(Source: Angel List)
Finally, The Alumni Network You Were Promised
It’s often cited that one of the best reasons to go to college is to gain access to the alumni network that awaits you on the other side of graduation.
With this network comes attractive job offers, valuable career guidance, and instant friendships...or so they say.
For many people, especially those who went to smaller schools, this isn’t always the case. After all, alumni networks consist primarily of strangers whose time in school did not overlap with yours at all. As a recent grad, this makes it hard to reach out and ask for help of any kind.
Thanks to Alumnifire, a New York-based technology company launched in January 2014, this dynamic is changing quickly for networks of all kinds across the country.
Founded by former Patch.com executives, Andrew Margie and Trip Tate, Alumnifire is helping unlock the untapped potential of alumni networks through their powerful platform that offers access in exchange for user commitment and engagement.
“Giving grads the community they never had” – Uncubed
With Alumnifire, you can either join an existing network, or “community” or request that a new one be created if none of your alumni peers have done so already.
A community launches once it has 25 members and is then run entirely by the members within the group. Alumnifire does offer some help, but the founders intended that the real owners of the platform’s value and activity be the alumni and students.
The company launched with just $610k in funding in the New York, a part of the country with a high density of colleges and graduates. Alumnifire makes money from annual licensing fees that are paid by universities and organizations that want access to data about their networks and a more customized user experience.
Alumnifire is free for alumni and students to use and has become a highly utilized platform for several big-name colleges that have really embraced the platform, including THE Ohio State.
“We give our members the ability to open doors for one another in the real world and on their own terms,” says Margie.
“Doing so grows the value of these communities and creates powerful outcomes for their members.”
Prior to launching Alumnifire, Margie and Tate, were instrumental in scaling and selling Patch.com to AOL, a learning experience that made their current endeavor possible.
Although originally designed specifically for college alumni networking, the founders recognized the value their platform could have for other kinds of organizations, or affinity groups, including non-profits, start-up incubators, and other similar groups.
Today, there are over 690 active communities of all kinds on Alumnifire’s platform.
No More Cold Calls To Alumni
I went ahead and created a profile to get an inside look at what makes Alumnifire different from other networks I’ve used in the past to serve a similar purpose. What I found was pretty exciting.
On the front page of the company’s website lives a ranking of trending networks based on recent activity and membership. At the time of this article’s writing, the University of Utah ranked first ahead of The Catholic University of America and The 4A’s (the American Association of Advertising Agencies, I think).
Setting up a profile only takes five minutes but you are prompted with a series of surprisingly detailed questions and information fields. I filled in my graduation year, degree, majors, and even my dorm halls which could all be found in auto-fill drop-down menus.
Once your profile is active, you see a dashboard that shows several different feeds between which you can toggle and a search capability that allows users to filter for narrow segments of alumni and jobs. The available feeds include a job board, member posts, and a list of companies that employ members of your network.
One of the most interesting and important elements of Alumnifire’s platform is that members agree to volunteer their time and provide professional development support to their peers. When signing up, you choose one or a few “offerings” from a list which include informational interviews, networking help, resume reviews, and job shadowing. Additionally, you can indicate how many times per month you are willing to help depending on your capacity.
Because members agree to volunteer and support their network in some way, no one has to feel like they are “cold-calling” anyone else on the platform. Students and alumni can reach out for help knowing that everyone has tangibly committed to supporting others.
Overall, I was extremely encouraged by what I found on my college’s alumni network page. Many profiles had been recently created and my feed was blowing up with job opportunities and peers offering help, a level of engagement I have found nowhere else.
Alumnifire: Leading The Horse To Water
Alumnifire cites that nine out of ten alumni would prefer to hire a fellow alum or student but that less than 5% actually do. That means there is major untapped potential.
But Margie and Tate aren’t trying to do everything for their user base. Their goal was to create a great product that would empower alumni and students to take charge of their network’s development and enhance the values of their own degrees and experiences.
This Untold story goes to show that there is significant value in leading the horse to water without forcing it to drink. Alumnifire is a technology company that has built a better platform than what existed previously, but the reason they have grown so quickly is because members feel empowered and take ownership for the benefit of their peers and fellow alumni.
I’ve signed up and can’t wait to dive in even more. Find your community today and play a big role in helping your alumni network thrive!
September 12, 2018 | Chris Fruci | Untold Business Writer