International schools are rapidly growing in popularity, particularly with more local students enrolling alongside diverse expat populations. They offer students a multicultural environment that fosters creativity, collaboration, and cross-cultural understanding. However, as the demand for international education grows, so does the competition among schools to secure funding, expand their campuses, and attract top-tier students. This is where advancement, and in particular alumni engagement, comes in.
Advancement encompasses a variety of activities including attracting and enrolling students who align with the school’s values and goals through proactive marketing and admissions, fundraising, community relations, alumni engagement and other efforts that support the mission and growth of the school. These processes, through nurturing emotional connections and encouraging participation, are crucial for international schools to stay competitive and to continue providing the best possible education to their students.
Courtney Knight, Advancement and Engagement Director at the International School of Paris, states, “The strength of the advancement structure is that it is everything that a school and department may choose for it to include.” Dr David Willows, Co-founder and Strategic Director of [YELLOW CAR], a training and consultancy firm designed to help schools stand out, adds, “Advancement – with all of the activities that this word embraces – will be required to help schools develop the strategies to stand out in a highly competitive landscape. Advancement 2.0 will demand that we build more agile teams, do more with less, are clear about where value lies, and intentionally design the school experience.”
Historically, international schools have had varying levels of reliance on financial support and donations from alumni to upgrade facilities, hire new staff, purchase equipment and materials, and provide scholarships to deserving students. There is evidence to suggest that some of the world’s oldest universities began accepting alumni donations centuries ago, and this later evolved into the practice of modern alumni giving, where institutions actively solicit donations from former students to finance scholarships and buildings. The idea then spread to independent schools, which began to establish alumni associations and fundraising campaigns to further their advancement.
The concept of alumni engagement has evolved over time, and today it includes more than just financial contributions. Alumni are now seen as a valuable resource for schools, as they can help with recruitment, networking, and community building. They are a bridge between the school and the wider world, and can help promote the school’s reputation and values.
International schools, in particular, can benefit from engaging with their alumni. These schools are often located in countries where the expat community is close-knit, and alumni are likely to maintain strong connections with their former schools. Equally, the growing number of local students enrolling fosters a deeper connection and sense of gratitude towards the school for empowering them to achieve their dream of eventually transitioning to a university abroad. By leveraging their alumni network, international schools can tap into a wider pool of resources and opportunities.
One key benefit of alumni engagement is recruitment. Alumni can be powerful advocates for their alma mater and can help attract new students and families. They can share their positive experiences with others and provide insights into the school’s culture, curriculum, and extracurricular activities. Alumni can also serve as mentors and role models for current students and can help prepare them for the challenges of the future.
Another benefit of alumni engagement is networking. Alumni are often well-connected in their fields of work and can help students and fellow alumni with career development and job opportunities. They can also help schools establish partnerships and collaborations with other organisations, both locally and internationally.
Community building is also an important aspect of alumni engagement. By staying connected with their former school and fellow alumni, graduates can maintain a sense of belonging and contribute to the school’s ongoing success. Alumni events, such as reunions, social gatherings, and professional development sessions, can help foster a sense of community and create lifelong bonds.
Despite the many benefits of alumni engagement, it can be challenging for schools to track, manage, and engage with their alumni effectively. This is where a comprehensive advancement and alumni management system can be incredibly helpful. Schools using admissions systems that only feature online applications and enrolment management are at a disadvantage. Alumni engagement tools, such as alumni directories, donation tracking, event management, and robust email marketing are often the missing pieces to the puzzle.
By using a comprehensive system that covers all aspects of advancement, from admissions to alumni engagement, schools can easily track and manage their alumni data. They can store contact information, employment history, volunteer hours, donations and other relevant details in a central database, making it easier to communicate with alumni and keep them up-to-date with the school’s news and events. Advancement Directors can also ensure there is a degree of prioritisation with the most esteemed and important alumni, much like lead-scoring protocols would be used to prioritise prospective families in the recruitment funnel.
Optimising event management processes can also help school advancement through the streamlined organisation of alumni events, such as reunions, networking sessions, and fundraising campaigns. With a comprehensive advancement management system, schools can easily track attendance, send out invitations, and manage RSVPs, making event planning less time-consuming and more efficient. Meanwhile, email marketing tools can help schools communicate with their alumni on a regular basis. By sending out newsletters, updates, and other relevant information, schools can keep alumni engaged and informed, and promote their reputation and values.
Conclusively, in today’s highly competitive international school market, maintaining a strong and active alumni network is crucial to the advancement of the institution. Engaging with alumni not only helps to create a sense of community and connection between former students and the school, but it also provides valuable opportunities for networking, fundraising, and recruitment. By fostering positive relationships with alumni and involving them in various aspects of the school’s operations, international schools can tap into the skills, resources, and expertise of their most loyal and dedicated supporters. Ultimately, a robust alumni engagement strategy can play a key role in advancing the mission and reputation of an international school and ensuring its continued success in a rapidly changing global landscape.
Register for our webinar on May 24, at 9:00 (GMT) to learn more about how optimising alumni engagement can boost the advancement of your school!