Using online tools to build alumni relations- La Habra High School Alumni Association Mini-Case Study

Lori Halley 20 July 2007 2 comments

In this Mini-Case Study, we interview Priscilla Christian and highlight La Habra High School Alumni Association as a very special project.

 
Priscilla Christian, Vice Chairwoman and Webmaster
 
Priscilla serves as Vice Chairwoman and Webmaster. Over the last 20 years she has transitioned from traditional printing to digital illustration and onward to Web development. She now serves the LHHS Alumni Association using a blend of these skills to grow their membership, build scholarship funds, and develop their WildApricot online community called, “The Argyll.” Priscilla is the “empress” of her own business, Priscilla Christian Graphic Services <www.priscillac.com>, offering Web development, illustration and graphic design.
 
Project Screenshot:
 
 
 
Project Description:
 
When La Habra High School (La Habra, California) marked its fiftieth anniversary in 2004, a group of alumni got together to plan a celebration. Graduating classes throughout the fifty years were represented. The on-campus event was a memorable success and attended by thousands of alumni and faculty. After the event, several members of the planning committee formed an official alumni association to enhance the educational experience of current students through campus beautification, heritage and spirit programs and scholarship funding. The association has also proven to be a wonderful gathering point for alums and their memories. There are LHHS alumni all over the world and our website <http://www.lhhsaa.com/> is the central communication and membership-building tool of the organization. We’ve been setting up a new Website at WildApricot for the last couple of months. Late last month we changed the nameservers and launched an email announcement to our member database.
 
1. What online tools/systems do you use to attract and engage members?
  • To attract our target audience we use email blasts to any alumni list we can find and promote ourselves at class reunions. As we get the word out about our organization we always tie in our Website as a virtural place to congregate. Our site was developed with an on-campus metphor unique to our Alma Mater, which has a Scottish highland theme. Some of our Website destinations bear Scottish names of places on-campus that correlate to La Habra High School. We want to make our site fun and familiar yet unique to our school. We hope this will encourage alumni to return frequently.
  • As for tools we have tested, we are using Google Apps mainly for email and calendar but finding more and more Googlish possibilities as we go.
  • I read the Wild Apricot blog often and try to investigate any mashup or widget I can, hoping to extend the functionality of our site.
  • ChipIn is a recent welcomed Wild Apricot Blog discovery I’m really excited about. It works great and we’ve already gotten small donations.
  • We want to offer a photo gallery and so far, SlideShowPro and SlideShowPro Director seem to work best for now. Because we aren’t offering our members the ability to post photos on our site, SSP works really nice but I need to broadcast it from another hosting solution. So I’m still holding my options open for photo gallery tools.
  • Wufoo forms helps us with our Highlander Brick project orders. Highlander Bricks is an engraved brick fundraising project. After a brick is sold on our site via PayPal, the visitor is pointed to a Wufoo inscription form to complete their order. We also use Wufoo forms to let members to upload photos for photo gallery display, nominate candidates for the annual Saltire Society Honors, contact committee members, and polls for reunions.

2. How actively do your members use your website? What resources/pages/functions do you use the most and find the most helpful?

Google Analytics will prove helpful in the days ahead for traffic analysis. I checked it out and it really is robust. For now, I am watching my database of 269 members. I transferred them from our old Joomla site database, which was no small task. Since sending out our recent annoncement, I am watching my WA Members list. I click the Advanced search link and search my entire list by “last login date” and set it for “on or before” and set today’s date. It shows me how many people have responded to my email announcement by logging in. As for how many have acutally logged in to date? 92 so far, but we only just announced our site eleven days ago.

 The ability to auto register and track free, as well as, paying members is worth the price of admission alone. Being able to post events the WA way is great too. I hope in the future to see more flexibility built into the WA event feature so we can promote events of partnering organizations but I use it and love it as it is right now.

3. What are the biggest pains and frustrations regarding technology you have experienced as your organization has been growing and evolving? What tools have you found of most use and how do they save you time or help in other ways?

My biggest headache was keeping lists of emails for promotion and announcements. To keep lists current, sort lists to differenciate between members and opt-in interested parties. WA is a great solution for this. One problem that I have yet to find a perfect solution for is that so many people who register with us don’t add our email to their address book. So, I get a lot of spam blocker messages. For now the best solution I could figure to post an alert message on our home page to “Please add my address <admin@lhhsaa.com> to to your address book.”

4. How do you keep track of your member list and track renewals?

THIS was the biggest reason I signed up with WildApricot. I needed my life back, seriously. We needed a Website. We needed a database. Why in the world keep the two separate? With Dmitry’s help, I learned how I could track our offline and online members as we encourage new members of both types to join all within one master database.

5. What takes up the most time in managing and administering your organization?

Now that I’ve imported the database I am happy to report it isn’t “the database.” Now its about adding fun content to the site. We have a lot of fun ideas in store for our alumni. My time will now be consumed with photo galleries (which is much more fun).  

6. What are your big strategic priorities for the next year and how do you plan to leverage modern  technologies to support your goals?

What I envision for our site is to provide our members and visitors with a growing sense of community. The forum will go a long way to that end. What we also need is a way to let those who are logged in at the time see the identity of others who are also there in real time. This is something I hope that WA will develop but not sure if it is on the roadmap. Hint, hint.

7. What do your members tell you they want the most from you regarding your website and online tools?

Because our site is for an alumni association, we would like our directory to function much like Classmates does (but not in all ways). For us the members directory will be a key feature. Our members want to post a photo or two, look up classmates to see their photos, create connections, and contact one another. While our new site doesn’t do that so much quite yet, WA has been open to listening to our needs and offering suggestions and hope for future enhancements. I have had some members interested in posting their business information on our site. I would like to grant this abilty to our dues paying members. We also plan to sell some minimal advertising space to non-members.

Has your organization used web 2.0 tools to raise awareness and grow its member database ? Do you have any advice to those just starting out?  Leave a comment with a link to your project or web site.


 

 

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 20 July 2007 at 9:00 AM

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Comments

  • Bill Wilkie said:

    Sunday, 03 February 2008 at 8:49 AM

    Do you know when they will put up a calendar that is active going out at least 12 months to plan events.  Or when I enter an event does it automatically go on the calendar???

  • Dmitry Buterin said:

    Sunday, 03 February 2008 at 1:27 PM

    Bill,

    Can you please elaborate your question - and send it by email to support @ wildapricot.com ?

    Basically we have such a calendar now. Every event - once you make it visible - goes to the calendar.

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