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
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
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
It’s time to get started!