The ties created within higher education can 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 plan events that elevate and deepen their shared 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 to better engage the alumni community.
1. Sporting events
It’s a crisp fall day, and thousands of people in matching jerseys and sweaters enter an arena. They all know the same songs and cheers that they recite with diehard enthusiasm. The same school rivalry of their younger years still burns hot, and they yell with abandon as the teams hit the field.
Alumni chapter leaders can easily tap into college athletics. Designated alumni tailgates, shared blocks of tickets, and maybe a visit from the mascot, are simple ways to piggyback on an already scheduled event. Moreover, plan around a longstanding rivalry match to capitalize on attendee interest.
2. Golf scrambles
Break out those plaid sweaters and those trusty clubs! If golf is a shared interest among alumni chapter members, golf scrambles can provide a space for all ages to play. 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.
3. Happy hours
What could be easier than organizing an alumni happy hour? Members can find these in different cities around the world. Pick the location, encourage attendees to wear an item sporting their Greek letters, and maybe even ask the bartender to provide a signature drink in honor of their alma mater.
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.
Make sure that, among the football games and parades, alumni members are given opportunities to participate in rich traditions and have their own smaller events to catch up with buddies and share in the nostalgia. Maybe have members get dinner together in their old campus dining hall. Whether it’s a specific academic department or a Greek community, members can reconnect with friends they may never see otherwise.
5. Undergrad 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 250th or 25th anniversary. Alumni leaders should find out what headquarters has planned and collaborate with chapters. Most will have a national fundraising event and/or special gathering to honor their founders’ ideals and celebrate the continued commitment of membership. Anniversary celebrations for special dates can be hosted online or on location; reunions 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 entrees 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 to your members? These are typically free to organize and need little effort to manage. Alumni leaders or other volunteers can easily coordinate watch parties for the big games.
9. Fantasy leagues
Continuing in 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 your alumni members. Inviting them to speak or present can be a great way to both 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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