|The University of Maine is an important linchpin in the state's economy. Many of its students and graduates are the first-generation to go to college, and over half of them remain within the state to work. The alumni, who total over 80,000, are a loyal group and continue to play an integral part in the school's development. For example, every year, each reunion class chooses to raise money in some way for the school. Like many non-profits, establishing and sustaining relationships proves to have a positive direct financial impact on the school. The University of Maine strives to connect with graduates as they leave the school and to maintain that connection through their lives as alumni.
Jeff Mills, Ph.D., The University of Maine Alumni Association's Executive Director, saw a University of Maine portal solution as an economic imperative. His primary goal was to be able to contact alumni on a daily basis, with a secondary objective to introduce efficiencies into existing outreach programs, which entails mailing over 300,000 letters per year to the alumni. Currently, he also leverages the 73,000 addresses provided by current alumni to keep in touch and immediately saw the value of being able to offer new graduates a lifetime University of Maine e-mail address (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org).
The selection of a provider was easy for Mills. In the due diligence phase he found that some of the solutions were "cookie cutter," required using the provider's brand identity throughout the portal, or were not relevant to the needs of the university market space.
"MyPersonal - true to its name - offered the highest degree of personalization for each individual alumnus, as well as customization to maintain the "look and feel" of The University of Maine, without sacrificing content quality," Mills said.
Mills met his target "portal live" date, when the portal designed, built and powered by MyPersonal.com was up in six weeks, in time for graduation.
The university board has already praised the portal, and the free e-mail will soon be complemented by chat session capabilities - a feature to which university students have grown accustomed.
During this year's graduation, students learned of the URL and free e-mail offer when they sat down in their graduation seats, since Mills had provided a package on the new portal with the graduation program. Mills wanted the alumni to know that they could have free e-mail after graduation through the new portal. Young alumni, Mills noted, are the most difficult to keep track of since they move often in the first years after graduation.
Mills - now that graduation has passed - is not just waiting to hear from those new alumni, rather he is actively co-marketing with MyPersonal in several university publications. He also plans to develop an advertising campaign to reach alumni who may not have heard that the portal offers access to university, national and sports news, their own Web-based e-mail account, check their stock portfolio, keep tabs on the weather and shop online with leading e-commerce vendors that donate a percentage of the transaction back to the alumni association.
"I really don't know where these concepts of community and commerce will go in the future," said Mills. "With this portal, we have a good head start and can benefit our school and alumni. In addition, MaineAlumni.com extends the University of Maine community online and strengthens ties - both economic and personal - to the university and state."