How do you get college students up and out on Saturday morning to learn about fundraising for their charity of choice? You offer up a gourmet brunch at the esteemed faculty club with a personalized omelet station and a free long-sleeved t-shirt. And then you see what happens.

Luckily, the UK Center for Student Philanthropy staff was enthusiastic and prepared and on Saturday, November 16, fifty gathered to learn 6 Things Every College Student Should Know About Fundraising. Half of the discussion centered on careers in fundraising and how one traverses that path and the other half was a “how to” session for those less experienced in the field. Led by veteran fundraiser and UK graduate, Linda Wise McNay, Ph.D. of Our Fundraising Search in Atlanta, the group persevered to the end and stayed around for photos, a question and answer session and book signings.

A native of Lexington, Linda peppered her presentation with personal stories and anecdotes about her career that has led her to work in every sector and hold every development job. She now owns her own fundraising consulting business and is a regular presenter at conferences and for nonprofit client’s staff and boards.

30 years ago, Linda and her team at Georgia Tech created the Georgia Tech Student Foundation fashioned after the Georgia Tech Foundation and had students raising money from students and giving it back to deserving student organizations. At Emory University Linda worked with Freshman Seminar assuming that sharing her work with a small group of students and their families would help them become model alumni and give back to their alma mater after their own graduation.

At Pace Academy in Atlanta where her children attended, Linda worked with 9th graders in Public Speaking classes to share the campus capital campaign efforts. A whopping 95% of families participated in the annual fund and the capital campaign and Linda attributes the campaign success to student involvement.

Most recently, Linda and two colleagues wrote a children’s book The Adventures of PhilAnThropy which introduces readers to young friends Phil, An and Thropy as they embark on an adventure in philanthropy upon realizing their new friend needs a special chairlift to enjoy the neighborhood pool. When their combined allowances and birthday money are not enough, they launch a kid-friendly fundraising campaign with the support of friends, family and neighbors. During their journey, the friends learn that while each may only be able to contribute a little, they can make a big impact when combining their time, talents and treasure. Linda and her colleagues believe that it is never too early to start teaching about giving back.

Linda’s presentation to the UK students included current charitable giving statistics which show that individuals give the most each year, as opposed to corporations and foundations. The philanthropic process is about relationships more than money. Linda defined fundraising terms for the group from annual to capital to endowment. Linda shared the 3 Secrets of Raising Money which include a compelling case for support, strong leadership and a written strategy or plan. Using the words “would you consider” to preface an ask brings greater success in gifting. 

Attendees were given time to craft and practice their own “elevator speech”. The group discussed why donors give and the strategic actions of goal setting, prospecting/researching, cultivating, asking, stewarding and evaluating. 

Specific strategies covered included direct mail, telemarketing, grant writing, events, social media and personal solicitation. Students were encouraged to employ asking in person for best results. The goal is to get the right solicitor to ask the right prospect for the right amount for the right project at just the right time. Linda compared these possibilities to the moves you might make in a board game.

All attendees left at the end of the day with at least a one-page draft of a fundraising plan which included a goal, a case for support paragraph, a preliminary prospect list, suggested additional volunteers and a timetable. Students were encouraged to follow up with the speaker and other attendees with results and any lingering questions they might have.

What is great is that the information shared is evergreen. Whether the college students can immediately utilize these tips and tricks to raise funds now, the same rules apply for fundraising in the future for any boards they may join or future charities they may deem worthy. 

Linda McNay and Our Fundraising Search are dedicated to raising the next generation of fundraisers and philanthropists.