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Grooming Students to Give

With ROAR Day, RIT transformed a campaign event into a hallmark of its annual fund

By Theresa Walker

As Rochester Institute of Technology in New York was preparing to close its capital campaign in early 2006, it held a Campaign Day to generate some nearing-the-finish-line excitement and offer people on campus another opportunity to give. The day was so successful that it inspired a campuswide kickoff event for the annual fund—Raise Our Annual Responses Day.

The number of ROAR Day donors has more than doubled—from 436 during the inaugural event in October 2006 to 1,054 in 2011, says Marisa Psaila, executive director of the Fund for RIT. Students gave 68 percent of the contributions last ROAR Day, when more than $50,000 was raised from all donors. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $175,000 for the university.

Promotional efforts ahead of ROAR Day 2012, which will be held Oct. 12, include email reminders to students, faculty, and staff as well as mailers to recent alumni and Facebook and Twitter posts. At 10 tables set up at strategic campus locations, donors can complete a short contribution form with several giving options, including using their Tiger Bucks RIT debit account. Everyone is eligible for raffle prizes, such as an iPad and RIT hoodies, and all donors receive a thank you gift, such as the RIT sunglasses that were a hit last year.

People typically give to their individual interests. For students, that usually means a specific club, athletic team, college, or academic department. Student contributions of up to $100 also are eligible to be matched through a challenge gift funded by the university president, his wife, trustees, and other stakeholders.

Event organizers now rely more on student volunteers to staff the tables, particularly trained Telefund callers.

"We've found that peer-to-peer solicitation works best," says Angele Vellake, assistant director of student and recent alumni giving. "Our Telefund students are great at getting people to come to the table; they know why it's important to make a gift."

As statistics show that students who give are twice as likely to become alumni who give, RIT hopes to reap the benefits of this early education and engagement. "The students who have experienced it for four years in a row are just beginning to graduate," Vellake says. "I think we're going to start seeing the effects of that now."

About the Author Theresa Walker Theresa Walker

Theresa Walker is a senior editor at Currents, where she covers the marketing and communications beat.




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