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Starting a Volunteer Fundraising Program

Many Higher Ed institutions have dedicated alumni, students, and other volunteers who help them meet their fundraising goals. Colleges and universities of all types and sizes – public, private, small, and large – are incorporating volunteer fundraising into their annual and reunion giving strategies. If you’re thinking about starting a volunteer fundraising program, or are just getting started, we have a few tips for you:

  • Start Small: Establishing a culture of volunteer fundraising at your institution can take time. The key is to start small, and grow your program over time. As you recruit more volunteers, they can help you find and recruit even more volunteers. Consider starting with a single reunion group, or a group of recent grads. From there, you can expand your program each year and eventually have volunteers for each class year.
  • Decide How to Segment: The most common way to segment a campaign is by preferred class year. This means that your volunteers will be primarily contacting other prospects that are in the same class year as them. Metro area and affinity based groups, such as athletics, are also popular ways to segment.
  • Recruit Volunteers: Many times those that already contribute to the annual fund are prime to extend their support as volunteers. Take a look at those with a strong affinity to the school. Many successful programs are able to retain their volunteers year after year, so your recruiting should be less intensive once you build up your initial team of volunteers.
  • Assign Prospects: One of the most effective ways for assigning prospects to volunteers is to let them pick based on who they know best. You can create the list of who’s available to contact in the class, excluding anyone with any special restrictions, and allow your volunteers to pick who they’d like to contact.
  • Create Resources: Most institutions have some sort of welcome packet or volunteer guide that they provide to all of their volunteers. This is a good way to reinforce expectations and guidelines for your volunteers as well as to let them know about current projects happening on campus.
  • Train Your Volunteers: It’s best to offer a variety of training options so that your volunteers can choose the one that best fits their learning style. In addition to the resources you have already created, you can offer in-person training (or a campaign kickoff event), live online training, as well as recorded training for your volunteers.
  • Focus Your Volunteer Efforts: Since your volunteers are busy people, it’s best to focus their efforts around 2-3 key times of the year. Pick a 1-2 week period and ask them to contact 10 or more prospects during that period. Time this around a key event at your institution, such as homecoming, a giving day, or the end of the fiscal year.
  • Analyze Results: One advantage of focusing your volunteer efforts over a few short 1-2 week periods throughout the year is it allows you time to analyze your results and make adjustments. Reeher offers a Class Agent product that can give you powerful analytics that allow you to easily identify your top performing volunteers, as well as those volunteers who are struggling.
  • Recognize Your Volunteers: Your volunteers have made a significant contribution with all of the time and effort they’ve invested, so it’s important that they receive recognition for their efforts. A simple way to do this is by listing their names in your annual donor report or by asking them to stand up at reunion events. Another great way to recognize their contributions is to offer them special perks, such as exclusive access to popular events.

If you are thinking about starting a volunteer fundraising program at your institution, click here for a full piece covering these steps.


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