Community Manager Spotlight
Jen Bain Hodgdon has a unique job, where it is a guarantee that every year, the community she manages grows. She is the Director of Alumni Relations and Giving at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Massachusetts. Austin Prep, a 6-12th grade Co-ed Roman Catholic Augustinian School has approximately 6,300 alumni, and Jen spends a good deal of her time connecting with as many alumni as possible. She is responsible for planning events, such as career days, athletic hall of fame induction ceremonies and reunions that bring alumni back to campus and quite often, connects them with the current student community. Jen loves building and growing her relationships with students and alumni, and seeing them collaborate to enrich the entire Austin Prep experience.
EKOS: How do you manage your messaging to such a large, multi-generational community?
Jen: Every class has a different personality and every decade of classes is different from the one before. While this messaging can vary from class to class, it is all ultimately centered around our mission: Veritas, Unitas, Caritas and the teaching of Saint Augustine. No matter the alumni group, I want to communicate to all of them that the values of the institution have not changed. I focus my efforts on keeping them informed on all the progress and valuable changes we have made since they were here. For our newer alumni, I focus on communicating the immense value that comes from their engagement with the school and how they can contribute to the experiences of current students with their time, support and knowledge.
EKOS: What would be your advice to anyone struggling to retain community members in the long-term?
Jen: First, you need to be a good listener and actually hear what people are saying. There is relevance in the stories and in the feedback people share about their experience in your community. Next, you want to communicate with your community members the way they want to be communicated with. Some people I have never met with in person, but we have a great relationship on social media. Others want to connect on a phone call, through emails or even on campus. My goal is to get to know them no matter what channel, and I hope they feel like they know me. Lastly, let community members know that they are valued and anything they can contribute to the network is deeply appreciated.
EKOS: What is your favorite part about community management?
Jen: It’s the people and the relationship building. I thrive on building relationships and I am so happy to see where our alumni are going and what they are all doing. Creating this community and helping our alumni not only re-connect with the school, but also with each other is really fulfilling. I also love creating value between our school and alumni. When alumni come back to volunteer their time, like on career day, I emphasize that because they are here to speak to students, they are making a difference and providing a huge service, outside of their regularly scheduled profession. This helps them realize how valuable they truly are to our school.
1) Center your messaging around the organization’s mission and core values when communicating with a large community.
2) Find out a community member’s preferred method of communication, and listen to what they have to share.
3) Emphasize the impact community members have when they engage with the organization.
Jen spoke about how she not only loves connecting community members with the organization, but also with each other.
It was fascinating to learn how to retain and communicate with such a large, and age diverse community. We are sincerely grateful to Jen for her time and invaluable insights on how she goes about community management.