Send Your Students to NCCWSL in 4 Steps
So you’re ready to transform your students into the next generation of leaders at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). That’s fantastic! But where do you begin?
We interviewed a few of NCCWSL’s longest-serving and most successful campus professionals to discover their secrets to success. Below, please find the four steps they outlined for sending you and your students to NCCWSL.
We’ve also outlined how to set stretch goals and take these steps to the next level in order to make even more of an impact.
Step 1: Build your NCCWSL network.
Across the board, our experts agree that it takes a village to send a group to NCCWSL. You’ll want to start by collaborating with others to build your NCCWSL team. Team members can help you secure funding, select students, and thank donors after NCCWSL. Team members who are campus professionals might even attend or present at NCCWSL. Your ideal NCCWSL team should include key allies from each of the following areas, especially if they are or have access to budget managers:
Department of student life or student affairs
Reach out to the athletics department, campus women’s center, the vice president of student affairs, chief of staff, and student government advisers, fraternity and sorority advisers, or diversity and multicultural affairs staff who share your passion for empowering student leaders on campus.
Staff in women’s studies, gender studies, and/or LGBT studies are all great candidates for NCCWSL support, as are those in leadership centers and programs. These departments might already have funding baked into their budget that hasn’t been appropriated yet. Now, you have their perfect solution.
AAUW branches and states
Local AAUW branches and state organizations are great places to start if you need help with NCCWSL funding. Our members love NCCWSL and are often inspired to create their own scholarship initiatives to help send students. They can also help review applications during the student selection process (see step four). Reaching out to your branch, state, or AAUW college and university (C/U) chair is a good place to start.
Stretch goal: Formalize your team into an official, college/university-supported NCCWSL committee that remains engaged every year. The department of student affairs or student life is a likely candidate to support your efforts.
Take it to the next level: Increase your reach by diversifying your team; you should have members from all levels at the school, especially those with more influence like vice presidents and deans. You’ll also want professors, advisers, department chairs, program directors, and campus administrators from all areas of campus. Keep everyone engaged throughout the process — it will reap big rewards!
Step 2: Develop your budget and fundraising goals.
You’ve got your committee. Now put them to work.
Set a budget.
Set a working budget to know how much money you’ll need to support your group (and don’t forget to include yourself). This budget should be updated as you move forward and your goals grow. Download this rough sample budget, customized for three different parts of the country (East Coast, West Coast, and Central). West Coast pro tip: You’ll want to book cross-country flights early and watch for great deals; sometimes individuals may even donate their miles to pay for flights.
Develop your supporter list.
Your supporter list should begin with all of the departments brainstormed in step one. Ask yourself who has a budget (or access to a budget) that might support you and your students going to NCCWSL. Try to assign each prospective funder to a person on your NCCWSL team who has a connection to that potential funder. Those connections can provide leverage when making the ask (step three).
Here are a few other places to look for NCCWSL support:
- Law schools, business schools, and any academic departments or programs that might have large budgets
- Alumni of sororities, fraternities, honorary societies, or leadership programs
- A local AAUW branch (It may consider creating its own scholarship program.)
Stretch goal: Is your school an AAUW C/U member? Budget to send a group of four or more people to NCCWSL, and you’ll get a 15 percent discount on registration.
Take it to the next level: Local businesses or foundations associated with your college/university could be huge assets, but they typically want to see a clear return on investment (see pro tip three below).
Step 3: Make the ask and then follow up.
You’ve got your committee, your budget, and your leads. Now, let’s get your group funded! Our experts outlined two key ways to make the ask: in person or over the phone. Make sure you practice so that your pitch feels professional and organized.
Your students can fundraise, too!
Here’s a great resource with budget-friendly tips for funding their NCCWSL experience.
Putting your pitch together
Our experts agree: A great funding pitch includes a few key elements.
Focus on the facts.
- NCCWSL is national. Students come from all 50 states and around the world.
- NCCWSL is in a class of its own. NCCWSL has been a top women’s leadership conference for the past three decades. It is the only national conference for college women that features major speakers, unparalleled networking opportunities, more than 50 skill-building workshops for students and professionals, and the opportunity to visit the nation’s capital.
- NCCWSL is diverse. Women of color make up more than 50 percent of attendees.
- NCCWSL builds leaders. Ninety-four percent of attendees report leaving NCCWSL with the confidence to improve issues on campus and in their communities.
- NCCWSL transforms lives. Add a student quote about how NCCWSL will transform her future.
Attach NCCWSL to a larger initiative.
Connect this conference to your shared goals, like leadership development, retention, or the empowerment of underrepresented groups on your campus. For example, is there a leadership program or class for which NCCWSL can be a capstone event?
Focus on the return on investment.
What will your funder get in return for their support? Explain to your potential sponsors how the students will give back to their communities (more on this below).
Help them visualize the students they would be supporting.
- Know the type of student you’ll select, and make that profile attractive to the funder. Criteria could include GPA, courses taken, demonstrated leadership, faculty recommendations, and/or an essay (see step four).
- Add a quote, directly from a student, about how NCCWSL will transform her future.
- Share NCCWSL videos! We recommend sharing “Leaders aren’t born. They’re made — at NCCWSL” in your initial invitation and our women of distinction video in your follow-up after you’ve talked.
Know your target.
Every department has its own budget, so you’ll need to ask for a specific dollar amount in funding. Before asking, make a judgment call based on your budget goals and the amount you think each supporting department or program is able to give. You always want to ask on the higher end of what you think is reasonable, and you can negotiate down if necessary.
