With next month marking the close of this year’s annual fund, we’ve been on the lookout for awesome class agent guides. After spending 4 hours on Google and looking through nearly 30 volunteer handbooks, I found that the majority have great content, but they don’t provide the engaging reading experience volunteers deserve. Many are too long, and to be honest, boring! We’re talking plain word documents outlining the school’s priorities and facts and figures on the annual fund; all important information, but class agents are volunteers with jobs and busy lives. They are generously donating a bit of time to their alma mater, but they’re likely not going to sit down and read through a twenty-five page document (one that’s reminiscent of their college thesis) before picking up the phone to make their first call.
In order to relay critical information to class agents, schools need to create visually appealing and concise guides. Formatting is your friend when it comes to building a great class agent handbook. Break up blocks of text into chunks and use subheaders, different font sizes, bold or highlighted words, and bullet points. Create graphics to display statistics instead of incorporating them into a long-winded report. These tactics will make your guide easily scannable and help ensure that class agents give it a quick read before they’re on the phone with an inquisitive alumni.
Middlebury College and Macalester College have done a fantastic job at creating compelling class agent guides. Both schools have a long-standing tradition of alumni engagement based on their historic reputation for excellence, and a close knit campus life that bonds students to one another and the institution. With alumni participation ranging from 53 to 62 percent over the past 10 years, Middlebury is consistently ranked among the top schools in the U.S. for alumni donations. Clearly, they are doing something right when it comes to soliciting alumni support! Macalester College is also doing an awesome job at engaging alumni; we ran them through our new LinkedIn Alumni Grader to see how effective they at engaging alumni on this platform and were impressed to see that well over a third of their alumni on LinkedIn have joined their group. They rank 52 among the 257 Higher Ed Institutions that we’ve scored. With their stellar class agent guide, we believe they are well on their way to creating an even more connected alumni community.
We also came across an excellent Annual Fund, Alumni Resource Book used to train Deerfield Academy’s alumni volunteers.
While a bit lengthier than Middlebury’s and Macalester’s guides, we loved Deerfield’s use of the digital publishing platform, Issuu. The guide has a polished feel, clearly explains the school’s vision, and outlines how volunteers can leverage the available resources to help bring that vision to fruition.
These guides are wonderful examples to check out if you’re creating, or looking to improve, your own volunteer handbook.