Raising funds is a team effort. Whilst the director of development can support, coordinate and instigate the activity, he or she needs the endorsement, support and cooperation of colleagues to successfully build a sustainable development practice.
Why Is It Important for Leaders and Academics to Get Involved?
The more leaders and academic staff become involved, the more they will understand development and pioneer culture change across the institution. As their understanding grows, they will begin to identify new development opportunities leading to donations or other partnerships.
Most high-level donors and prospects want to get to know the people to whom they are entrusting their money. They want to feel confident in the institution’s leadership and that their donation will be appreciated and used wisely.
A major donor’s relationship that is limited to her ties with the director of development is more tenuous and vulnerable to stagnation or failure. If the development director moves on or does not get on with the donor, for example, the institution will potentially lose this donor. It is important for prospects and donors to feel that their relationship is institution-wide.
The support of the leaders and academic staff adds credibility to an ‘ask’. They speak from positions of expertise and, by communicating their passion and enthusiasm, can motivate prospects to give.
Leaders and academic staff provide powerful eyewitness accounts to donors about the difference their support is making. These reports are great for donor stewardship and inspire further gifts.
When discussing an academically related gift, prospective donors often prefer to talk with academics fluent in the language of that particular discipline.
Major gift donors often view leaders and academic staff as peers, and peer-to-peer asking is very powerful.
Individuals in senior positions often expect to interact with the most senior individuals of an institution. Expecting them to interact with less senior staff can be inappropriate and can be perceived as insulting.
Leaders and academic staff bring a different perspective and can often suggest other ways for a donor or prospect to offer support through areas such as graduate recruitment and collaborative research.
The support and involvement of academic and senior staff increases the success rates of development activities.
Training and Support
Leaders and academics are not development professionals, and they approach fundraising with varying levels of empathy, knowledge and confidence.
Development directors need to share their expertise with leaders and academics and assist them by providing training, information and personal support. It is important that leaders and academics receive credit for their fundraising activities and that their successes are celebrated and noted.
The development office should make it as easy as possible for leaders and academics to be involved. Members of the development staff should take responsibility for any administrative or organisational activities and ensure that leaders and academics receive good briefings before, and prompt feedback following, prospect meetings.
The development office and leaders and academics need to forge a close professional relationship based on a mutual trust and understanding of the distinct skills and motivations each contributes.
As your fundraising strategy develops and key prospects are identified, work with the development director to identify key leaders and academics who best align with these strategies and prospects.
Articulate your vision to leaders and academics about why their support is critical.
Ensure there are clearly defined activities and simple processes in place – including strong training, preparation and follow-up provided by the development office – before leaders and academics are engaged.
Recognise and celebrate their contributions frequently.
The development director, your colleagues and donors alike will look to you for a bold, inspiring vision around why the institution is creating a development office and what the efforts of this office will help the institution accomplish.
This vision should integrate with the overall strategic vision of the institution, build upon its unique characteristics and strengths and focus on specific activities where philanthropy can make a significant difference.
It is your mission statement for development and should inspire both internal and external stakeholders to understand the impact development can have and make them to want to contribute towards achieving its goals.
The vision statement should encapsulate your development goals at the highest level and be reflected in your internal and external communications so its influence can be widely felt. (See ‘Sample Vision Statement’ below.)
Remember that your development vision should focus on those elements of the institution’s overall strategic goals that can form the basis of realistic fundraising projects that are appealing to your prospect pool. However, you may want to include one broad statement about the overall welfare of the institution and students, so as not to disregard all other areas of discipline for which other funding is needed (i.e., so that all funding does not become restricted on the institution’s top few focal areas).
With Whom Should You Be Sharing Your Vision and Priorities?
The senior staff should take collective responsibility for choosing fundraising priorities and projects through a transparent and equitable process, thus ensuring that they accurately represent the aspirations of the institution and all its members.
To be achievable, the vision and priorities need the support and buy-in of all staff. Staff should be formally briefed at staff meetings and inductions. The vision and priorities should be featured in the staff newsletter, on the intranet and website.
One university successfully held a ‘Philanthropy Day’, during which staff could hear about the institution’s vision and priorities, come to understand their role in development efforts and offer suggestions or ask questions.
It is also important to brief your governors, trustees or other semi-autonomous advisory boards. Ideally, they should be involved in the process of developing the vision. Working with the marketing and public relations office to develop core messages and internal and external marketing strategies will help you distil your vision and ensure it reaches as many audiences as possible.
Externally, you need to share your vision and priorities with:
The local community,
The general public,
The press — trade, local and national,
Academic collaborators and
Any other individual or organisation with whom you have a relationship with or would like to engage.
This can be a costly and complicated process. With careful planning, however, you can tailor your messages to make them appropriate to different audiences and make full use of electronic media and communications and pre-existing mediums (annual reports, graduation ceremonies and other events) to reduce costs.
Once you have articulated your vision and priorities, you should build your development strategy to reflect them. You should also remain agile enough to respond to donor-led requests.
