Bright Ideas: How The Manchester Grammar School Taps Into Its Alumni Network

August 2023 — By BrightCrowd

Some of the world’s most prominent schools date back hundreds of years and are well-known for their fine-tuned academic curriculums, famous scholars, and meaningful contributions to society. These institutions continue to attract those looking to expand their intellectual horizons and learn valuable skills and life lessons. Given the popularity of these schools, whether they’re K-12 or post-secondary, gaining admissions can often prove to be challenging. Unfortunately, a family’s financial status can negatively impact a student’s ability to attend certain schools, regardless of their profound skills.

Founded in 1515 in Manchester, England, The Manchester Grammar School is the largest independent day school in the United Kingdom for boys aged 7-18. To aid in promoting equal opportunities for education among children of all socioeconomic backgrounds, the school paid tuition for those who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend – students needed to achieve exemplary scores on an admission exam to gain final entrance to the school.

Government funding allowed The Manchester Grammar School to closely follow its mission. However, in 1998, the government stopped providing financial assistance. This caused the school to turn to other methods of raising money, primarily by engaging with its extensive alumni network. The success of its alumni relations efforts has garnered alumni donations that fund tuition costs for those in need.

The Manchester Grammar School Turned To Its Alumni Network for Donations

Individuals are often more likely to donate money to organizations, schools, and causes with which they have a close personal connection. With regards to The Manchester Grammar School, the institution was hopeful that the opportunities it had provided for its alumni would ignite a desire for them to give back to their beloved school – and it did! Through annual giving by alumni, the school has been able to carry on its mission and make a significant difference within the community.

But how did The Manchester Grammar School receive such positive feedback from its alumni network? The answer is simple: the school honed its efforts into one strategy. Leveraging school spirit, nostalgia, and history, they appealed to the emotional side of their alumni. The school used topics from its archives to target specific audiences that resonated with these individuals and reminded them of a profound time in their life. Wanting to grant current children the same opportunities for academic and personal growth that they had, they played a critical role in increasing the alumni donations fund.

It’s important to note that the school’s strategic way of elevating alumni relations continues to this day. Annual giving remains the contributing factor behind the ability to grant qualifying students acceptance to the school regardless of their financial needs.

The Inner-Workings of the Alumni Relations Department

It’s not uncommon for organizations to have a hierarchy system when it comes to their employee structure. However, the alumni relations department at The Manchester Grammar School operates on a “flat structure” – data flows evenly between the six people in the department, and everyone is encouraged to share their ideas on how to increase alumni engagement. This work style is beneficial because it fosters a sense of teamwork and communication, which is especially advantageous when looking to implement long-term strategies.

With a ratio of one development professional for every 2,000 of the school’s alumni contacts, the department heavily focuses on creating meaningful relationships within its alumni network. Because the school promises graduating students that they won’t come asking for money for at least ten years after graduation, it looks to provide value to its alumni that’ll hopefully encourage them to one day donate.

The Manchester Grammar School believes that when determining the success of alumni engagement, engagement metrics show a more accurate picture than finances. Irregularities in donations due to events or other outside factors can skew data, making it difficult to ascertain the effectiveness of the department’s efforts. Consequently, they rely on key performance indicators (KPIs) that relate to volunteers, experiential engagement, etc. These types of engagement help employees analyze what drives alumni engagement and allow them to focus specifically on these areas.

Simon Jones, Director of Development for The Manchester Grammar School, believes that continuously harnessing the power of alumni relations and school engagement is like a rollercoaster – you can’t just suddenly step off it. In other words, you can’t sporadically turn these efforts on and off. There needs to be a constant flow. As a result, the alumni department implements its strategies year-round to prevent any breaks in momentum and works to target its audience when they’re most receptive.

Let BrightCrowd Help You Increase Alumni Engagement

Regardless of a school's size, demographics, location, or history, maintaining an alumni network is difficult – obtaining alumni donations is right there alongside it. Understanding how to create meaningful and lasting connections with alumni is key. BrightCrowd can assist your school in doing just this. Contact us today to learn more about how our digital books can help bring your alumni community together to create a better tomorrow.