4 Big Tips: Salesforce for Alumni Relations and Engagement
There are many ways to leverage Salesforce to engage alumni at your institution. But where do you start? Here is a guide to four big considerations that every institution should keep in mind before setting goals and mapping out your journey to better engagement.
Tip #1: The Importance of Using Native Salesforce Functionality
Salesforce is NOT a database intended to store information about your alumni. Salesforce is a constituent relationship management solution built to manage relationships and interactions, with the goal of improving those relationships.
There are many solutions within Salesforce.org Education Cloud that can support the work you’re doing in alumni relations and engagement. Utilizing the Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA) allows you to further understand the connections your alumni have to each other, the college or university, and even entities outside your institution. The Higher Education Data Architecture includes:
The Relationship Custom Object
- Track relationships between contacts
- Examples: spouse, parents, children, Major Gift Officer, etc.
The Affiliation Custom Object
- Track affiliations between contacts and other accounts
- This could be 1 of 6 different account record types currently available in HEDA or you can also create your own custom account record type
- Examples: Academic Program, Sports Organization, Employer
A diagram of the HEDA data model
There are also standard objects that help manage alumni relations and engagement such as:
- Campaign: “Call to Action”
Example: Email request to alumni to volunteer to be a mentor to current students
- Case: “Request for Help”
Example: Alumni requests a copy of their transcript
- Lead: “Showing Interest”
Example: Lead can capture when an alumnus fills out a form from your website or checks-in online at an event.
- Opportunities: “Chance to Give Back”
Example: Tracking the recruitment of volunteer roles.
Reports and Dashboards are another native Salesforce tool you can use to monitor and track the engagement levels of your alumni. To get the most out of your reports and dashboards:
1. Plan and Design First
Ask yourself: Who is the audience? What do you want to achieve? Are there security or scope considerations?
2. Build Your Dashboard Like a Newspaper Article
Have a strong headline and picture, and one that tells a story. Spend time creating a good report – they are the basis of your dashboard.
3. Embed it on the Homepage
- Think about ways to get the dashboard or report into the hands of your users
- Encourage users to use feeds to collaborate and subscribe to dashboards.
Example of Process Builder in Salesforce
Tip #2: When Tracking Alumni Engagement, Know if You’re Ready to Walk or Run
There are multiple ways to approach tracking alumni engagement using Education Cloud, and the options can range from the simple to more complex. You should keep in mind the readiness level of your users and your organization’s understanding of Salesforce technology. Here are two options to consider; one is simple and one is more advanced:
The “Walk” Approach: If you’re newer to Salesforce or you prefer to take advantage of native Salesforce features first, start by creating a Process Builder to increase or decrease an engagement score based on your defined engagement criteria.
Tips for best practices:
Step 1. Identify the Data Points for your Engagement Score
- What do engaged alumni do? Attend events, post actively on your social media channels, or volunteer? If you’re looking for inspiration on how to define an engagement score, we recommend you read this mythbusting e-book about strengthening alumni affinity.
- Ensure all the information you need is in Salesforce. If you’re using external information, like social media, you might need to look at integration tools.
Step 2. Map Out Your Process
- Sketch out or create a process map of how the process should work before you create it in Salesforce Process Builder.
- New to Process Builder? Try this Trailhead Project to get you started.
Step 3. Evaluate the Engagement Score
- Review the engagement score for a sample group of alumni to be sure you’ve used the correct data points. Ask yourself: is the score reflective of what you were expecting? Then adjust as needed.
Step 4. Report and Take Action
- Report on engagement levels and take action! Don’t just have an engagement score to look at; decide on what you’re going to do with it.
Opportunity Scoring in Sales Cloud Einstein
The “Run” Approach: For those of you who are ready to take your analysis to the next level, Sales Cloud Einstein is the way to go! Sales Cloud Einstein Lead Scoring uses data science and machine learning to discover your most engaged alumni (leads). Based on its data analysis, Einstein creates a predictive model unique to your college or university. Einstein reanalyzes your lead data once each month and refreshes your scores. So if new trends emerge, Einstein won’t miss them. Sales Cloud Einstein also provides Opportunity Scoring. Opportunity scores are based on the record details, history, and related activities of the opportunity and related account. For each opportunity score, Einstein shows the factors that have contributed the most to the score, both positively and negatively.
Key steps to ensure you are ready to get the most out of Sales Cloud Einstein:
Step 1. Make sure you have good data.
- Similar to the “walk” approach, you want to make sure your metrics are correct and ready to go. Data quality is the basis of good data analysis.
Step 2. Turn on Einstein and Let the Magic Happen
- It’s as simple as a click. Turn on Einstein Lead Scoring or Opportunity Scoring in your Salesforce instance.
- By using machine learning, Einstein Scoring provides a simpler, faster, and more accurate solution than traditional rules-based lead scoring approaches.
Step 3. Evaluate
- Report on engagement levels and take action!
Tip #3: Engaging Alumni using Salesforce Marketing Tools
When you think about communicating with your alumni, make sure your communication strategy is connected, personalized, and in real-time.
- Connected: Deliver one experience across Service, Marketing, and Apps
- Personalized: Tailor experiences based on the preferences and behaviors of each alumna or alumnus
- Real-Time: Respond to alumni at the moment they need and want to interact
Each school will have its own plan for communication and marketing and what’s great about Salesforce is that you can customize the platform to meet what you need. There are two tools to consider to elevate your alumni communication engagement strategy, Marketing Cloud and Pardot.
Marketing Cloud is great for:
- Unique journeys for alumni across multiple channels.
- Data segmentation to personalize marketing communications.
- Marketing based on rich but complex datasets or use cases.
- Large-scale implementations across the entire campus and many departments.
- Accommodating specific processes and use cases.
Pardot is great for:
- Supporting lead conversion with marketing automation.
- Lead scoring and lead distribution to drive major gifts.
- Adding basic email and social tools on top of Sales Cloud.
- Nurturing a defined set of leads for high-stakes conversations.
- An individual department (e.g. Advancement Office).
Whether you choose one or both platforms will vary based on your institution’s marketing strategy, goals, business processes, and structure. You can speak to your Account Executive for more information when making this decision.
Tip #4: Community Cloud to Transform Online Alumni Engagement
Community Cloud enables you to engage with your audience via a modern connected platform. Imagine being able to suggest connections based on member’s interests and behavior with Salesforce’s Social Intelligence technology. Or engaging your alumni with prospective and current students for improved enrollment and career placement. Communities can be a digital space for 24/7 engagement with alumni. Communities are traditionally used in three ways:
- Websites: Get customized branding a mobile-responsive UI
- Portals: Share approved data and information with your alumni
- Social: Connect alumni directly to other alumni and your institution
Ready to get started? Keep learning with these Advancement resources:
- Webinar on May 6 at 1:00 pm ET/ 10:00 am PT on Get Started with Advancement: Alumni Relations and Engagement
- Best practice article on “Getting Started with Salesforce for Advancement”
About the Author
Keri Fadden is Manager of Education Success Content at Salesforce.org. She enjoys using technology tools to improve processes in education. Keri has worked in project management in alumni relations, volunteer management, academic advising, and student affairs, on multiple technology platforms. Prior to her work at Salesforce, she served as Director of Alumni Engagement at Allegheny College. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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