“It was sort of a utopia.”
That’s how Senior Director of Alumni Engagement Jen Crabb Kyles describes her experience working with six volunteers to fully endow the Black Law Students Association Scholarship in just nine months.
If you have experience trying to motivate volunteers to get involved with a crowdfunding initiative, we would venture to guess this is not how you would describe the process. And you’re really not alone in this. Jen herself once shared in all of the traditional pain points of volunteer management.
Let’s break down how Emory Law was able to move from frustration to “utopia” with their volunteers by equipping them with Volunteer Management by EverTrue.
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Last year at Emory Law, a Black Law Students Association (BLSA) Alumni Advisory Board member set a vision to endow a new scholarship geared towards increasing the matriculation of underrepresented students.
The Emory Law team was short-staffed. The gift officer originally working with the BLSA Alumni Board to endow the scholarship left the team. And hiring for their replacement was on hold due to COVID-19 budget cuts.
The Emory Law team didn’t want to lose the momentum and motivation of the BLSA Alumni Board, so two team members, an alumni engagement officer and advancement services professional, stepped forward to carry the torch and work with the BLSA Alumni Board to bring the vision of this scholarship to life.
Even for a fully-resourced team, there are several common issues that get in the way of your volunteers being maximally productive, effective, happy, and generous. The small-but-mighty Emory Law team faced these same issues with their volunteers, and we’ll walk through how they addressed each of them on a shoestring, powered by Volunteer by EverTrue.
As a result of their amazing volunteer management efforts, the Emory Law Team won a CASE DIII Bronze Award for Fundraising on a Shoestring. You can read their award overview here.
To RAISE $100,000 to endow a scholarship to support the recruitment of 1st year law students with a preference for underrepresented candidates.
6 members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) Alumni Board
Jen Crabb Kyles, Senior Director of Alumni Engagement, and Daijah Walker, former Coordinator of Advancement and Alumni Services (and current Associate Donor Experience Officer)
Over $120,000 raised from 120 donors in 9 months
Pain point 1: Volunteers feel frustrated when they're not productive.
We once heard from an EverTrue board member, “You can’t bring a bunch of really smart people together and not have them do something.”
Volunteers want to feel useful. But, bringing together folks of different ages, backgrounds, skill sets, and tech-savviness, and getting them to collaborate towards a shared goal is no easy task.
Before using Volunteer by EverTrue, Emory Law alumni volunteers spent most of their meetings debating the various iterations of Excel spreadsheets.
Eventually, they migrated to google sheets, but it didn’t move the needle. As Jen Crabb Kyles explains, “They couldn’t figure out how to use the spreadsheet. They couldn’t figure out how to get into the spreadsheet. Every meeting was about the darn spreadsheet!”
With Volunteer by EverTrue, Jen leveled the playing field for her volunteers. The board members had one platform to log into, track their activity, and measure their progress towards their goals.
Weekly meetings that once centered around google spreadsheet updates now focused on substantive discussions about fundraising strategy and recaps of peer-to-peer fundraising conversations.
Productive volunteers = happy volunteers.
Pain point 2: Volunteers are skeptical of new tools.
Volunteers come from all different backgrounds. Some are more comfortable with adopting new tools than others.
If you arm your volunteers with a new tech tool and they experience friction in the login process, then you’ve gifted them an unnecessary point of frustration.
Daiijah Walker spent one hour training the team of six BLSA Alumni Board volunteers in the Volunteer by EverTrue tool. She, herself, had just received a super-quick training in the tool one week prior.
That’s a really tight training timeline, but the good news for everyone is that we built EverTrue to be completely intuitive and user-friendly, both for volunteers and the champions who manage them.
And here’s the proof.
Pain point 3: Volunteers' outreach messages are inconsistent.
When volunteers reach out to their peers, their messages should be personal and authentic. But, as official ambassadors of your school, they should also be legitimate and informed.
If volunteers have a solid go-to script of the main points they should cover in their outreach, then they are freed up to include more personalization in their messaging.
As a manager of volunteers, arming your champions with written scripts ensures standardization and accuracy in communicating your institution’s fundraising priorities, and it allows volunteers to add their own flair and personalization.
