Engaging your community: how to create (or recreate) a sense of belonging to your network

Creating a strong bond of belonging is vital to bringing your members together. You will work actively to strengthen relationships and act to sustain them in order to initiate strong bonds of camaraderie.

According to a study carried out by Celica Thellier, co-founder of choosemycompany.com, the most advanced seniors in their careers are the most committed and attached to the institution where they completed their higher education. Conversely, the younger the alumni, the weaker the link with the association. We give you all the best practices for engaging your members as soon as they arrive as students and creating a strong sense of belonging to your institution.

  1. How and why to create a sense of belonging in your community
  2. Managing your members’ expectations
  3. Bringing your community together in a dedicated space
  4. 4 actions to be implemented to develop students’ sense of belonging


How and why to create a sense of belonging in your community

The sense of belonging, based on shared values and objectives, is generally expressed in the school environment by identification with and attachment to a programme, specialisation or component. It is up to the administration to create an environment conducive to the development of this sense of belonging if it wants a solid network of graduates to emerge.

According to Christian Mouillon, President of the ESCP Europe Foundation, “what alumni want is to reconnect with the school and its strategy, to be proud of the school and to see it develop”.Creating a strong bond of belonging is therefore essential to rally your members around your structure. You will work actively to strengthen relationships and act to make them sustainable in order to initiate strong bonds of camaraderie.

Developing an emotional bond with the university is a useful objective for everyone. At the same time, the network is a trusted third party and a definite marker of identity for every member of your community.

The great guide to alumni management


How to manage your members’ expectations

But above all, never forget that involvement goes hand in hand with interest. To recruit, bring people together and motivate them to join… above all, you have to be INTERESTED. Make sure you offer a range of services and events tailored to the tastes and preferences of your students and alumni to ensure they are properly involved. It has been found that in institutions with a well-developed network of associations, it is easier for graduates to return to the association because they feel a certain nostalgia for their student days. They are therefore more inclined to join the association or even become volunteers.

“At 42 we have set up 4 types of event to meet the expectations of all our students. So we have ‘social’ events where the aim is to forge links; ‘career’ events where alumni can exchange ideas and put forward job offers; ‘pro’ events to increase our alumni’s skills in other areas and ‘exchange’ events which focus on a thematic subject”. Anthony Civita, Alumni 42 Network Manager.

Every opportunity is good to offer alumni the chance to get together at events, which is a fundamental unifying element of a network of graduates. Events are not only an opportunity to meet up with classmates but also to develop your portfolio of professional contacts.


Bringing your community together in a dedicated space

It’s sometimes difficult to coordinate events for all the Alumni, who are often scattered all over the world, without an online portal providing everyone with accurate information. So you need to create a single rallying point: an all-in-one platform on which the data will remain the property of the school and/or association, and therefore its main asset! By building and owning your network of varied contacts, you will attract many alumni and graduates looking for work. Once this unique tool is in the hands of network members, group managers (regional or thematic) will be able to organise events for alumni around the world.

You can also use the major social networks to communicate on a large scale and attract graduates and students via the official pages. However, be careful not to multiply the number of regional or themed groups on these networks: you don’t want to split up or disperse the community, but use these tools to attract members of your network to your platform. Anne-Lucie Wack, President of the CGE, points out that “the emergence of new players such as LinkedIn is revolutionising the links between students and companies”. The alumni network must therefore play the role of a federation, bringing together all your contacts on the same platform.


4 things you can do to develop your students’ sense of belonging

  • Organise integration activities in the first year, such as the much-anticipated Integration Weekend
  • Providing informal meeting places (student areas) and organising themed discussions on particular subjects
  • Set up targeted discussion groups
  • Support associations or student events to help students reintegrate into school life

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Alumni [a .lym.ni]
Plural noun

1. Graduate of a university / school / training
2. Alumni of a company / organisation
3. Plural of alumnus

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