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Creating a community

July 21, 2006

There is a great article in BusinessWeek about how many companies are creating online communities as a way to strengthen the bond with their customers. In an age where it is so difficult to get messages through to customers, a small group of companies have developed customer community to develop stronger ties with the customers and help them sell their products.

This is a good reminder to higher education institutions throughout the country of the value of alumni programs. The article also provides a case study on how institutions can better engage alumni, faculty, and staff to strengthen an institutions brand and reputation. But often, alumni associations and institutions do not effectively tap into these groups. Alumni should be viewed more than just athletic boosters and donors.

Higher education institutions should identify ways to engage this audience in non-traditional ways. Online communication provides a great opportunity to reengage alumni that are interested in more than just athletics. Some institutions provide ways for alumni to meet and engage through professional gatherings. These events provide a value to the alumni that will keep them engaged with the institution.

It is important to engage alumni in more than just asking them to donate money. With budget cuts around the country, institutions are more dependent on alumni donations to pay for critical services. Institutions should not start asking alumni to donate while the ink is still drying on their diplomas. Instead, we should be identifying ways to keep them involved in institution’s community. Their engagement can be helpful in growing the alumni network, expanding the reputation of your institution, or even advancing your legislative agenda at the state and federal level.

The companies in the BusinessWeek article identified ways to provide value and services to its customers. Once they created those opportunities they found that it was much easier to build a level of trust with the customer, which increase their bottom line. Higher Education institutions will realize that investing in its community will helps it bottom line too.

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