Fundraising Introduction

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Photo by Alex Irklievski

Does your program have a “Donate Now” or “Giving” button on the main page of its website?  If not, then can you talk with your EO or Executive Committee about adding one?  This link would allow donors a faster way to get to the GC’s online donation page.

Student fundraising efforts should be thought of as long term and ongoing.  If they can become part of the regular events within your program—something students and alumni come to expect each year—then that will be beneficial to your program in the long run.

Student fundraising efforts will be more successful when there is a clear purpose, cause, or initiative for which donations are being solicited.  It would be best to focus student fundraising efforts on a specific need that the students of your program have identified—for example, student travel and research grants.

If your program has a DSC-recognized Program Student Association (PSA), then donations that students solicit may be directed to the program, or a fund within the program, or to the PSA through the DSC.  Deciding where these gifts are to be directed depends in large part on the needs and desires of the students within the program.

If your programs does not have a DSC-recognized Program Student Association (PSA), then donations that students solicit should be directed to the program, or a fund within the program.  (To learn more about starting a PSA, click here.)

At the moment, the best months to conduct student-led fundraising appeals are September, October, February and March.  These will not conflict with fundraising appeals that the GC is conducting.

In general, there are three different kinds of fundraising appeals:  email, letter, and phone-a-thon.

Phone-a-thon

Phone-a-thons require a bit of planning, and should be coordinated with the DSC AFC Coordinator and the Development and Alumni Relations Office as far in advance as possible.

Phone-a-thons can be conducted separately, or in conjunction with letter-writing and/or email appeals.

If a phone-a-thon becomes an annual event for your program, it is best to host it around the same time each year.

Step 1:  Make the decision to solicit program alumni by phone.  (Be sure that you know the specific cause or activity that donations will be supporting.  For example, student travel and research grants.  Also, be sure that all of the appropriate parties agree on how these funds will be distributed, and by whom.)  Currently, September, October, February and March are the best times of year for a phone-a-thon because this coordinates with the GC’s fundraising calendar.

Step 2:  Contact the DSC AFC Coordinator, and have her/him reach out to the Development and Alumni Relations Office to let them know about this decision to organize a phone-a-thon appeal and the cause or activity for which donations will be raised.  Set up a date(s) when you would like student volunteers to help make phone calls.  (Some mechanism needs to be in place to ensure that funds raised go into the appropriate account.  This will be specific to your program and this appeal.)

Step 3:  Ask the AFC Coordinator to find out from the Development and Alumni Relations Office if they can give you a sense of the number of program alumni that could be solicited by phone, and agree on the number of student volunteers that you will ideally recruit to help with these efforts.  (In most cases, you will not want to be soliciting alumni who have already given in this academic year, or who have told the University that they do not wish to be solicited.)

Step 4:  Recruit student volunteers within your program to make phone calls to program alumni.  Volunteers will need to know how much time is required to help with this.  (For example, they should set aside 2 hours in the evening on a particular date.)  Volunteers will also need to know what is involved.  (For example, making phone calls to program alumni.)

Step 5:  Working with the Development and Alumni Relations Office and the AFC Coordinator, get together sample scripts for these phone calls.  They should be scripted from the perspective of a current student.

Step 6:  Reserve an appropriate space in which volunteers can meet and make phone calls.  (For example, phones in the department office could be set aside.)  Ideally calls will be made in the evening, Sunday through Thursday.  (When planning this phone-a-thon, be sure to keep in mind time differences in various parts of the country/world.)

Step 7:  Let the AFC Coordinator and the Development and Alumni Relations Office know where and when volunteers will be meeting, and keep them updated about the number of volunteers recruited to make phone calls.  If your APO is going to be involved in any of this, be sure to keep her/him updated.

Step 8:   Confirm with AFC Coordinator and the Development and Alumni Relations Office that the sample scripts are prepared, and that “contact sheets” (which have the contact information and other details about the alumni being solicited), and pledge forms will be available from the Development and Alumni Relations Office on the date(s) they are needed by the volunteers.

Step 9:  Remind student volunteers about the date, time and location where they are to meet.  Schedule a student leader who is familiar with the solicitation process to oversee the volunteers.

