1. Senior level sponsorship
It is important to have a senior sponsor, either at Board or Executive Committee level, who is engaged and supportive, and recognises the benefits and rewards for implementing such a programme. They will be instrumental in engaging and driving key messages to their peer group and within your organisation. As the 'face' of the programme, your alumni will know that your organisation is serious about the importance of this network. The sponsor will take this responsibility all the more seriously if they are appraised on it!
2. Dedicated resource
The most successful alumni programmes have a dedicated team or person who will drive the programme forward day-to-day; who will engage both internally and externally; who will develop the programme based on feedback. The role(s) will be varied - internal and external communications; business development and sales; relationship management; acting as a business advisor.
3. Clear objectives
Make sure you know what you are trying to achieve and what success looks like. Don't try to 'boil the ocean' in one go! Objectives will vary from organisation to organisation. Measurable objectives or KPIs are a must and could be developed around a number of different topics: new business leads, no of referrals, brand profile and recognition, engagement with the programme, percentage of leavers joining the programme and/or data accuracy.
4. Internal infrastructure
Engagement across the organisation is important to make the programme 'stick'. Think about how best to join up your IT, HR and marketing/business development teams, as well as how our internal systems will help you automate processes. Internal systems integration is critical to ensure your 'leavers process', registration process and administration of the programme is as easy and smooth as possible.
5. Prioritising your alumni
It is worth segmenting and tiering your alumni community to ensure that your resources are managed wisely i.e. spend more time and budget on your key alumni groups who will make a difference to you and your client base. For example, those who are already in positions to hire or refer you new business. A word of warning - do not forget about the rest of your alumni network - one day they may be a key client or prospective client in a decision making role and it may be a case of too little, too late if you try to rebuild a relationship long after they have left your organisation.
As an aside, your alumni programme doesn't need to be 'perfect' from day one. From experience, if you were to wait for the perfect solution and the perfect set of data, you would never launch your programme! It is a relatively easy initiative to implement, and one that should be considered if you haven't already. It will evolve and mature with commitment and time.