Student Development Officers

Posted on 04/30/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Scranton Thank You Street Shot FY14-1When Anthony Cernera, then Director of the Annual Fund, walked into the University of Scranton’s phonathon center several years ago, he had two observations. One was that the program employed some incredibly talented students, who were a great resource for the university. The other was that this great resource was underutilized.

For well over a decade, Scranton’s annual fund had enjoyed a mature, high performing phonathon. But, like many programs, it was struggling with a decline in prospect contact rates. The new reality was an all-too-often quiet room of students waiting patiently for someone to answer their calls.

“We needed to start using these amazing young people to their fullest potential,” said Cernera. “So we decided to put them to work outside of the call center. The solution was to create a new role within the annual fund for Student Development Officers.”

Inspired by the student discovery program pioneered by Georgetown University, these student development officers made personal visits to under-engaged alumni and parent prospects. They focused on local visits while school was in session and they visited prospects in their hometowns during academic breaks.

The student development officer team was comprised of the most mature and talented student callers, who received additional training on how to secure, conduct, and follow-up on visits. Their primary goals were to collect information and solicit annual fund gifts. Most were assigned to non-and-lapsed donors with some indication of leadership gift potential.

“Not only did this initiative help engage rated prospects in a more personal way, but it made better use of university resources,” said Cernera. “Student development officers also helped with stewardship projects, attended events, and helped to manage a four-year philanthropy program aimed at educating students beginning in their freshman year.”

The program also helped prepare the students for careers in development. Last year alone, three of Scranton’s top student development officers secured full-time university fundraising positions after their graduation.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Rethinking Phonathons.