Step 10:  On the date of the phone-a-thon, student volunteers should be given a stack of the “contact sheets” from the Development and Alumni Relations Office, pledge forms, sample solicitation scripts, and a station with a phone.  Volunteers need to do the following for each alumna/us being solicited:

a) Phone the alumna/us on the contact sheet.

b) If the alumna/us is not in, leave a message on the alumnus/a’s voicemail as instructed by the Development and Alumni Relations Office script.

If the alumna/us is available to talk, follow the script the Alumni and Development Office has provided.

c) If the alumna/us wishes to donate, the caller takes down the contact information, pledge amount, etc. on a pledge form.  This information will then be processed (if it is a credit card donation) or if not, then the pledge form will be mailed later by the Development and Alumni Relations Office for the donor to return.  Callers update as much of the contact information on the “contact sheets” (non-working phone numbers, changes of address, etc.) as possible, even if a donation is not made.

d) After the phone call, the volunteer mark off the results on the “contact sheet.”

Step 11:  Once the student volunteers have worked through all of their “contact sheets” (or as many as they can in the time allotted) these sheets should be returned to the student leader.

Step 12:  All of pledge forms and “contact sheets” should be returned by the student leader or the program to the Development and Alumni Relations Office.  A note should be sent to the AFC Coordinator letting her/him know this has been done.

Step 13:  Follow up with AFC Coordinator and the Development and Alumni Relations Office, as needed.

Step 14:  Send thank-you notes/emails to all of the volunteers, and anyone else who helped with these efforts.

Step 15:  Update the student volunteers on the results of these efforts.

 

Email Appeals

Student-led email fundraising appeals to program alumni are relatively easy to organize and can be conducted separately, or in conjunction with letter-writing appeals and/or phone-a-thons.  If this is the first time students in your program are doing sending an email appeal, the AFC Coordinator may be more heavily involved in this process than if students in your program have been doing so for several years in a row.

Before getting started, the “powers-that-be” in your program and/or PSA (Program Student Association) should be decided from whom it would be best to have the email sent.  Email appeals could be from individual students in the program, PSA leadership, the Executive Officer, a combination of these, others, etc.

Assuming that the email appeal will be coming from individual students or a PSA, the email appeal requires a bit of planning, and should be coordinated with the Development and Alumni Relations Office through the DSC Alumni-Engagement & Fundraising Commission (AFC) Coordinator.  If this appeal becomes an annual event for your program, it is best to host it around the same time each year.

Does your program have its own GC email account? If not, your program should establish one.  Can your program’s GC email account be used for this appeal?  If your program has a PSA, does the PSA have its own GC email account?  Could we use the PSA’s GC email for this appeal?  In all situations, we need to send this appeal from an official GC email account of some kind.

Does your program have a “Donate Now” or “Giving” link on its main page?  If not, can you ask your APO to add that, with a link to Funds for Academic Programs and Departments:  https://community.gc.cuny.edu/ProgramGifts

Step 1:  Make the decision to solicit gifts from program alumni by email.  (Be sure that you know the specific cause or activity that donations will be supporting.  For example, student travel and research grants.  Also, be sure that all of the concerned parties agree on how these funds will be distributed, and by whom.  Ideally, you would be soliciting funds in the current academic year to be spent in the next academic year.)  Currently, September, late January, February, and early March are the best times of year to send a student-led email appeal, because that coordinates better with the GC’s fundraising calendar.

Step 2:  Contact the DSC AFC Coordinator and let her/him know about the decision to organize this appeal, the cause or activity that donations will support, and settle on a date/dates when you would like a student volunteer(s) to help email program alumni.  (FYI:  The best day of the week to get someone to open an email is on a Tuesday.)  Ask the AFC Coordinator to bring this appeal to the attention of the GC Development and Alumni Relations Office. (Some mechanism needs to be in place to ensure that funds raised go into the appropriate account.  This will be specific to your program and this appeal.)

Step 3:  Through the AFC Coordinator, find out from the Development and Alumni Relations Office the number of program alumni that could be solicited by email, and agree on the number of student volunteers (and/or others) that you should ideally recruit to help with these efforts.  (FYI:  In most cases, you will not want to be soliciting alumni who have already given in this same academic year, or who have indicated to the GC that they don’t wish to be solicited/contacted.)

