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May 15, 2013 / christinazuniga

Fundraising Mistake: Cannibalizing Volunteers to Create Donors

The CSUN Helpline is a Non-Profit crisis phone hotline associated with California State University, Northridge but not exclusively utilized or staffed by students. Although they are able to fund their call center in full, they frequently find their overall fundraising efforts frustrated. Their primary issue occurs when using the same volunteer base for physical volunteer work as well as financial donation.

Roughly 90% of the volunteers are current and former students, which is a demographic that generally does not have significant disposable income. Due to the sensitive nature of calls, the anonymity of the callers, and the potential safety issues, volunteers are often hesitant to announce their membership in the CSUN Helpline. Membership lists are protected which means that mass advertising of a fundraiser could expose the identities of participating members. This has caused many fundraisers to stay within the volunteer base and their closest friends.

This results in volunteers who contribute many hours of their time in a high stress environment  to benefit the community while being asked to donate financially as well. Meanwhile, the community is halted from assisting the Non-Profit due to privacy concerns.


In most situations, members of a community supply resources to help support the people or organizations that inject those resources back into the community. It’s a healthy, symbiotic relationship.

While many volunteers are happy to donate in a variety of ways, it is not reasonable to expect volunteers to support an organization physically and financially with no assistance from outside of the organization.


One solution proposed by an interested party was to ask a local radio station to host a fundraiser over the air. Donations could be called in or pledged while a member of the organization could answer questions. This would sustain the privacy of members, involve the community, raise funds, and promote awareness of the organization. At this time the radio fundraiser has not been attempted, although I suggested it as well as gave CSUN Helpline leadership contact details to the local radio station.


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