What do our alumni really want?
Phi Mu Delta fraternity's Mu Zeta chapter institutes a communication program to help reconnect with members
When Richard Winter walked onto the Lock Haven University campus as a freshman in the Fall of 2006, he started a new chapter in his life. Little did he know that his desire to bring a different fraternity to the small rural campus in north-central Pennsylvania would change the lives of many others.
Mu Zeta chapter history lesson
Phi Mu Delta’s Mu Zeta chapter was founded in 1969 at Lock Haven University with one goal: to provide a place for men on campus unlike any other and teach them how to be gentlemen.
Unfortunately, after 36 years as a chapter on the LHU campus, Mu Zeta was closed in 2005. Alumni and the national office decided to shut down the chapter due to stagnant recruiting and declining membership.
In 2006, ambitious freshman Richard Winter wanted to bring a different fraternity to campus. His ongoing efforts — with help and guidance from Phi Mu Delta Executive Director Tom Murphy — paid off during Richard's senior year in 2010 when the Mu Zeta chapter was brought back to Lock Haven.
After seeing the renewed interest in Mu Zeta, it turns out that the same alumni who closed the chapter were instrumental in re-opening it.
As a re-founding father, it was very important to know that alumni support was there for the chapter, which very fortunately it was, but we were limited on the amount of people who were engaged.
Phi Mu Delta Mu Zeta
The need for (consistent) communication
After the chapter re-opened, alumni communications were limited, using mostly a private social media group for the first couple of years.
“Content going out on a consistent basis is what we were missing at the Mu Zeta Alumni Association,” said Richard Winter.
So, Phi Mu Delta Executive Director Tom Murphy and members of the National Office worked with Richard and other Mu Zeta leaders to find a vendor they could partner with to help them implement a consistent, targeted communications program.
The fraternity decided to start an Alumni Donor Communications Program that would engage current alumni and re-engage older alumni.
Now, the next challenge, figuring out the right content to send to alumni…
The key: Use a multi-channel approach with chapter-specific content to reach the greatest number of brothers with the stories they want to read.
Consistent communication... it creates better relationships with people. Hopefully, if alumni like what they see, we’ll be able to get them involved in programs and giving and other aspects of the fraternity.
Phi Mu Delta Fraternity
Mu Zeta chapter leaders are all volunteers, with full-time jobs, so writing stories about the chapter and their brothers isn’t always the first thing on their minds or easy to fit into their daily schedules. Using a creative brief interview process, the vendor gathered foundational background information about the chapter. Surveys were then sent to alumni to find out what’s important to them.
“I can send out a lot of information about Phi Mu Delta in general or about Lock Haven University or about our chapter, but is that really what our alumni want?” said Richard Winter.
These two information-gathering steps help determine the type of stories that members want to read — ultimately leading to increased engagement and the first steps to re-create a culture of giving. Alumni began responding to these surveys and interview requests, then some made donations immediately after the program kicked off.
How to deliver all those stories?
One communication channel doesn’t work for everyone, so the program uses a number of ways to deliver information to members:
- a chapter website
- email and print newsletters
- appeal letters
- social media
Alumni now have the opportunity to receive information about their chapter on a regular basis. And for some brothers, this program is the first communication they’ve received from the chapter in a long time.
“Within the first week (of implementing our new communications program) we got $250,” Richard Winter said. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but going from $0 (for a long time) to $250 is a huge difference.”
Reconnect with alumni
Activity with alumni donations and member engagement has continued to increase. One effective way to encourage engagement is by sharing old photos and videos that show the chapter’s history, allowing brothers to reminisce and remember their days on campus.
A “photo flashback” from 1974 was posted on the chapter’s website and distributed in the monthly email newsletter asking for some information about it.
Details of the photo of “brothers on the roof” were sketchy until a handful of alumni responded, adding some clarification about the former fraternity house that used to sit on Chestnut Street — next to the old gym — on the Lock Haven University campus.
The house was eventually torn down to make room for a new campus gym.
“It was our chapter’s second house,” said one brother. “It was a great house.”
A "throwback video" from 1992 was posted on the chapter’s website, showing the former Mu Zeta house on campus, which led to some engaging comments from some of the brothers.
“The video really brought back the memories. I thought I'd never see the house again… That was more than a house to me; it was my home for three years. The brotherhood… the memories… the house at 87 Susquehanna Ave. will never fade away from my memory for sure!”
“The years go by and the faces change, but the spirit of PMD MZ (Phi Mu Delta Mu Zeta) will always be alive.”
Mu Zeta chapter alumni engagement numbers
After just a few months of the new communications program and alumni outreach, initial engagement results have been very positive.
- 5.6% of chapter membership have updated their contact information
- 3.4% of chapter membership have made a donation
- 43.3% have opened email newsletters
“The activity on our social media pages has increased, too, and it’s been from brothers who I’ve never seen on there before,” said Richard Winter. “That alone shows another level of engagement that’s starting to happen as a result of the stories that are being shared.”
About Phi Mu Delta
Phi Mu Delta was founded nationally in 1918 as the first national fraternity to accept men regardless of their race or religious affiliation. The universities of Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut had the three founding chapters, and the organization now has over 20 chapters located primarily in the northeastern U.S. Phi Mu Delta’s mission, to provide a positive fraternity experience for today's college man, encourages high personal standards — morally, mentally, and spiritually — and, to help its members live the ideals — democracy, brotherhood and service — of its founders.
NPC, Inc. Integrated Print & Digital Solutions presented the benefits of consistent, targeted and meaningful messaging using an Alumni Donor Communications Program to a room full of Alumni Association Presidents and fraternity staff at the Phi Mu Delta Fraternity's 57th National Conclave in Norfolk, VA.