Step 4:  Recruit a student volunteer(s) within your program to help send email solicitation notes to program alumni.  Volunteers will need to know how much time is needed to help with this.  (For example, they should set aside an hour in the morning on a particular date to send out emails.)  All volunteers will also need to know what is involved.  (For example, reviewing email lists, drafting/writing email text, creating an email merge, etc.)  In most cases, one or two student volunteers may be all that is needed.

Step 5:  Work with the DSC’s AFC Coordinator on drafting the text of the email appeal.  Ideally, the email appeal would be written from the perspective of a current student.  The email would leave space for the email merge to fill in the appropriate salutation (i.e., “Dear Jane,”).  In the email, it will be important to provide a link where donors can make a gift online.  The email should also provide potential donors with directions to a “Donate Now” or “Giving” button on your program’s website, since some people are reluctant to use direct links from emails.   The email text should provide donors with information on how to make contributions by mail or by phone, if they prefer to do so.  The emails should include information stating that funds raised through this email appeal will be tax deductible and used to support the specific activity or initiative that is the focus of this appeal—for example, student travel awards and research grants.

Step 6:  Reserve appropriate space(s) where volunteer(s) will meet and send out emails.  In many instances, this will be at a computer in your program’s office or student lounge.  Be sure that you talk with the AFC Coordinator about contacting the IT Department to make sure that the list of alumni contact names and email addresses can be merged electronically from the intended sender’s email account.  (If this is being done with a non-human email account such as the one associated with your department or your PSA, IT will need to make special arrangements to allow a PARTICULAR computer, with a particular person logging on–i.e. your APO, or a PSA student leader–who has access to that specific non-human GC email account.)

Step 7:  Through the AFC Coordinator, let the Development and Alumni Relations Office know where and when volunteers will be meeting, and keep the AFC Coordinator updated on the number of volunteers recruited to prepare the appeal materials.

Step 8:   Confirm with the AFC Coordinator that the text of the email appeal is completed, and that alumni contact information from the Development and Alumni Relations Office (and/or your program) will be ready when needed.  (You may need to run that text past certain individuals in your program or the GC Development Office, to confirm this with the AFC Coordinator.)  Also, confirm that IT has set up the computer to allow the non-human email to create this email merge.

Step 9:  Remind student volunteers about the date, time and location to meet.  If anyone such as your APO is going to be involved in this effort, be sure that s/he is reminded, as well.  Schedule a student leader who is familiar with the email-appeal process to oversee any volunteers.

Step 10:  On the date when these email appeals are to be sent out, student volunteers should have the contact information for the alumni to be solicited and the text of the email appeal.  Any links to be imbedded into that text should also be provided.  (Be sure to run test versions of the email merge to ensure that the links are actually functioning properly.)  Through the email merge, volunteers need to do the following for each alumna/us being solicited:

a) Fill in the salutation with “Dear [FILL IN ALUMNA/US’S FIRST NAME],”.

b) Sign the email.  This might be with the volunteer’s first and last name, and the name of the program.  (For example:  Jane Doe, Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science, CUNY Graduate Center)  It could also be from a group, such as your PSA leadership, or a faculty-student alumni relations committee.

c) Fill in the “Subject” line of the email with “CUNY Graduate Center–” and the name of your program.  For example: “CUNY Graduate Center–Theatre”.  (This will help distinguish it from SPAM)

Ideally, the emails will be created using an email merge, so much of this can be done quickly and easily, but if that’s not possible, then emails would need to be sent out one at a time from an @gc.cuny.edu or @gradcenter.cuny.edu email account.  (Make sure that no one is solicited if s/he has already given in this academic year.  Make sure that no one is solicited if s/he has indicated that s/he doesn’t want to be contacted.)  In some instances, a department officer such as the EO or your APO may also know that certain alumni like to be contact at specific times of the year, in specific ways, so those alumni might also be kept off this particular solicitation list.  In most cases, an email merge should only be sent out in batches of 20-50 emails at a time or less, as the GC computer system may put a stop to larger emailings for fear that some kind of unwanted email blast is being sent.)

See the guide at bottom of this post for how to perform email merges.   You can also find sample solicitation letters in the Appendix.

Step 11:  Send the merged emails.

If any emails bounce back, take note of them so that this information can be passed on to your program and/or the Development and Alumni Relations Office.

