I recently had an interest in seeing what software or programs were available for creating a school alumni website. Ah, a new bone to chew, I go off on tangents of learning when someone tosses me something new to investigate. I discovered that there are many directory/list/membership type programs available, but I found there are also some programs that are more specifically written for alumni organizations. These are my findings, and I have added a list of alumni/membership programs below.
An alumni group can create it’s own website using a basic HTML program or editor, but HTML alone will not handle external inputs and then display the data that I would think most groups would like, such as allowing members to submit their own information that can automatically be added to a data base of members and then sorted by the normal criteria such as graduation year or alphabetically. Kind of necessary for an alumni site, don’t you think? A basic HTML site does not handle that kind of data manipulation, although there are add-on programs that could be used to handle membership data.
Another choice would be to use a CMS (Content Management System) program (such as WordPress or Joomla) that is designed to sort and handle complicated data. However, it takes time to build and maintain a CMS website, plus it might be hard to find a “new” person that can run a CMS website each time the alumni organization changes officers, and we all know that is going to happen. There is a steep learning curve for Joomla and many other CMS programs. Blog programs, like WordPress are not too bad in the learning department, more like learning MS Word, but still, someone has to learn to maintain and run the web site. The best choice might be a pre-made school/alumni program.
Now, from my research there are several pre-made school/alumni program/hosting sites out there. Most anyone can run a pre-made alumni website, they would only need to familiarize themselves with the options of the program. Also, from my searching around on the web, I felt that the pre-made alumni websites had a better, more pleasing appearance. Just my opinion, but I felt that the “home-made” sites that I came across on the Internet did not have as polished a look, and they were harder to navigate.
In the list below, I feel that the first two pre-made hosting sites look pretty good, but they do have a cost. From my own experience, a hosting service for a WordPress site or Joomla site also has a cost, around a hundred dollars a year (most hosting companies offer a low cost starter price, but that price generally jumps to normal price in one year). So don’t hold it against a company for charging a fee, they are in business to sell a product. There are some free web hosting services, and some free blogging site, but they sometimes come with limits and terms. Another note about costs, most hosting and alumni hosting sites must charge sales tax. Some pre-made sites have fund raising options, which could help your organization to raise money to off-set the costs.
I feel that these pre-made sites would be easier to pass along to a new administrator each time the alumni organization team changes. I think this would be better than trying to find someone who knows WordPress or Joomla, not to mention the initial time required to create a WordPress or Joomla website. Problems can also arise when CMS program versions are updated, because the new version may no longer work with prior plugins. If someone upgraded CMS versions, without checking for plugin capability, they might be in a pickle, because some of their plugins may no longer work or they may conflict with the new CMS version. If someone wanted to go back to their old CMS version, that could be a problem. Normally you can not “go back” to an older CMS version, it usually requires re-installing the old CMS version and files, if there is a good backup of the old site.
There is a lot involved in creating and running a website, but usually with pre-made sites, when the company upgrades versions, they are upgrading their own program, so normally the end users does not have to do anything, the changes just happens behind the scenes. Seems like a good way to go. If you know of other alumni web hosting sites, please let me know so I can add them to this list.
Home Page: http://www.reunions.myevent.com/?affID=48053
Price Page: $149 – $249 a year. http://www.reunions.myevent.com/1/price_packages.htm?affID=48053
Home Page: http://www.classcreator.com/
Price Page: $97 – $179 a year. http://www.classcreator.com/pr.cfm
Demo Page: Scroll down some on the Home Page and there are several testimonials and under the each school’s website page pictures is a “view site” button.
Features: Scroll down a little on the Home Page to see features.
Notes: Look through the site, you may find that people have already created pages for your school, for specific years. http://www.classcreator.com/findschool-state.cfm?cid=1.0
Home Page: http://alumni-website.com/
Price Page: $319 Setup and $828 a year. http://alumni-website.com/pricing.php
Demo Page: http://alumni-website.com/demo/
Notes: Pricey, but some advanced features, such as it sounds like members can have their own blogs, and sounds like perhaps there is a forum option; however these features can be difficult to monitor to keep out the nut-jobs. Blogging and forums can be added to any website, but it takes someone that knows what they are doing to set them up and monitor them. I don’t really see much need for an alumni site to have blogs. As for forums, most everyone is on Facebook and can communicate there. Just my opinion.
Home Page: http://www.easyalumni.com/
Price Page: They do not quote prices, it just says “contact us” for pricing. http://www.easyalumni.com/alumni-pricing.php
Demo Page: http://www.easyalumni.com/alumni-website.php
Features: On pricing page – http://www.easyalumni.com/alumni-pricing.php
——————— Other Site Options ———————
I added miscellaneous websites and some sites that I am not sure about. I think some of these are kind of like automatic sites; I believe that some of these may just make a page for every school out there and when people wonder into their site, they can just sign up, but I don’t believe that these site are actually being run by “an alumni” organization, and I would guess that these companies makes a profit from membership fees and the advertising they place on the pages. (Kind of like Classmates.com.) If you are starting a new alumni website, you might want to join those sites to see if any of your classmates are listed, and then contact those people about joining the alumni site your group is creating.
Home Page: http://www.alumni.net/
Pricing Page: No pricing, looks like it might be an ad driven site, so might be free.
T&Cs page: Alumni.NET offers free service to its valued users.
Demo Page: None.
Notes: May be on auto-pilot. People can sign up using Facebook and Linkedin.
Home Page: https://www.alumniclass.com/
Demo Page: None, but here is a class page: https://www.alumniclass.com/arlingtonheights
Features: May not actually be a site you can control, it may be like Classmates.com, a pre-set site that members can access.
Home Page: http://www.classmates.com/
Pricing: Free and paid membership
Features: Good list of schools and alumni, class annuals with pictures, and people can post reunion information.
Home Page: http://www.meetup.com/find/
Pricing: Three pricing plans.
$12 a month for 6 months.
$15 a month for 3 months.
$19 a month for month to month.
Features: This is not really a alumni website, but it is easy to run and allows members to easily communicate. All kinds of business to social groups use it.
No longer exists.
*Similar to MyFamily.com
Home Page: http://mf.spokt.com
Pricing: $59 a year.
Demo Page & Features: http://mf.spokt.com/demo
Notes: Spokt enables you to privately organize and share your best moments with the most important people in your life.
Home Page: http://www.linkedin.com/
Pricing: Free with Paid upgrade choice.
Features: Primarily a career sharing site, but some people also use it as a “group” joining type site. The couple of “alumni” groups I’ve looked at don’t seem to be actively used, but it probably varies around the country.
Home Page: http://www.facebook.com/
Features: Allows members to set up “business” or “fan” pages (a general category of pages that are not personal pages) or people can set up groups pages, either public or private. Business pages and Group pages are not the same thing. Members can share comments, plus the groups or biz pages can easily be searched for by potential new members.