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Corporate alumni networks have been our focus from day one, starting more than 10 years ago. In fact, we live and breathe corporate alumni programs so that we can share our knowledge with you.

Annual Planning: 5 Steps to Setting Effective Goals for Your Alumni Program

January is a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead. Don’t let the month slip by before setting effective goals for your Alumni Program to guide your actions for the rest of the year.

Building an alumni community is a long-term commitment that requires an investment of time, incremental planning and ongoing nurturing. If your company is like most, the responsibility for building and sustaining a successful corporate alumni network often falls on the shoulders of one person. It’s critical that you identify the right goals so you can use your time efficiently.

As a community manager, it’s easy to find yourself focused on the day-to-day details of making sure your Alumni Program is providing value for your alumni and organization. Immediate priorities and daily tasks often take precedent, rather than long term strategical thinking. But for long-term success, your day-to-day activities need to support the larger picture.

At Conenza we’re big believers in annual planning. This time of year, our Customer Success team reflects on the past 12 months – what’s gone well and what could use improvement in every one of our client communities. From there, we partner with clients to create goals and plan how we’ll move forward.

Collaboration can be helpful. If you have a colleague, boss or business partner who understands the value of your alumni community and the motivations behind it, ask them to coffee to share and brainstorm ideas about the next year and the potential for your community. Do you have executive support for your program? Make sure to bounce your goals off that person to make sure they align with corporate objectives.

Conenza’s 5 Steps for Annual Goal Setting

  1. Start with your big goals. These often center around community member growth, geographic expansion, strategic partnerships, building the alumni team and adding benefits and events. A good balance of realistic and stretch goals is critical to effective annual planning
  2. Give yourself some room to dream. This should be fun. Write a wish list of items that you want to do that align with your bigger goals. This might be that creative marketing campaign you’ve always thought about. Maybe it’s incorporating a corporate social responsibility component into your program. Even goals that promote self-learning and growth as a community manager (network more with alumni managers, attend at least one corporate alumni-focused event) are meaningful if it creates the opportunity for you to step outside your daily tasks and get inspired. If you’re passionate about one of the items, you’re more likely to succeed.
  3. Brainstorm the baby steps that will get you to the big goals. Now it’s time to be practical again and create the list of small steps you can execute to move you towards the big goals. These should follow the principles of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive. Sometimes these items might feel trivial, but don’t forget that big wins are the result of many small victories.
  4. Review often. Set a calendar reminder and review progress towards goals with your teammates and vendors, ideally monthly. Accountability is key. Use these goals as your North Star to guide prioritization of activities.
  5. Adjust as needed. Sometimes the small items might not make the impact towards the big goals you hoped for, but don’t worry. Community management is different for every community. You need to be okay with the idea of trying things and that a small rate of failure comes with the process of building a community. Try to get excited by the concept of constant experimentation – what motivates your alumni may be completely different from another program.

If in doubt, ask. Your goals are likely made up of a combination of things you’ve heard alumni want, and what you think alumni want. Sending a simple five question survey annually asking for honest feedback about what alumni want more and less of can help steer you towards particular themes, trends and other goals you hadn’t previously considered.

Now that you have a plan for the new year, don’t forget to track your success. Depending on what metrics are important to you (i.e. member growth, members connecting with each other, rehires and referrals, volunteers or events) you can create your own ROI scorecard. With a plan in place you can more easily measure to track progress.

You’ll make improvements to your annual planning each year you do it. You may notice emerging themes and goals that are no longer considered important. You’ll cross things off and roll things over to the next year. This is all normal and why annual planning for your community can be incredibly valuable.

It’s time to get started!