School Is In! Fundraising Opportunities for Advancement Departments


It’s that glorious time of year.  Summer has ended (okay, maybe not so glorious), but with September’s arrival comes the refreshing sense of getting back to business after a period of fun in the sun.  Of course, it also means students are back at school.  For some of our readers working in advancement and development at education organizations, that means a new cohort of students has just arrived.

A new school year comes with new fundraising opportunities. Here are a few ideas to consider.

Share Success Stories with Students, Alumni, Parents, and Stakeholders

Fundraising isn’t just about asking prospects to write a large check.  It’s about engaging with stakeholders, demonstrating the value of charitable gifts, and creating a case for ongoing support.  Some strategies you could employ include:

  • Host an Open House where parents and students can mingle, meet teachers and administrators, and learn more about the school’s mission and new initiatives
  • Launch an email newsletter to parents and other stakeholders sharing good news about your school’s athletic programs, test scores, personal stories, upcoming events, etc.
  • Personally thank new and recurring donors with letters, in-person visits, and invitations to school-related events.  Be sure to outline exactly how their donation has helped the school fulfill its mission.

Read more about how to effectively thank your donors here.

Stay Connected with Teachers

Teachers are often required to wear many hats: instructor, parent, counsellor, mediator, student, diplomat — the list goes on.  Teachers are not fundraisers and shouldn’t talk about donations during the next parent-teacher interview.  But since teachers are the eyes and ears of every school, their input could be critical to fundraising success.  Maybe they know groups of parents who are fully engaged and willing to support the school, but simply haven’t been identified by the fundraising team.

Run a Wealth Screen on New Parents

As we covered in a previous post, parents require less cultivation time than alumni.  When their child is enrolled in a private school, university, or college, a parent has a proven affinity to that institution.  If the parent is an alumnus, they may already know about the philanthropic opportunities the school offers.

However, few schools employ standard qualifications and solicitation strategies for parents.  In this case, a one-size-fits-all approach is not a good strategy.  As Tara Patel puts it, “When fundraising staff focus on these broad efforts, they can’t effectively cultivate the small handful of parents who might actually be able to give those five-, six-, or seven-figure gifts.”

As Patel explains, “Senior capstone gifts are only likely if the idea of such a gift has been introduced in their child’s first year and explored with a development officer in subsequent years.”

So take a look at next year’s incoming parents, or the parents of students just about to graduate.  Segment these parents into different groups.  Which parents have children enrolled without financial aid, and which have children attending the school on scholarship?  From here, run several iWave Screening projects for the segmented parent lists.  Which parents look most promising?

And Don’t Forget New Grandparents!

Many parents are likely in the “enterprise” or “dedication” stage of life.  While some may be great major gift prospects, some are too busy developing their career, building wealth, and taking care of family to prioritize philanthropy.

Grandparents, on the other hand, are often in the “wisdom and renunciation” stage.  They have amassed some retirement wealth and know they won’t be taking any of it with them when they pass away.  As their grandchildren grow, grandparents may be looking for opportunities to support the institutions that nurture the development of their grandchildren.  If you are going to prioritize donors among parents with a wealth screen, remember to run a separate screen for grandparents.

Engage VIPs at School Fundraisers

Knowing who is coming to your next fundraising event is priceless information. With enough time leading up to the event, you can gather critical fundraising intelligence about your guests. This research will help you identify VIPs who could be your next major gift donor.

  • Screen invitees to identify wealthy individuals with top donor potential (these are your event VIPs)
  • Share success stories and create a call-to-action for event guests.  Make time for board members and gift officers to mingle with VIPs.
  • Amend prospect profiles with any new information gathered at the fundraising event.  Thank guests for purchasing event tickets and attending.
  • Establish a timeline to follow-up with VIPs to cultivate larger gifts for new initiatives.

Invite New Alumni to Begin Their Philanthropic Career Today

New alumni may not be in major gift territory yet, but it’s important to stay up to date as they progress in their career.  Someday these alumni will be managing businesses, governments, and other nonprofits.

Before every fundraising campaign, update your contact information for alumni.  Generate or refresh iWave Scores for each alumnus.  Remember to set your affinity (such as Higher Education) and major gift threshold.  You have several options when gathering records to generate an iWave Score – you could perform a 360 Search, consult the Alumni tabs in datasets like RelSci and Thomson Reuters, create an automatic profile with customized settings, or a combination of any of these steps.

Consider reaching out to alumni to learn about their career and employer.  Does their company offer a gift matching program?  This could be a terrific opportunity to engage alumni and encourage them to start giving back (even in small amounts) while developing their careers.

 

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