Follow up on yeses and noes
If they said yes: “Thanks so much! We look forward to a great group at this year’s NCCWSL, and I can’t wait to show you how your support has made a difference. Who should I follow up with to manage funds? Who else do you think would like to be involved?”
If they said no: See if you can find out why.
- Budget constraints: “Would you be able to support us at a lower amount?” Have a lower amount ready to propose. Perhaps they will support one student instead of multiple.
- Don’t understand the program or its value: Return to previous steps, reiterate the facts, and reference the videos if necessary.
- Not interested: “Thanks for your time. Who else should we talk to, and can we reach out again next year?”
Stretch goal: Formalize the funding. Bake NCCWSL costs into your budget and encourage your funders to do the same!
Take it to the next level: Start playing the long game. Invite next year’s potential funders to this year’s return-on-investment event (see the third example under pro tip three), then follow up with your first funding ask.
Step 4: Select your NCCWSL group
It’s decision time. Who gets to go with you to NCCWSL? Below, find a couple application models that our experts found effective — either together or separately — plus some tips on your selection process.
Application model one: Have students apply via an internal application.
Some key elements to a good application
- Include an essay and a rubric
- Some essay questions to consider
- How are you a leader on campus or in your community?
- What do you hope to gain from going to NCCWSL?
- How do you define leadership?
- How will you apply what you learn at NCCWSL to make a positive impact in your campus community?
Application model two: Have faculty recommend students via an internal referral form.
A simple nomination form housed on your school’s internal system, or something like a Google Form, can help you source great students whom you might not have considered on your own.
Combined with a student application process, this model is very effective.
Advice on student selection
This is another great opportunity to engage your committee and potentially expand your network. You should try to involve your local AAUW branch and/or your contributors in the NCCWSL attendee selection process.
Stretch goal: If you’ve been to a few NCCWSLs, include superstar NCCWSL alumnae in your selection process.
Take it to the next level: Include interviews in your selection process. It’s a good way for you to get more information about your potential group members, especially if you’re undecided. Plus, it’s a valuable opportunity for applicants to practice their interview skills.
After these four steps, you and your students will be on your way to NCCWSL! Now it’s time for the main event. Here are a few tips on how to make sure you and your students make the most of the conference.
Pro tip 1: Host a pre-NCCWSL orientation.
This is especially important for nontraditional, commuter, or community college students, since they’ll be staying on campus at the University of Maryland’s residence halls and eating in the dining hall. Some topics to cover include team building, travel logistics, campus culture shock (using the dining hall, sharing a room, and so on), a tentative selection of workshops, expectations, how to network on site, and work-life balance and self-care if you run out of steam.
Pro tip 2: You’re coming too, right?
Having campus professionals at the conference — both as chaperones and for professional development — was a key point of agreement for our experts. NCCWSL has networking opportunities and a full workshop track specifically designed for campus professionals. But some of the experts’ biggest takeaways were outside of the formal program. Maybe it’s the new idea that another campus professional shared on the way back from a pre-conference event, or the inspirational story a student told. Whatever it may be, every year our professionals come back with new benefits from their attendance.
Taking the bus home? Your students are likely abuzz with fresh ideas and new motivation. Guide the discussion and help frame it in terms of how they can implement that new idea or fresh motivation on campus or in their local community. It’ll pay back in your follow-up to funders.
Stretch goal: Contribute to the content of the program! Ask your admissions office to be a part of the grad school fair at NCCWSL or to present a workshop. Your recruiters will thank you, and you’ll get a chance to try out new curricular material or show off some expertise that you can’t always flaunt at your day job.
Take it to the next level: Add an extra night to your group’s registration, and use the extra time to debrief the conference and/or explore Washington, D.C.
Pro tip 3 (Don’t skip this one!): Demonstrate the return on investment
Your supporters will want to see their return on investment, plus it will help your students make meaning of their experience and provide a great opportunity to advertise to future donors and participants the value of the NCCWSL experience.
- Have your students write a reflection paper for you when they get home.
In addition to cementing what your group members learned, these papers can become gold mines. Use the students’ testimonials to get buy-in from your school’s administration or other funders in future years.
- During the fall semester, have your NCCWSL attendees take on a new project on campus or in their community.
This hands-on learning opportunity will help put what they learned at NCCWSL into action. These opportunities are also wonderful demonstrations of NCCWSL’s transformative effects to potential committee members, donors, and students. AAUW’s wide-ranging campus leadership programs are an excellent place to start.
- Host an event with attendees to discuss what they learned and how they’re putting that knowledge into action.
Want to get someone on board with funding next year’s group? Invite them to this event. It will also hold your students (and, by extension, yourself) up as leaders in their community and give them great public speaking and presentation experience.
Stretch goal: Invite your students’ favorite NCCWSL speaker or Woman of Distinction to your campus, and make sure she mentions where you found her!
Take it to the next level: Make NCCWSL the capstone experience of a yearlong leadership program. Best of all, this program may already exist on your campus — it just needs a better capstone. If not, you’ve already got a lot of the structures in place to create your own.
Starting again at step one, of course! This time, implement lessons you learned along the way, and embrace a few of our stretch goals to take it to the next level with a new prospective supporter. In time, we may even reach out to you for your expert advice!
NCCWSL … it’s leadership redefined. Make sure your students don’t miss this opportunity!
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