Fundraising can present many dilemmas, and institutional leaders must be prepared to answer difficult questions and address misconceptions both from among their own colleagues and from potential supporters.
These questions and misconceptions must be taken seriously and addressed thoughtfully. The right answers will reassure sceptics and help build the mutual trust that is essential to successful fundraising.
Some of the more commonly posed questions and misconceptions an institutional leader might encounter include:
Why are we raising funds? Won’t the government use fundraising as an excuse to reduce their investment?
I am an academic, not a fundraiser. Why should I get involved with fundraising?
How do I know that you will spend my donation wisely and on the things that interest me?
Why should I support you and not another university or charity?
If you believe so strongly in your cause, do you give money yourself?
Is there anyone you wouldn’t ask for support?
These donors will be telling us how to run the institution, what to research and what to teach if we are not careful.
Why are you asking me for support and not [insert name]?
I already invest in your research programmes and recruit your graduates. Is that not enough?
Fundraising is expensive, and all the fundraisers seem to do is stand about at cocktail parties chatting to people and take long overseas trips. Why should I give you money if that is what you will spend it on?
How you address these issues depends on the characteristics of your individual circumstances and institution. Having a strong framework of policies and procedures in place will help strengthen your credibility and provide the evidence you need to back up your responses.
Review these questions and make sure you have sound policies and procedures in place.
Certain development and fundraising activities are regular, systematic processes that need policies and procedures to run smoothly and maintain the highest standards of professionalism and integrity. Having well-written policies and procedures:
Provides prospects and donors with reassurance that their gifts will be handled by a ‘safe pair of hands’,
Creates a culture of transparency and accountability,
Helps institutions meet their legal and financial obligations to the authorities,
Aids staff induction and training,
Helps embed advancement into the institution,
Aids planning, as it forces institutions to consider their response to various situations (for example, how to reject an unsuitable donation),
Ensures continuity of practice despite inevitable staff turnover or other changes,
Ensures a consistency of practice,
Sets minimum standards,
Protects the reputation of the institution and
Avoids crisis management situations.
Policies and procedures should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect current best practice and legislation. They should also be simple to understand and widely shared and enforced. They should form part of daily practice rather than be esoteric reference documents.
What Policies and Procedures Does an Institution Need?
An institution needs to develop its own individual approach to policies and procedures. Numerous examples of policies and procedures are available in the public domain and through organisations like CASE.
Instead of adopting generic policies and procedures, your institution should develop or adapt new versions to reflect its individual and particular circumstances.
An institution is likely to have pre-existing policies and procedures that might be suitably adapted to incorporate development activities. Most educational institutions will have an ethics policy, for example, that could be extended to embrace development.
A typical suite of policies and procedures might include these topics:
Accountability. Who has decision-making responsibility? Is there a right of appeal against decisions? Who is responsible for making sure that accounting standards are met and ethical policies are adhered to?
Ethics/Conflict of interest. Ensure your institution’s code of ethics/conflict of interest policies take into account development-related relationships and activities. Also review any general principles of practice, such as whistleblower policies, with a development lens.
Endowments. As it is the role of leadership to determine if there is an endowment, ensure that policies relating to investment and spending are in place if one is established.
Gift fees. As it is the role of leadership to determine if there are gift fees, ensure that policies and procedures about the investment and allocation of any fees are in place.
Gift acceptance and gift agreements. From whom should you accept gifts? What types of gifts should you accept and for what purposes? For example, should you accept money from tobacco retailers to support sports scholarships? At what point is a gift deemed ‘accepted’, and once the gift is accepted, what obligations does the institution undertake to ensure it is processed, acknowledged and used appropriately? Are there categories of ‘gifts in kind’ or ‘gifts of property’ that you will and will not accept? Will you retain the items or will you sell them immediately? When will a gift agreement be used?
Due diligence. How will the institution know if a gift comes from a reputable source?
Recognition. How will gifts be recognised? Are there naming policies and opportunities for different levels of gifts?
Data protection. How will the institution protect the privacy of donors? How will requests for anonymity be handled?
Political activities. Guidelines for political activities include those for use of resources, fundraising and gift restrictions, lobbying rules, appearances by candidates, etc.
Make sure you have sound policies and procedures in place.
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.