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 an educational institution’s growth and success. Strong alumni engagement goes beyond simply asking for financial support. Alumni are an institution’s greatest ambassadors and when engaged properly, they have the potential to provide career support to students, serve as a core volunteer base, create partnerships with external organizations, and raise the profile of the institution.

Implementing the right technology 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.

Ann Marie Garcia is the Director of Alumni Engagement at Cloudy College

In this module, we see how Ann Marie Garcia, the Director of Alumni Engagement at Cloudy College, uses Education Cloud to supercharge her team’s impact. Here’s a quick introduction to Ann Marie and Cloudy College.

  • Cloudy College is a (fictional) 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, spearheads volunteer management efforts and oversees all 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.

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

The Education Data Architecture (EDA) is the foundation 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. With EDA, institutions can leverage a common language and configuration across the entire learner lifecycle without having to spend resources customizing Salesforce for education.

Because EDA is a data architecture and not a product, schools have the power to customize an advancement solution tailored to their unique needs and processes. You can easily configure page layouts with drag-and-drop functionality and create custom fields or objects all with clicks, not code. 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 had a chance to complete the EDA Basics module, we recommend a pitstop there to learn more about key features of the architecture. We like to imagine EDA as a magical kitchen pantry. With EDA, you can reach into the pantry and find exactly what you’re looking for, organized in a way that makes it quick and easy to locate.

EDA is like a perfectly organized and fully-stocked pantry.

For the purposes of this module, 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 to drive constituent engagement. 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.

Manage Your Alumni Connections with Relationships and Affiliations

As we just mentioned above, EDA uses two custom objects to track connections that are key to alumni engagement: Relationships and Affiliations.

Relationships account for connections between contacts and affiliations represent connections between contacts and other accounts. Check out this diagram to see a few examples of the types of relationships and affiliations an alumni contact may have.

When relationships and affiliations are added to the contact record, you can see the connections your alumni have to the institution and the community.


In EDA, relationships 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.

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.

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

Ann Marie is currently planning a legacy event that her team is will host during Homecoming weekend (legacy alums are those who attended the institution and have a family member- perhaps a child or grandchild- who attend the same institution). Using the relationships object in EDA, Ann Marie will be able to quickly identify and invite relevant guests and customize her follow-up with each contact after the event.

While relationships cover those contact-to-contact connections, affiliations represent the connections between a contact and another account. 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 a powerful asset to advancement teams because they speak to the specific experience a person had while attending an institution, as well as the employers and organizations an alum connects to after graduation. By leveraging affiliations in EDA, you’re 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.

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. Since apps are customizable they can be tailored to serve the needs and goals of any team. Let’s take a look at one example as Nina and Ann Marie create a new alumni engagement app.

  1. From the Home tab in Setup, enter App in the Quick Find box, then select App Manager.
  2. Click New Lightning App.
  3. Walk through the Lightning App Wizard, creating an app with these parameters.
    • Fill in an App Name. For example, Cloudy College Alumni Engagement.
    • Provide a description of what the app will be used for.
    • Add a relevant image and select a Primary Color Hex Value.

      Fill in the basic information for your new lightning app and click Next.

  4. Click Next.
  5. Leave the App Options as-is and click Next.
  6. The alumni engagement app Nina and Ann Marie are building is for mobile so they don’t add any utilities. Click Next.
  7. Select the items you want to include in your app. Here’s what Nina and Ann Marie chose:
    • Accounts
    • Campaigns
    • Calendar
    • Chatter
    • Contacts
    • Dashboards
    • Notes
    • Reports
    • Tasks

      Select the items to include in your app and click Next.

  8. Click Next.
  9. Select the user profiles that can access the app. For the alumni engagement app the user profiles for Advancement and System Administrator are selected.
  10. Click Save and Finish.
  11. From the App Launcher ( App Launcher icon), find and select Cloudy College Alumni Engagement.

    Search for and select your new app.

  12. Admire your new app! Ann Marie loves that the Cloudy College Alumni Engagement app features the logo and color branding Nina added during setup.

The new app 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 finds an app that provides event management and payment processing capabilities. It gives her team the ability to create events directly in Salesforce, showcase all scheduled events on an embedded calendar on the Cloudy alumni website, and easily demonstrate each event’s ROI. It even offers a mobile app with features like attendee lists and QR code check-in. 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.

Want to learn more about custom apps and the possibilities presented in the AppExchange? Great news! We’ve compiled a list of resources for you below. When you’re ready to move on and explore how marketing automation can transform your constituent outreach efforts, meet us in the next unit. 


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