4 Tips for Managing a Student Giving Program

Last month, we completed the tenth annual Resident Members Gift Campaign (RMGC) at International House.  As my colleague was out on maternity leave, I served as the lead advisor to the Campaign Co-Chairs and their Steering Committee.  I am proud to report that this was a banner year, as the residents were able to break the previous record for the most money raised — more than $7,200.

To provide a bit more background, this year’s RMGC ran for a total of 40 days and the Steering Committee was composed of 21 members and 3 co-chairs who represented a wide swath of our resident community.  During the first two weeks of the Campaign, Committee Members focused on soliciting a specific group of 10-15 of their fellow residents.  Following this period, it was open season to approach the entire community and was done through numerous venues, including tabling at the 24-hour entrance/exit and outside the Dining Room, a sponsored musical performance event, a used bicycle sale, and having Committee members address small groups during normal resident programs.  This year’s funds went toward the creation of an endowed fund to support greater resident engagement with alumni through programming.

As I reflect on the experience, I wanted to share four tips for managing a student giving program:

  1. Set mutually agreed-upon goals: After going through a training session for the Committee members on basic face-to-face fundraising techniques, they were able to mutually agree on Campaign goals of raising $5,000 from a minimum of 350 resident members.  By virtue of having past Committee members serving again, they were able to provide some context for and clarity of what it really takes to meet the goals.
  2. Communication is key: I made it a high priority to communicate as regularly as possible a) with individual Committee members about their personal progress and when the prospects on their lists made gifts; b) with the entire Committee about their progress on their goals; and c) with the resident community through e-blasts, signage and updates to the I-House website on the Campaign’s progress.  While all of these efforts required a great deal of my time (and that of my colleagues), it was absolutely important to keep everyone in the loop and on the same page.
  3. Be supportive & encouragingHowever long your campaign runs, you will need to keep the students encouraged and feeling enthusiastic.  One way that I did this was simply through my regular check-ins with the Committee members, whether via e-mail or in person.  If they have questions or concerns, be sure to respond to them ASAP.  It also helps if your campaign has a history of success, which always helps propel the students forward as they never want to be the year that doesn’t make their goals.  Another important element of our Campaign is that a group of Alumni Trustees provide a challenge grant to the resident members to provide additional encouragement — and it keeps these Trustees engaged and connected with each year’s class of residents.
  4. Start recruiting early!  As I write this post, we already have one co-chair committed for next year’s Campaign, who served on this year’s Steering Committee.  If you have some bright stars with potential on your committee, don’t be afraid of asking them about their interest in participating in the effort next year.

What other tips have you found useful in working with student giving programs?  Please share your experiences in the comments!

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