Award-winning writer, speaker, and executive adviser Charles Vogl is well known for his book The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging. He has worked with leaders in tech, finance, media, government, social organizations, and in this book, he draws on 3,000+ years of history to pinpoint seven time-honored principles for growing connected communities.

When planning for the future with total workforce solutions, companies need to think beyond the exit interview. Engaging alumni to form a connected network holds countless benefits for businesses, as well as the members of these communities themselves. However, for these platforms to be effective, it has to zone in on the seven principles of belonging.

The 7 Principles For Belonging and How They Pertain To Alumni Communities

1. Boundaries

Boundaries determine insiders and outsiders, but when it comes to belonging, the focus lies on making the ‘inside space’ safe for insiders rather than keeping others out.

Distinguish your alumni community by letting your members know who shares their space and how their values correlate. These foundational values should be front and center at all times and serve as a golden thread throughout your communication.

2. Initiation

Initiation refers to activities that serve as a person’s official recognition and welcome into the community once they cross over the boundary into the inner ring. It also goes hand in hand with new privileges. 

Take care to introduce new alumni community members, share their accolades, and make clear to them which benefits they can enjoy as a member of the group.

3. Rituals

Rituals refer to practices that mark a time or event as special or important and serve to connect the present with occurrences in the past and hope for the future. Communities have a range of formal and informal rituals that are often tied to certain symbols.

Alumni managers can facilitate the development of these by making an event of welcoming new members to the group. Thereafter, they can also celebrate alumni achievements and milestones with the entire network.

Alumni Community Belonging

4. Temple

The term ‘temple’ refers to a space where people with similar values can meet, engage with one another and enact their community’s rituals.

In the case of an alumni community, this would be the digital platform where members can share information, seek guidance, and tap into the collective wisdom of the group.

5. Stories

Stories share a group’s authentic values and identity to communicate who the community serves and how their values are expressed in real life.

Alumni managers can tap into this principle for belonging by sharing success stories and case studies of how ex-employees have grown and assisted one another.

6. Symbols

Symbols are pictorial presentations of values, identity, and commitment. 

By creating a strong logo and other visual elements to set an alumni community apart, managers can leverage it as a token of belonging and commitment.

7. Inner Rings

Inner rings refer to different levels of engagement that members can enter to gain new benefits as they grow and mature within a community. 

Alumni groups can create this experience by making more resources available the longer a person remains a member, for instance.


You can bolster your alumni community from the inside out by focussing on the seven principles of belonging. This includes boundaries, initiation, rituals, temple, stories, symbols, and inner rings. Put this into practice within your alumni group to increase feelings of belonging and engagement. 

Join now to get early access to the upcoming release of The Alumni Advantage, an end-to-end understanding of how organizations are recognizing and leveraging their former employees; authored by James Sinclair, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of EnterpriseAlumni.