Engage Alumni with Communities

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Assess community functionality and needs.
  • Identify use cases for communities.
  • Customize communities for your alumni.

As your day-to-day work has proven time and again, alumni engagement is not a one-way street. We’ve shown you how Salesforce facilitates communication to your constituents, but just as importantly, Salesforce gives your alumni the chance to reciprocate the connection by sharing feedback, getting involved in campus events and initiatives, and building their networks with Salesforce Experience Cloud (formerly Salesforce Community Cloud).
two-way traffic that represents the communication exchange between alumni and the institution

Get to Know Communities

At its most basic level, a Salesforce Community is a portal for a group that shares a common goal or mission. Communities can be tailored to fit the needs of the groups they are created to serve. In the context of alumni relations, they offer a streamlined way for alumni to stay in touch with an institution’s engagement team, as well as each other. Let’s take a peek at how Cloudy College is leveraging communities.

Ann Marie Garcia looking at her tablet screen while facing and speaking to Virginia Cook

Virginia Cook is the Vice President of Development at Cloudy College. After consulting with the Director of Alumni Engagement, Virginia reaches out to Nina Brown (Nina is Cloudy’s Salesforce admin) with a request for a new community where alums can interact with each other and the institution. Virginia believes providing a place for constituents to connect with one another, learn more about campus initiatives, and sign up to be a Cloudy College volunteer will have a positive impact on her team’s overall development efforts. The goal of this alumni community is to facilitate stronger relationships among members of the Cloudy alumni base and enhance the sense of personal connection between those alums and their alma mater.

Creating a Unique Community for Your Alumni

Since communities can accommodate the needs of practically any group, their application is really only limited by your imagination. Here are just a few of the ways alumni engagement teams are using communities to serve their alumni and their respective institutions.

Salesforce Communities connect current students to alumni, prospective students to alumni, alumni to each other and the institution, and alumni to the campus.

There are two takeaways here: your community doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s and a community is so much more than just an alumni portal. If you have a specific goal in mind and you build your community to meet that goal, you’re well on your way to enjoying the benefits of having happy and engaged alumni community members.

Communities Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve identified the purpose of your community, there are some best practices you can implement to take it from pretty great to totally awesome. One of the most impactful things you can do is approach this digital gathering space the same way you would an in-person community.

In strong communities, people are constantly interacting with each other and exchanging ideas. Replicate this in your Salesforce community by encouraging relevant, ongoing conversations. You can nurture these conversations by ensuring questions posed to the community are never left unanswered. Sometimes the answers will come from your team and sometimes they’ll come from other community members. Either way, it builds confidence in your community as a valuable resource when you keep the conversation going with as little lag as possible. You can also create the atmosphere and goodwill of an in-person community gathering by hosting virtual meet-ups like Q&As and team challenges where members can chime in and share an experience regardless of their geographic location.

screenshot of Chatter post from Erica Student with a reply from Keely Battle

Another way to make your community a hot spot is to use it to solicit feedback from members, and then (this is the important part!) implement that feedback when it’s sound. Post survey links, use the poll feature in Chatter (yep, Chatter is available in communities), start discussions, and monitor posts for unsolicited feedback, too. By encouraging this dialogue and sharing updates about changes or decisions made as a direct result of members’ suggestions, you build trust and show your community members that their opinions matter and that they are an integral part of the institution.

Establishing your community as a home base for relevant information and documents deepens your members’ connection to the space as well. And helping your community members help themselves saves your team time, too! Create groups for specific events and topics where members can find key dates and campus news, among other details. Curate file repositories to make popular forms and documents easy to access and download. You can also use Salesforce Knowledge to create a database of articles that answer FAQs or provide step-by-step directions to help your members complete complicated processes successfully. Creating topics in Salesforce Knowledge lets you group articles by topic and/or keywords so your help content is easily searchable, eliminating the dreaded unending scroll and click routine.

Set and Measure Your Community Goals

As we mentioned earlier, the sky’s the limit when it comes to use cases for communities. Once you come up with an idea for how to implement a community at your institution it’s really important to be clear on what you want to accomplish by inviting members into a new community and how you will measure success.

Goals are great, but your metrics are going to be the actual nitty gritty information that you are constantly monitoring to assess those goals. It can sometimes be challenging to identify the correct metrics, especially when you’re just starting out. Here are three very common, fool-proof metrics that you can start with.

  • First is your content: this is any information that you share in your community. One very basic metric would be monitoring if your content is being used or consumed. You can measure this via file downloads, likes, shares and comments.
  • Another common metric is community engagement. This can be measured through your overall membership growth as well as user participation tracking with things like posts, comments, and general activity.
  • Finally, you should measure whether your community is creating value. This metric will depend largely on your goal and what you define as value. One example of increased value as a result of creating a community might be increased participation by alums in volunteer opportunities.

Once you’ve identified goals and associated some relevant metrics to track, it can be helpful to set a reporting schedule. As always, needs can vary from one institution to another but here are some general guidelines on recommended reporting cadences for community metrics.

Metrics and frequency of reporting recommendations for measuring community impact.

Salesforce provides all the tools your advancement team needs to build communities that are informative, easy to navigate, and fun to visit. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your constituents engage.


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What’s in it for you?
  • 1 in 4 land a new job
  • 50% receive a promotion or raise
  • 80% learn new technologies that boost their resume
  • 66% say it increases productivity
Source: Trailblazer Community Impact Survey 2019