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See How Salesforce Supports Alumni Engagement

Learning Objectives

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

  • Identify the elements of Education Cloud that support alumni engagement.
  • Give an example of how custom apps meet the unique needs of education institutions.

Alumni play a vital role in a college or university’s future success. Strong alumni engagement goes beyond simply asking for financial support. Alumni are an educational institution’s greatest ambassadors, and when engaged properly have the potential to provide career support to students, create partnerships with external organizations, and raise the profile of the institution.

Adopting the right technology mix to enable more personalized outreach is important, and it’s also crucial to understand the unique backgrounds and preferences of donors and volunteers in order to build strong, long-lasting relationships.

In this module, we’ll see how Ann Marie Garcia, the Director of Alumni Engagement at Cloudy College, uses Salesforce.org Education Cloud to supercharge her team’s impact. Here’s some background on Ann Marie and the college:

  • Cloudy College is a private, co-ed liberal arts college in the Northwest United States. Founded in 1964 by a beloved businessman who owned a chain of apparel stores, Cloudy College recently enrolled more than 3,800 students for their fall semester.

  • Ann Marie is responsible for developing and executing the annual strategic plan for Alumni Engagement at Cloudy College. She manages alumni events and oversees all alumni communications, both print and digital. In addition to building personal relationships with Cloudy College alums, it’s up to her to engage various members of faculty and Cloudy executive leadership in events and communication processes when appropriate.

Let’s dive into the elements of Education Cloud that Ann Marie (and you!) can leverage to set the stage for taking alumni engagement to the next level and beyond.

Anne Marie Garcia speaks on telephone and types on laptop at her desk

Education Data Architecture: What’s the deal with EDA?

Education Data Architecture (EDA) is the core of Education Cloud, and provides a baseline architecture for your institution through Salesforce. EDA allows you to get started on the Salesforce platform with the flexibility to further customize your institution’s org to suit your alumni engagement needs. Because EDA is a data architecture and not a product, schools have the power to achieve the perfect solution that is tailored to their unique needs and processes. Sounds pretty amazing to be able to create a solution unique to you, doesn’t it? Trust us, it’s as great as it sounds.

If you haven’t taken the EDA Basics module, we recommend a stop there to learn more about how EDA is like a perfectly stocked and organized pantry. You’ll find a link to the module in the Resources section below.

For our purposes here, you should know that EDA uses standard Salesforce objects, such as Accounts and Contacts, and custom objects like Relationships and Affiliations, to track all kinds of connections. These tracked and organized connections make it simple for your team to reach into the pantry and find precisely what they need. Let’s say you want to create an outreach list of all alumni attending an upcoming event on campus. Using EDA, along with Salesforce reports and campaigns, you can do this quickly and easily.

Affiliations and Relationships: Manage Your Alumni Connections

Relationships in EDA represent contact-to-contact connections. When you create these connections, you can also define the type (friend, spouse, parent, sibling, and so on) and its status (current, former). And when you create a new relationship in EDA, Salesforce creates a reciprocal relationship, reflecting the same relationship in the other direction.

chart showing hierarchy of Salesforce Contact object, Relationship object, and Affiliation object with Relationships and Affiliations nested under Contact
For example, when Ann Marie specifies a contact as a spouse of a Cloudy alumna, Salesforce automatically creates a reciprocal spouse relationship in the other direction. Salesforce creates reciprocal relationships to make sure that relationship types are accurate, regardless of which contact you're viewing it from. Think about how beneficial it is for alumni relations and advancement teams to see the full gamut of relationships in EDA. Ann Marie is currently planning an event for legacy families (these are families with more than one generation of alums and/or current students) that her team is hosting during Homecoming weekend. Using the relationships object in EDA, she’ll be able to identify and invite relevant guests, and customize her follow-up with each contact after the event.

Salesforce Contact record for Charles Watkins with Relationship to Contact Carolyn Hayes highlighted


While Relationships cover those contact-to-contact connections, Affiliations represent the connections between a contact and other accounts. In EDA, academic and administrative departments, sports teams, and other institutions are represented as accounts. You connect these various accounts to contacts through affiliations.

Affiliations are powerful because they speak to the specific experience a person had while attending a college or university and the employers and organizations they connect to after graduation. By leveraging Affiliations in EDA, you’ll be able to see which clubs an individual participated in, which sports they played, where they work now, what type of work they do, and so on. Imagine the possibilities for connecting current students to internship opportunities when you can easily see the organizations and industries where your alumni are employed. This is just one example of how building your alumni engagement solution on EDA allows you to better engage your constituents across campus and around the world.

Affiliated Accounts for contact Bonnie Howard

Apps: Customize Your Alumni Engagement Solution

You can already see how valuable EDA is to an Alumni Engagement team and how flexible it can be to suit their needs. That flexibility is a key advantage; we all know that educational institutions are unique communities and each one has complexities and needs all their own.

Ann Marie needs her staff to be able to work as efficiently as possible to reach their engagement goals. She meets with Nina Brown, Cloudy College’s Salesforce administrator, to discuss the customization options available to her in Salesforce. Nina suggests that they work together to build an app to help with efficiency, and Ann Marie is on board. An app is essentially a collection of objects grouped together around a function or role, which an administrator can build quickly and easily using clicks, not code.

The new alumni engagement app that Nina and Ann Marie create brings together the reports, objects, dashboards, and campaigns that Ann Marie’s team uses frequently for convenient access, all in one place. The team is able to quickly jump between tasks like creating campaigns for the upcoming Homecoming weekend, updating alumni contact information, viewing dashboards that show if they’re meeting volunteer goals, and more.

The AppExchange: Extend the Power of Salesforce for Alumni Engagement

Ann Marie is thrilled with the efficiency gained by the new Alumni Engagement app. But the reality is she has some additional department-specific needs. And while Nina loves collaborating with Ann Marie, she doesn’t have the bandwidth to create everything on the Alumni Engagement team’s wishlist. This is the perfect opportunity for Ann Marie to explore the Salesforce AppExchange. The AppExchange is a marketplace for apps built on top of Salesforce which are designed to be more plug-and-play for organizations in certain specialized areas. These pre-built solutions can get you up and running fast, even when your admin is too busy (or too non-existent) to create something for you from scratch.

Ann Marie is in search of an app to help her with the seemingly endless checklist of event planning and execution tasks that come up every time she and her team work on a gathering like the Legacy event. In the AppExchange, she found an Events app that gives her team the ability to process payments, create branded registration pages, and track attendance, among other things. Leveraging the AppExchange is a win-win; you get to extend the power of Salesforce in your alumni engagement efforts while limiting your costs for development and maintenance.

Resources