Increasingly, high-value donors are taking an active role in how their donations might be spent to reflect their own strongly held vision and priorities. It is unlikely that any institution in receipt of such an offer will be unable to identify some shared priorities with the donor, but it is important to remain flexible and receptive to new ideas.
It is also important to be able to articulate the vision for the institution, but in a manner that inspires a donor to support that vision with core, unrestricted funding.
Strategic planning is an iterative process. Institutions need to review their vision and priorities regularly to ensure that they still reflect the strategic direction of the institution. Where possible, these reviews should involve both internal and external stakeholders.
Create a bold, inspiring vision that aligns with the institution’s priorities and vision.
Vet this vision with other key leaders, and then communicate it internally to get buy in.
Ensure the fundraising and development priorities mirror this vision and that the vision is reflected in activities and external communications.
By 2020, XYZ University aims to be celebrated internationally for its excellence in teaching and research, especially in the disciplines of medicine and health sciences. Its work will be expanding the boundaries of medical science and making a real difference to the health and well-being of people across the world. This will be achieved by:
Developing a £100m world-class teaching campus;
Recruiting 10 internationally renowned professors in health-related disciplines;
Funding five substantial research programmes in priority areas: ageing, cancer, mental health, child health and health education;
Creating 200 postgraduate scholarships and
Continuing to be dedicated to all student achievement.
Without the support and co-operation of academic and non-academic colleagues across the institution, the development office will fail to thrive.
New development offices often face resistance from colleagues who do not have the time or inclination to engage with development. It essential that the institution’s leader and other opinion formers are vocal and visible champions for development and create mechanisms to embed it within the working life and culture of the institution.
Making development part of your institution’s culture can be achieved in several ways:
Provide training for senior staff by offering training days, away days at comparable institutions either in your country or overseas, lunchtime seminars, presentations at staff meetings.
Give them the time to get involved. Most people are busy and have little capacity for new activities. Line managers should be encouraged to allow staff to find the time to prioritise development activities.
Reward involvement. Involvement in development activities could count toward promotion. When gifts come in, all those involved in the fundraising process should be acknowledged.
Embed development in existing activities, such as strategic or operational planning at the departmental level.
Celebrate fundraising success internally so that staff can see that their support of development activities has value not just to the institution but to their own working lives.
Talk freely, openly and proudly about the fundraising aspirations of the institution.
Include fundraising messages at public speaking engagements. Leave no one in any doubt that this is a priority for the institution’s leadership.
Don’t worry about winning everyone in one go. Identify one or two deans and faculties who are supportive and instruct the development office to work closely with them. Seeing the success of others can have a powerful influence, changing the views of less supportive colleagues.
Also encourage the development office to:
Make it easy for staff to get involved through simple, straightforward mechanisms (e.g., a simple online form where staff can send the development office the details about a new contact).
Partner with marketing and PR to have features in staff newsletters and on the intranet, travelling road shows or exhibitions around building foyers, etc.
Give examples of successful engagement through case studies and peer-to-peer briefings.
Organize staff visits.
Without the support of senior staff, development efforts become an isolated, ‘bolt on’ activity whose progress is stymied by uninterested colleagues and a lack of conviction.
Start with a few key institutional leaders as your development champions and work with them on a few key tactics that will have the greatest impact at your institution. Build momentum from there.
Actively engaged leaders and academic staff are critical to the success of the development office. They can be involved in development activities in numerous ways, which are perhaps best explored under the headings of the donor cultivation cycle:
Identification and research. Whom will you ask and what will you ask for?
Cultivation. Building relationships, engaging the prospect and preparing to make the ask.
Solicitation. Making the ask.
Stewardship. Recognition and continuing to engage donors – which leads back to identification and research, the first step in the donor cultivation cycle.
Leaders and academics can become attuned to identifying development opportunities from among the people and alumni they meet during the course of their work and through their personal and professional networks. Create a simple, straightforward process for them to share these opportunities and prospects with the development office.
The development office can also turn to leaders and academics for help when assessing the potential of prospects and the strength of a match between a prospect and a project.
During the cultivation phase, leaders and academics can support development efforts by engaging a prospect in the institution’s work. This can be as simple as meeting a prospect to discuss a research project, providing information for written communications, giving presentations, accompanying development staff on visits, signing letters or making phone calls.
For high-level prospects, cultivation efforts could be more in-depth, with activities such as hosting a visit or event, inviting a prospect onto an advisory board or meeting with a prospect regularly to discuss strategic issues.
The solicitation stage of fundraising can be daunting to some. It is at this stage that a strong working relationship between an academic or leader and the development director can pay dividends.
If the cultivation phase has been thorough, solicitation should feel like a natural progression and come as no surprise to a prospect.
Before the solicitation meeting, the leader or academic and the development director should agree upon:
Who should make the ‘ask’ and
What the possible outcome scenarios or responses might be.
Determining who makes the ask depends on the prospect. What are his interests? With whom does she have the strongest relationship?
Having the leader or academic make a peer-to-peer ask is generally the stronger option. If the leader or academic is unaccustomed to asking, however, the development director should coach him or her and provide opportunities to rehearse the ask in advance.
