How to use technology to scale your alumni program: Insight from Defy Ventures


Defy Ventures is an entrepreneurship, career readiness, and personal development training program for people with criminal histories. Defy’s entrepreneurial programs equip them with new skills and connections to succeed in their new life of economic independence.


Defy’s alumni association works by connecting graduates to a community that knows firsthand the power of lending a hand is invaluable through reentry and beyond. The group uses resume and interview workshops, action plans, and a supportive network to help graduates maintain stable employment.


Defy is looking to continue building and scaling its alumni program to reach more people and create a greater impact. To do so, the program relies heavily on technology. Have you found your agency in the same position, with a valuable database or spreadsheet of program alumni, and you're looking to scale or organize your program?


Mariah Dickinson, who serves as Director of Marketing and Communications for Defy, shared information about how the program has built a nationwide alumni network and plans to use RiseKit technology to better enable its workforce development program.



“Communication is crucial to developing a full picture of who is in our community and how they are engaging with us,” Dickinson said. “We're really looking forward to using the Risekit texting function to better keep in touch with our program participants.”


In addition to emailing and texting through the RiseKit platform, the program also communicates with its alumni through Facebook groups. Technology coupled with strategic communication has played a significant part in its success.


“You need both the tech capability to communicate as well as message clarity,” she added. “What is the purpose of your communication? Are you inviting people to an event? Do you want them to respond to a survey to better understand their needs? It’s important to know what your communication goals are so you can decide how and what to communicate.”



Dickinson also appreciates how Defy staff will be able to run reports in the RiseKit system to ensure that they are on track and help report on their program’s benefits.


“We try to measure the success of all of our programs quantitatively and qualitatively,” she said. “Technology like RiseKit will allow us to track engagement, participation, attendance, employment, wage changes, and other metrics that will help us understand our impact.


“Our previous technology couldn’t provide us with all of these metrics, so it was harder to measure success,” Dickinson added.


Advice on Building a Program

She offered tips for those wanting to build alumni programs, which include ensuring that your program meets the needs of the people it serves, communicating concisely, demonstrating value, and widely publicizing success stories.


“Make sure that you know what people actually want and need from your program. The last thing you want to do is create a program and then find out it’s not meeting people’s needs.’” Dickinson said.


“Being responsive to the community that you're serving is really important in creating an alumni program,” she added.


If you want to learn more about how to build, maintain, and scale your alumni program, register for our next Pathways to Success Educational Series on Alumni programs on July 21st at 12:30 pm CT with speakers from Growing Home!

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