We give alumni a directory, but what they're looking for is a network. We think the data forms a directory because that's what we know how to build. What alumni need is a web of connectivity based on common affiliation and experience as former students.
This sounded so familiar to me...then I remembered. I had quoted Brigham Young University's Keith Lue in a comment he contributed to Alumni Futures, and which I featured at the end of 2011. Keith said,
Alumni relations mistakenly focuses on who is in the database instead of why people might want to stay connected.
Two different ways of saying the same important thing:
Knowing who is in the database helps you publish a directory. Knowing what their problems are and who might help them find solutions – for that, alumni need a network.
["We focus on who is in the database instead of why people want to connect"]
Your database isn't "information."
It's like Soylent Green: It's people.
Alumni need solutions.
Connect them with people who can help solve their problems.
It sounds simple, but it's hard to execute.
However, one thing is certain: if your alumni organization can broker relationships and connect people effectively, alumni will see you as a solution.