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Volume 1, Issue 2

Learn to Run a Successful Volunteer Annual Fund Blitz

Last spring, the two-person advancement staff at Los Rios Community College District mobilized volunteers for an annual fund campaign that raised more than $40,000 in two weeks. In October, officials behind the campaign will host a webinar on how to launch a similar campaign with limited staff and resources.

Sandra Kirschenmann, vice chancellor for resource development at Los Rios, said she had to look beyond the typical world of higher education development—consisting mostly of practices used by four-year institutions—to get the idea for a short-term volunteer fundraising blitz. Such models, in which volunteers are used to appeal to prospective donors, are commonplace in community-based nonprofit organizations that—like most community colleges—don't have robust advancement staffing for sophisticated fundraising campaigns.

Kirschenmann recruited a team of 12 volunteers to solicit corporate gifts for Los Rios' annual fund. The volunteers consisted of college faculty in business and marketing, a bookstore manager, an instructional dean, a high-school outreach coordinator, a vice president of student services, a director from facilities management, the director of financial aid, a director of information technology, two members of the college foundation board and the director of institutional advancement. Each volunteer was given eight to 10 prospects and, to assist with solicitation calls, a one-page flier explaining how the annual fund would help students in the district.

"It's really about trust," said Tracy Newman, director of institutional advancement at Los Rios. "You trust [volunteers] with critical and sometimes confidential information. But everyone knows that we're working for a greater mission together."

Newman and Kirschenmann both agree that brevity in a volunteer campaign is important to keeping everyone on target and invested in their work. Kirschenmann said she wouldn't suggest a campaign longer than three weeks. Still, given the positive feedback she has received, Newman noted that she is considering using different teams of volunteers throughout the year to fundraise for the district.

"Volunteers are key to success," Newman said. "They're the ones in the trenches. Having them make a call to a past donor or a corporate sponsor just feels good to them. They all had a good experience with this project and are willing to do this again because we're a small shop."

Newman and Kirschenmann believe their volunteer fundraising blitz model can be replicated with great success at community colleges across the country—especially those with small advancement offices that need help. Both are excited to share their story with webinar attendees in October.

"I want [small-shop advancement officers] to think of themselves as being directors of optimism," said Kirschenmann, noting that all webinar attendees will receive a copy of the Los Rios tool kit for volunteer annual fund appeals, which includes agendas, job descriptions, scripts and more. "They need to shift that needle on the gauge from negative to positive. They need to say, ‘I'm going to figure out what I can do, not what I can't do.'"

This article is from the August 2011 issue of the Community College Advancement News.


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Getting the Green: Fundraising Campaigns for Community Colleges

Stuart R. Grover offers specific guidance for community colleges for every step of planning, carrying out and following up on campaigns, from testing feasibility, to identifying supporters, to thanking and retaining volunteers and donors.

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