If any alumna/us sends a reply back with any questions or comments that cannot be answered by the program or the student volunteer(s), this email should be forwarded to the appropriate person in the Development and Alumni Relations Office to handle.  (For example, someone may want to donate to a different fund, or may ask to meet with a representative of the GC to talk about making a larger gift.)  All responses to alumni comments or questions should be respectful, keeping in mind that you are representing the program and the GC, not just yourself.

Step 12:  Once the student volunteers have worked through emailing all of their names (or as many as they can in the time allotted), they should let the student leader know that they are finished, and if there were any problems/concerns, or not.

Step 13:  The student leader should let the AFC Coordinator know how the process went, pass on any concerns, and provide lists of out-of-date emails for the program and/or Development and Alumni Relations Office.

Step 14:  Follow up with AFC Coordinator and/or the Development and Alumni Relations Office, as needed.

Step 15:  Send thank-you notes/emails to all of the volunteers, and anyone else who helped with these fundraising efforts.

Step 16:  Update the student volunteers on the results of these efforts, as needed.  FYI:  The Development and Alumni Relations Office will send out tax letters to donors.  If you have volunteers to send out individual thank-you letters to donors as well, letting them know how much the students in your program appreciate their support, that would be a worthwhile effort.  In most instances, the Development and Alumni Relations Office would cover the postage involved in this.  The AFC Coordinator may have notecards or stationery that could be used for these thank-you notes.

 

See below for an example of an email appeal.

Download (PDF, 20KB)

Download (PDF, 507KB)

Letter-Writing Appeals

Student-led letter-writing appeals to program alumni can be conducted separately, or in conjunction with email appeals and/or phone-a-thons.  If this is being done for the first time, the AFC Coordinator may be more heavily involved than if students have been sending these kinds of appeals over the past few years in a row.

Tips:  

  • Plan letter-writing appeals as far in advance as possible.  (Ideally one year.)
  • Work closely with the AFC Coordinator and through her/him, the Development and Alumni Relations Office.
  • The more you can personalize a solicitation, the better.
  • Appeal letters should be no more than one page.  Briefer is better.
  • Hand-address envelopes, if possible.  (There is a better chance they will be opened.)
  • Personalize the salutation on the letter.  For example, “Dear Jane,” or “Dear John,” rather than “Dear GC Alumna/us”.  (This can be done by hand (which is best), or by computer, as part of a mail merge.)
  • Hand-sign letters, if possible, rather than scanning in a signature that gets printed out by a computer.  It makes the letter more personal.
  • Include a very short, hand-written note at the bottom of any solicitation letter, if possible.  If the signatory knows the addressee, then make the note more specific.  If not, then something as simple as “Stop by the department offices the next time you’re in the neighborhood!” could suffice.  (This will make it more likely that the recipient will read the letter.)
  • In general, the more evidence there is that a human being spent time writing the letter and addressing the envelope, the greater chance that it will actually be read.  (For example, it is more effective to hand-address an envelope than to use a label.)

Step 1:  Make the decision to solicit program alumni by mail.  (Be sure that you know the specific cause or activity that donations will be supporting.  For example, student travel and research grants.  Also, be sure that all of the concerned parties agree in advance on how these funds will be distributed, and by whom.)  Currently, September, late January, February, or early March are the best times of year for implementing a letter-writing appeal because that coordinates with the GC’s fundraising calendar.

Step 2:  Contact the AFC Coordinator to let her/him know about your decision to organize this appeal, and the cause or activity donations will support.  Confirm the date(s) when you would like student volunteers to help prepare the necessary appeal letters, envelopes, and reply envelopes.  Confirm the best ways for alumni to respond to this appeal:  i.e., an enclosed reply envelope and/or an online donation.  (Some mechanism needs to be in place to ensure that funds raised go into the appropriate account.  This will be specific to your program and this appeal.  Discuss this with the AFC Coordinator.)

Step 3:  Through the AFC Coordinator, find out from the Development and Alumni Relations Office the number of program alumni that could be solicited by mail, and agree on the number of student volunteers that you will ideally recruit to help with these efforts.  (In most cases, you will not want to be soliciting alumni who have already given in this academic year, or who have told the University that they do not wish to be solicited.)

