The Failure Of Corporate Alumni Programs

4 min to read
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alumniex Author

The largest failure of Corporate Alumni Programs for any organization is not clearly articulating at the beginning, before the beginning what it is that your organization is trying to achieve by having an Alumni Program and what type of program they intend to build either by choice or due to organizational restrictions. The failure to map out their vision, their mission, their strategy, even in a basic form. What are we building, why are we building it, how are we going to meet the what and the why, how are we going to judge our journey success?

Compounding this issue, is the fact that due to a companies natural attrition, every year, a Corporate Alumni Program sees consistent growth, providing a false sense of community growth. Essentially hiding the churn of historic users (churn: (in this instance) meaning they are dormant) with the new leavers now joining your community. So on paper, you can show growth, and your total addressable community has increased but has the community health actually increased, has the value of the community increased, or is this just a vanity volume metric.

For many organizations, they hear the term Alumni Community and know it’s the right move, so they launch an Alumni Program, but they launch it in name only. It is not actually either a community or a program and is not designed to actually be a community and therefore is unable to achieve the corporate goals.

There are three general formats of an Alumni Program, and all of them have merits based on the organizational objectives, budget and resources available. Starting with one format type does not prevent growth or iterations into new types as the program matures.

Depending on the format of your Alumni Program it will define the types of outputs or outcomes you can expect and whether it is even feasible to meet your business objectives.

The three formats of an Alumni Program can generally be classed as follows:

  1. MAILING LIST: If the intent of your program, or extent of your program will be to push out content or announcements via primarily email communications, then you have a mailing list. You might have a platform that allows users to login / to signup, but if there is nothing for them to do, no value creation then they never return and your relationship with them goes from them being a “user” of your platform to a “subscriber” of your mailing list. A majority of Alumni Programs that want to create an engaged community are actually managing a mailing list, their user data is not updated, there is no sense of belonging and if you asked your community for something your conversation ratio would be small.
  2. PROGRAM: The Alumni Program is a hybrid of a mailing list, with some form of Alumni Experience that allow your Alumni to view recycled content, participate in events, view jobs and sometimes a first layer of “Community” in the form of Alumni Spotlights or Introductions. It is almost primarily a Company > Alumni relationship where your organization is communicating to them and you have built the program unilaterally. You may be expecting to drive advocacy, recruiting and sales opportunities via your platform, but if you look at the data, the only people actually logging in are the people you are actually not so interested in targeting.
  3. COMMUNITY: If you want true value to your organization and real ROI, the Community format, which takes various stages of maturity, is always going to deliver the most accelerated and meaningful ROI. Primarily because by leveraging the community model, you will engage and expand your audience to passive alumni (Alumni who don’t feel the need to join your platform or stay in touch). Passive Alumni are generally employed, maintain a network, and do not see how spending time joining your community can be of value / is worth their time. The community model, is one where you are developing a decentralized community designed to enable and accelerate connection’s between members where the organizational role is to facilitate these introductions / opportunities and celebrate your community members success.