The networks created within higher education last longer than the standard four years it takes to earn a degree. People can recognize a fellow alum anywhere in the world through Greek life apparel. A perfect stranger becomes an instant colleague because of the shared experience at a university.
Alumni chapter leaders should develop events that elevate and deepen this network, concurrently inspiring alumni to donate and support the mission of their fraternal organizations. If you’re struggling to come up with fresh ideas to fill your calendar, we’ve got your back. Here are 10 popular and easily customizable event ideas for alumni chapter leaders to better engage their alumni community.
1. Sporting events
It’s a crisp fall day, and thousands of people in matching jerseys and sweaters enter a stadium. They all know the same songs and cheers for their team. Alumni chapter leaders can easily tap into sports fandom. Find events that your members would already attend and promote your own event or get-together while they’re there. For example, a lot of organizations have events at Wrigley Field, and the Chicago Cubs hosted HBCU Day there in Sept. 2019. It would be easy to find out what events the university is hosting there and piggyback on it to have your own alumni event included.
2. Golf scrambles
Break out those plaid sweaters and trusty clubs! If golf is a shared interest among alumni chapter members, you can host a golf scramble to 1. get friends together, and 2. raise money for a cause. In a traditional scramble, attendees group together in teams of four. Each team member has a chance to tee off, but everyone plays from the spot of the best shot. This format takes the pressure off the individual score and allows forgiveness for frustrating shots into the sand trap. It all ends up being a lot of fun and enables your members to give back at the same time.
3. Happy hours
What could be easier than organizing an alumni happy hour? This low-maintenance activity is perfect if you’re looking to get your first event set up for your alumni chapter. If your members live in different cities around the world, pick a location that’s in proximity for the majority. To boost attendance, identify people from different eras or generations to act as event sponsors and encourage more people to come. Maybe ask the bartender to provide a signature drink in honor of your alma mater and promote the gathering on social networks to broaden your reach.
Homecoming weekend can be much more than one event. With current and former students returning to campus, alumni leaders can capitalize on a large membership base all in the same place at the same time. Work with the university ahead of time and coordinate your alumni chapter event with theirs — you’ll get a lot of freebies in terms of promotion, such as inclusion in the university’s alumni magazine, event calendar, email newsletter, and any other items they send out.
Another idea is to find out what’s happening at the chapter house (if you have one) and piggyback on that event. Make sure that, among the football games and parades, alumni chapters have their own smaller events for members to relive memories with friends from their era.
5. Chapter events
Most Greek communities and honor societies have longstanding events and ceremonies in which current and former members can share. Whether they’re initiations, galas, or graduations, it’s important to remind and invite alumni to return and participate in the customs and rituals of their communities. In the busy day-to-day of post-collegiate life, alumni chapter leaders can help increase member attendance by providing early notice and an annual calendar of major events.
6. Founders Day and anniversary celebrations
Founders Day is always a big deal whether it’s the 150th or 25th anniversary. Plan a special gathering to honor founders’ ideals and celebrate the continued commitment of membership. You can also tie in a fundraising campaign to benefit the undergrad chapter. Whatever you plan to do, make sure to invite headquarters and have someone attend and do a short presentation as a representative of the international organization. Kick event promotion up a notch by getting a steering committee together to get the word out through social media, emails, and calls. Anniversary celebrations for special dates should be hosted on location; reunion weekends can incite older members to return to campus and see how their legacy thrives. Small events can really decorate an anniversary celebration — i.e., a silent auction with campus memorabilia or a meet and greet with undergrad members.
7. Social media contests and holiday events
Holidays are great opportunities for alumni chapter leaders. The theme and décor allow for eye-catching festivities! If holiday decorating is popular among members, plan a photo submission contest – members can submit entries through the chapter’s social network. Featured finalists can be posted on your alumni website and everyone can vote on a winner. This also gives you the opportunity to boost social engagement and followers. Make sure you have an awesome incentive, and if you do decide to host an elaborate contest, post official rules beforehand.
Planning for colder weather? In-person events can include ski weekends, religious services, or maybe a polar plunge.
8. Super Bowl/March Madness
Beyond campus sporting events, national teams garner strong ties and enthusiasm. Would a friendly March Madness pool or Super Bowl bet be of high interest among your members? These are typically free to organize and need little effort to manage. Alumni chapter leaders can easily promote engagement among members without needing to host an event. A pool could act as an online fundraiser as well. If your members would like to meet up, coordinating watch parties for the big games is also fun and highly engaging.
9. Fantasy leagues
Continuing along the vein of sports-related activities, alumni chapters can participate in their own fantasy leagues. These are simple to set up and have built-in leaderboards and discussion boards for some friendly squabbling. Moreover, members can participate no matter where they live. Even those with busy schedules can usually take advantage of auto-draft functionality and mobile apps.
10. Feature alumni speakers and artists
It’s essential to celebrate the successes of alumni chapter members. Inviting them to speak or present can be a great way to honor them, inspire current members, and get more of their communities involved. Whether this is part of a larger event like Homecoming weekend or a standalone event, alumni have a chance to gather to celebrate and learn from one of their own. Encourage speakers to highlight how their experiences on campus and as alumni have augmented their achievements. Artists can showcase at a gallery-like event with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. After the event, consider posting a recording or pictures of highlights from the get-together on your website and social networks – leverage past events to garner buzz for the next ones.
Planning engaging events for your members helps keep them active and entices others to join your alumni group. All of the aforementioned events can be tied to your organization’s mission, fundraising goals, networking initiatives, or celebration of member accomplishments. Try out these events or use them as a springboard for more ideas for your alumni chapter.
About Matt Arnold
As our Vice President of Business Development, Matt is dedicated to serving member-based organizations and small to mid-sized associations. With over 10 years of experience wearing various leadership hats as an Alpha Tau Omega alumnus, Matt specializes in all fraternal organization matters. Whether a group is challenged with growing membership or struggling to engage members, he's got a solution.
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