Is Your School District Asking Enough of Its Alumni?

Traditionally, colleges and universities have done a good job of engaging their alumni, with the end result often being former students who provide financial contributions to their alma maters. We have not typically seen this level of outreach in the K-12 world, although there are many indications that it's happening more and more often.

Schools and districts should not be hesitant about reaching out to their alumni and asking for their support, which can take many different forms. Below are a few ideas you can implement right way:

Ask them for their input

One of the best ways to keep alumni engaged is to involve them in some of the opportunities and challenges of your school district. For example, if some of your facilities need to be renovated or replaced, ask your alumni—in addition to other stakeholders—about what they consider to be the projects that should be approached with the greatest priority.

Whether it's through a survey, focus groups or a less formal mechanism, you can ask alumni for their feedback on a variety of issues. This may include asking about the district's current communications practices and how they might be improved, the thoughts and feelings they have about the school district and if they would recommend the district to parents considering a move into your community.

Encourage them to become mentors

Graduates are often more than willing to work with current students and help them on their way to graduation and beyond, but they are rarely asked to do so. Consider establishing a mentorship program in which middle and high school students can learn from someone who was once in their shoes.

Mentors can be incredibly valuable for young people, who face a lot of challenges as they reach their teen years. A mentor can be just what they need to set positive goals and keep them on track toward meeting them.

Invite them to school events

Again, many schools and districts can do a better job of making special invitations to their alumni to attend athletic events, concerts, performances and other events—beyond the typical homecoming celebrations.

This is especially true during the summer and around the holidays, when many alumni who have moved away come back to your community to visit with family and friends. While they're in town, why not invite them to a home basketball game or a holiday concert?

Turn to them for contributions

Alumni give to their colleges and universities all the time, but they often do not realize they can do the same for their high school, as well. After you've engaged your former students in other ways, encourage them to make a tax-deductible gift to your school, district or foundation. This is a particularly effective message toward the end of the year, when many people are looking to make charitable donations to reduce their tax burdens.

These are just a few ways to better connect with your alumni as a K-12 school district. As you continue to reach your key stakeholder groups, remember that your former students may be some of the biggest supporters you have. Take some time to engage them in meaningful ways.