Jen and her team built out a series of A+ go-to scripts for their volunteers, uploaded supporting documents and suggested text in Volunteer by EverTrue, and then the group was off and running.
Pain point 4: Managing volunteers is time-intensive. And most teams are tight on time.
On small teams, resources are limited. So, when a team loses a coworker to high turnover rates, there often isn’t the budget to fill the temporary gap.
At Emory Law, the development officer originally tasked with overseeing the BLSA Scholarship crowdfunding effort left the team. And securing that person’s replacement was off the table due to COVID-19 budget cuts.
So, Jen and her colleague Daijah Walker, Advancement and Alumni Services Coordinator, stepped in to take over.
Resources were tight for Jen and Daijah. Their plates were already full. They had only 9 months to fully endow the new BLSA scholarship. The team didn’t have funds to hire a new team member, nor did they have bandwidth for extensive training in a new tech tool.
Thanks to training from their centralized Advancement Services team, Daijah and Jen got up-and-running in Volunteer by EverTrue in one day.
And then through Volunteer by EverTrue, they immediately had access to:
- Unlimited, flexible pools for volunteer and prospect management;
- Customizable viewing of data points (i.e. past giving history, past interactions) for volunteers;
- Automatic gift alerts when a prospect in a volunteer’s pool closed a gift;
- One-click reporting for pools and individual fundraiser activity;
- Exportable contact updates from volunteers.
The minimal onboarding process for Jen, Daijah, and their BLSA Board volunteers was key to getting these alums reaching out as quickly as possible.
Pain point 5: Volunteers are nervous to ask for money.
Even the most seasoned fundraisers often admit that it’s hard to ask for money.
So for a team of volunteers whose day jobs are not fundraising, asking their peers for philanthropic support can feel daunting or uncomfortable.
UNLESS they’re totally familiar with the cause they’re fundraising for (made possible by strong scripting) AND the folks they’re reaching out to (made possible by great segmentation).
Using Volunteer by EverTrue, the Emory Law team honed in on a target group of 350 top prospects for the BLSA Scholarship based on prior giving patterns, previous event attendance, and digital engagement
These 350 prospects were divided equally among the 6 BLSA Alumni Board volunteers and assigned for outreach.
Pain point 6: There's a lack of volunteer accountability.
Many volunteers have loads of intrinsic motivation. But still, it’s difficult to rally volunteers into action without clearly defined metrics and goals.
And even with advanced formulas and creative graphing, it’s hard to build a healthy sense of competition among group collaborators using Google Sheets.
In their weekly meetings with BLSA Board Member volunteers, Jen showed her Volunteer by EverTrue admin dashboard on the shared screen. All volunteers’ activities were shown side-by-side, so Jen could point out which volunteers were making the most calls, sending the most texts, and closing the most gifts.
(NB: To see “healthy” competition in action, try showing a virtual room full of lawyers their peers’ performance metrics.)
When an alum raises their hand and offers to serve in an alumni leadership capacity, it means that you just gained a champion who will fly your school’s flag in their social and professional circles. And it also means that, if you harness their energy and make the volunteer experience meaningful, your institution is very likely to benefit from their philanthropy in the future.
But so often, our volunteers feel frustrated by a lack of productivity, they try out new tech tools that don’t hit the mark, or they feel ill-prepared to ask their peers for philanthropic support.
Jen and the Emory Law team proved that, when given real-time information and mobile-first tools, volunteers can do amazing work that they feel really good about.
It’s possible to empower volunteers with a tool that gets them out of spreadsheets and into a dynamic pool in which they can view their assignments’ giving histories and contact information, log interactions, suggest contact updates, and measure their progress towards activity and fundraising goals.
And, it’s possible for two non-fundraisers to step in last-minute to manage a volunteer-led crowdfunding effort that blew past its original goal within a short period of time.
In Jen’s words, “This was a wonderful group of volunteers. But it was not until we used the EverTrue tool that we got to work! It was a game changer.”
It’s a privilege for us at EverTrue to step in as your “teammate” and help you change students’ lives, Jen and team!
NB: Emory plans to use the Volunteer by EverTrue tool for other crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising efforts. Next up is their EmoryLaw@Work program, through which they will empower their firm captains with assigned outreach to alums in their firms and peer firms. Stay tuned!