Step 4:  Recruit student volunteers within your program to help assemble the appeal letters, envelopes, and reply envelopes.  Volunteers will need to know how much time is needed to help with this.  (For example, they should set aside 2 hours in the morning on a particular date.)  Volunteers will need to know what is involved.  (For example, hand-addressing envelopes, signing letters, and stuffing envelopes.)

Step 5:  Work with the AFC Coordinator to draft the text of the appeal letter.  If it is going to be coming from a current student, it needs to be written from that perspective.  Ideally, the letter will leave space for the student volunteer to handwrite the salutation (“Dear Jane,”), handwrite her/his signature, and handwrite a very short note to the addressee near the bottom of the page.

Step 6:  Reserve an appropriate space(s) where volunteers will meet and work on assembling the appeal letters and envelopes.  If this is being done in your program’s offices, be sure to coordinate this with your APO.

Step 7:  Through the AFC Coordinator, let the Development and Alumni Relations Office know where and when volunteers will be meeting, and keep them updated on the number of volunteers recruited to prepare the appeal materials.

Step 8:   Through the AFC Coordinator, confirm with the Development and Alumni Relations Office that: a) the appeal letters are being printed by them (or someone else, like the program) using appropriate stationery; b) the appeal envelopes will be available from the program office or the Development and Alumni Relations Office, so that these envelopes can be addressed; c) the appropriate reply envelopes will available from the Development Office, as well, so they can be marked with the specific cause (i.e., student travel and research grants); and d) the contact list (which has the contact information and other needed details about the alumni being solicited) will be available on the date(s) they are needed by the volunteers.  (Donation reply envelopes can be returned to the program or the Development Office; make that decision in conjunction with the AFC Coordinator and the Development Office.)

Step 9:  Remind student volunteers about the date, time, and location where they are to meet.  Schedule a student leader who is familiar with this letter-appeal process to oversee the volunteers.

Step 10:  On the date when these appeal letters and envelopes are to be assembled, student volunteers should be given the appropriate contact information from the programs and/or the Development and Alumni Relations Office, pre-printed appeal letters, envelopes needing to be addressed, and reply envelopes.  Volunteers need to do the following for each alumna/us being solicited:

a) Fill in the salutation of the appeal letter (if it has been left blank) with “Dear [FILL IN ALUMNA/US’S FIRST NAME],” for example, “Dear Mary,”

b) Sign the letter with the volunteer’s first and last name.  (The signatory’s title, for example, “Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center”, should be pre-printed at the bottom of the letter.)

c) Add a short personal note near the bottom of each letter.  (If the signatory knows the addressee, then make the note more specific.  If not, then something as simple as “Stop by our program’s office the next time you’re in the neighborhood!” could suffice.)

d) Hand-address (ideally) the appeal envelope to the alumna/us.  If not, then envelopes could be addressed by computer, or by using labels.  Hand-addressing, however, is best.

e) Inside that appeal envelope, place the completed appeal letter and a reply envelope.  (Take care in how these letters and reply envelopes are assembled.  You want to make it easy for the reader to see the salutation.  The reply envelope should be tucked in such a way that it comes out of the main envelope at the same time as the letter.)

Step 11:  Once the student volunteers have worked through all of their contacts, they should seal the envelopes and return them, with any extra appeal materials, to the student leader.

Step 12:  All of these extra materials should be returned by the student or the department to the Development and Alumni Relations Office (or some other appropriate party).  A note should be sent to the AFC Coordinator letting her/him know this has been done.  The sealed appeal envelopes should be given to the Development and Alumni Relations Office to mail out, and the AFC Coordinator should be informed of this.  (Or give them to the AFC Coordinator to get to the Development and Alumni Relations Office, it that is more practical.)

Step 14:  Send thank-you notes/emails to all of the volunteers and anyone else who helped with these efforts.

Step 15:  Update the student volunteers on the results of these efforts.

Step 16:  Any appeal letters that come back “return to sender” with updated addresses should be re-addressed and sent out again to the new address.  The old envelopes should be given to the Development and Alumni Relations Office so that they can update this information in their database.  The APO and the Development Office should also be made aware of any new address changes so that alumni records can be updated.

 

For an example of an appeal letter and envelope, see below.

Download (PDF, 20KB)