims to strengthen the special bonds alumni share with the school, teachers, and classmates. A dedicated space has been established for alumni to stay connected and share news and success stories. The school expresses gratitude for alumni efforts in maintaining the spirit of ISL Qatar through personal visits, reunions, and global gatherings.
The British School Al Khubairat, which has a dedicated alumni relations team that manages a comprehensive alumni program, including a website, a magazine, a database, a mentoring scheme, and various events and reunions.
The English College, Dubai, which is part of the International Schools Partnership (ISP), uses its alumni network to promote its brand, share success stories, and connect with prospective students and parents. ISP also organises alumni events, such as reunions, webinars, and mentoring sessions, to foster a sense of community and loyalty among its former students.
Qatar Academy, which comprises five IB World Schools administered by the Qatar Foundation, offers a space for alumni to (re)connect and engage with one another through an online community with thousands of active members, dozens of annual events, mentorship and sharing of job opportunities.
SABIS, which has a global alumni network that spans 21 countries and five continents, provides its alumni with various services and benefits, such as career advice, online courses, networking events, and alumni awards.
GEMS Education, a group that operates over 250 schools in 13 countries, including the Middle East, uses its alumni network to showcase its achievements, celebrate its alumni, and inspire its current students. Their online platform GEMS Alumni Connect allows alumni to register, update their profiles, and network with other alumni. Additionally, GEMS organises alumni events, such as reunions, workshops, and awards, to recognise and reward its alumni.
American School of Dubai (ASD) leverages its alumni network to bolster its connections with its graduates, as well as to support its strategic goals. ASD has developed ASD Connect, an online platform where alumni can access resources, news, events and opportunities. ASD also invites its alumni to participate in its activities, such as career fairs, guest lectures, and community service.
Maximising Alumni Engagement
Alumni are more likely to donate, volunteer and generally engage positively with schools if they feel connected to the causes and projects that their alma mater supports, especially those that they were involved in as students.
They can also benefit from continuous learning and networking opportunities that schools can provide, using data-driven insights to tailor the offerings to their needs and interests.
To learn more about cultivating a strong and loyal alumni community that can act as advocates, supporters, and mentors for your school and its current and future students, read our blog post about unlocking the power of alumni engagement. By engaging alumni in meaningful ways, schools can not only enhance their reputation and resources, but also create lasting bonds and positive impacts.
We are hosting an OpenApply workshop in Dubai on 27 February 2024, where schools from the region will be sharing insights, use cases and best practices on a range of topics, such as data and analytics, communication, effective processes and more. Spaces are limited so we encourage early registration!