3 Rules of Managing Volunteers

Posted on 11/19/2017 - by Dan Allenby

As hard as you try to make your appeals feel intimate, the truth is that they always run the risk of coming across as a little cold and impersonal to your prospects. One of the best ways to warm up solicitations is to coordinate them through volunteers. There’s even evidence to show that working through volunteers can pay off: institutions whose annual giving programs report having a “reliance on volunteers” have alumni participation rates nearly twice that of programs that report not relying on volunteers.

Annual giving has a long tradition of getting alumni volunteers involved as class agents or as members of reunion gift committees. Now, new roles are emerging for volunteers to lend a hand.

When the University of Massachusetts was preparing to launch their first ever online-giving day—appropriately named UMass Gives—they hoped that it would inspire many young alumni to support the university for the first time. To that end, they knew they would need to look beyond traditional volunteer roles for help spreading the word. So, they created a new role for volunteers called “online ambassadors.”

To identify potential ambassadors, they compiled a list of past telefund callers, former senior class gift committee members, new young alumni donors, and alumni who were particularly active on the university’s social media channels. Then they sent these individuals an email describing the role and inviting them to join the ranks. Once a team of ambassadors had been recruited, UMass set out to make sure that this new resource was used effectively. Following the three conventional rules of managing volunteers, the annual fund team made sure to:

  1. Tell them what to do. The online ambassadors were asked to post and share university-generated content about Giving Day through their social networks and to email friends leading up to and during the event. They were also encouraged to post their own pictures and comments and to share their feelings about philanthropy, and why the university matters to them.
  2. Give them tools to do it. Although online ambassadors already had the primary tools necessary to perform their roles (i.e., their own social networks), the annual giving staff provided them with sample text to use in their posts and emails. They were also given special Giving Day T-shirts and were asked to take selfie pictures and post them online along with the #UMassGives hashtag.
  3. Acknowledge when they’d done it. When the day was over, one of the first things the annual giving team did was to send an email to each ambassador with a first glimpse of the final results and a note of gratitude for their help.

All in all, 140 online ambassadors were involved in the event, which not only proved to be great for spreading the word but also engaged them in a meaningful and fun way. Not wanting these important new volunteers to sit idly until the next Giving Day, the annual giving team continued to keep them involved, sending them regular email and news updates about the university that they could share.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Engaging Volunteers Online.