The cultivation process has already done the hard work. The ask simply provides an opportunity for prospects to support an institution they already value. The main purpose of the solicitation is to make this invitation – and then listen!
Even if leaders or academics are still uncomfortable with asking, they will be extremely valuable at the solicitation. Their presence instils confidence and lends credibility. And bear in mind that leaders and academics will feel more comfortable in a solicitation if they are donors themselves. Being donors increases their credibility and shows leadership and conviction.
After seeing the ask modelled, the leader or academic may feel more comfortable taking the lead in a future ask.
Stewardship is about nurturing your donor relationships, adopting best practice in the acceptance and administration of gifts and saying thank you.
Leaders and academics are vital to a successful stewardship programme, as they normally have a direct link to the projects that are benefitting from the donor’s gift and can offer thanks and feedback with credibility and sincerity.
Good stewardship is important for all gifts, regardless of their monetary value. Expressing gratitude and offering feedback ensures that the donor has a positive giving experience, which will influence their future giving behaviour (i.e., how they feel about being cultivated for future gifts) and what they will say about your institution to other prospective donors.
Stewardship guidelines will help manage the expectations of donors and the time of the leaders and academics involved. These guidelines will also help ensure that levels of stewardship are appropriate to levels of giving. A high-value donor may expect a personal thank you dinner with the vice-chancellor, whereas donors who contribute at lower levels might feel it is sufficient if they are thanked by a phone call or email from a current student.
Remember, a well-stewarded donor will retain a high level of warmth toward an institution and is more likely to give larger or more frequent gifts and to maintain a relationship with an institution for a long time. Also, existing donors are far more likely to give again than a new prospect is likely to begin giving.
Investment in stewardship is an essential component of a sustainable fundraising plan. As an institutional leader, you need to make time for it.
To support the role of leaders and academics role in the cultivation process, ensure that there are clearly defined activities and simple processes in place for every stage (including strong training, preparation and follow-up provided by the development office).
Reiterate the value of leaders’ and academics’ involvement throughout the process, and recognize their success!
Maintaining realistic expectations about what a start-up development office can achieve is important. By expressing these expectations as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you can monitor progress toward achieving them.
It is also important to set some ground rules from the start to establish good working practices and the strong foundation required to underpin performance. For example, you might come up with an agreement around how the development office makes best use of the vice-chancellor or principal’s time – by providing ‘just in time’ briefings, by giving as much notice as possible of events, etc.
Regular, open discussions between the institution’s leader and the director of development are critical to maintaining focus and momentum.
Key Performance Indicators
While an office is establishing itself, the emphasis of monitoring should be focused on levels of activity rather than income. A fledgling office is unlikely to have sufficient mature relationships with prospects to draw in significant levels of income.
Criteria that can be measured in the early stages might include:
The number of people the development office staff are in contact with,
How often they contact people,
How often they meet with prospects and
The number of asks they make.
There might also be some very specific KPIs relating to the particular circumstances of each individual office, such as:
The volume of data ‘cleaned’,
The number of lost alumni ‘recovered’,
The number of staff recruited and inducted,
The number of internal engagement meetings held,
Progress toward articulating the case for support and
Progress toward establishing systems, processes and policies.
KPIs should reflect the individual circumstances and goals of each development office. They should be agreed upon rather than imposed and should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they continue to be appropriate.
As an office matures and financial KPIs become more prominent, make sure these not only relate to the value of gifts but to their future sustainability. For example:
Total gift income – split into single gifts and regular gifts
Total number of gifts
Total number of donors – subdivided relating to the amount they gave
You may have circumstances where you have a fantastic total gift amount but it comprises three one-off gifts from three donors who are unlikely to give again. Looking at where the gifts come from as well as their value is a better indicator of the success and the future outlook of the office.
You might also want to split your financial reporting into sources – annual fund, major gifts from individuals, corporate gifts, income from trusts and income from legacies. By doing this, you should be able to work out (at least roughly) the return on investment for each method of fundraising that will help inform your future investment strategies.
Any KPIs you decide upon should be used as the basis for targets for development staff, but these targets should be realistic. A newly appointed development director is unlikely to be able to fit in 200 donor visits in the first year, for example, as he or she will be busy establishing the office and unlikely to have sufficient known prospects to visit.
Talking to other development offices and looking at benchmarking data from comparable institutions should help you to set targets and KPIs that are realistic and achievable.
When defining your relationship, roles and responsibilities with the new director of development, make sure expectations are put into concrete KPIs that are appropriate for the stage of your office, mirror your fundraising efforts and development office priorities and are agreeable to both parties.
Set ground rules to establish good working practices between the institutional leader and the development director, as well as between the development office and other institutional staff.
Please note that the term advancement is often used when talking about fundraising in an educational context. As defined by CASE, the term encompasses alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and allied areas.
Whilst this resource touches on all areas of advancement, its primary focus is on fundraising, or development. The terms development office and development director have been adopted to reflect this approach.
Many institutions have broad-based advancement offices, and the CASE website provides in-depth guidance on the wider aspects of advancement, including alumni relations, communications and marketing.