Advancement is a broad term that can cover many (largely externally facing) functions, such as:
Enterprise and commercialisation,
Government relations and
Why You Should Collaborate
To be effective, fundraising professionals need to understand the purpose and activities of these other functions – whether these functions are under one office or many within the institution. Strong communication and a spirit of collaboration among these functions will enable an institution to:
Identify and cultivate more prospects,
Maximise resources and opportunities (e.g., shared events, publications),
Present to the outside world a professional, united front,
Concentrate collective effort on areas of greatest benefit for the institution,
Develop an integrated advancement strategy and
Encourage supporters toward institution-wide relationships rather than relations with individual staff.
As you begin to understand the goals and activities of other advancement-related departments, you will find countless ways to incorporate fundraising efforts whilst helping these departments achieve their own goals.
Alumni events will be held, magazine and press releases will be written, community outreach will take place, regardless of development goals. Why not have these efforts support your fundraising cultivation and stewardship efforts?
Here are some ways to partners with other departments::
Include a fundraising ‘ask’ at alumni events, or at least collect updated contact information and areas of interest to determine potential prospects.
Feature a new project on your website, in your alumni magazine or in a press release to lay the foundation for an upcoming campaign appeal.
Use postings on a Facebook page to challenge alumni to raise funds (and give regular updates).
Work with colleagues in the enterprise and commercialisation office to broaden relationships with corporate partners (e.g., do the partners have a charitable foundation?).
Internally, institutions can support cross-function co-operation by:
Developing a single contacts database,
Encouraging the sharing of data,
Creating formal and informal opportunities for colleagues to share information and advance joint initiatives (e.g. a monthly meeting with all advancement-related departments to share significant goals and activities and to determine how to best leverage and collaborate on mutual goals),
Providing opportunities for cross-training and secondments,
Physically co-locating different functions,
Sharing common functions, such as administration and financial processing, between functions and
Merging the reporting lines of related functions.
The director of development should determine with other directors of advancement-related departments how they can regularly interact to best share information and collaborate on mutual goals and activities so that every department is maximising its time, resources and results.
Most development directors will say that without the support of the institution’s leadership, development and fundraising at the institution will not thrive.
Most leaders are committed to supporting their development directors, but maintaining that critical level of commitment and interest over time can be challenging.
A development director needs to invest as much in the relationship with his or her institutional leader as in the relationship with the institution's best donor. Regularly updating and engaging institutional leadership will enable those leaders to be stronger champions for your efforts.
This support can be achieved in a number of ways:
Deliver frequent, appropriate and timely communications. The leaders of institutions are extremely busy and need information to be given to them in ways that are easily accessible and timely (e.g., an executive summary with thoughtful notes versus a lengthy report to read).
Put formal reporting and monitoring mechanisms in place. Establish what report your leader would like and when (e.g., a quarterly financial report for the quarterly finance review or a biweekly one-page summary of department activities, progress and action items). Agree on what is appropriate, and stick to the regime.
Make your expectations clear and establish boundaries. It can be daunting for a new development director to demand time from an institution’s leader, but it must be done. Development directors have a responsibility to give leaders a clear indication of the time they need to set aside and to make sure that this time is used wisely.
Make it easy for your institution’s leader to be involved in the fundraising process, but remember that they may be new to this process and require your support whilst they build their own experience.
Identify appropriate training for your leadership team and encourage them to network with leaders of comparable institutions to understand and share best practices.
Do not keep serious issues from your leadership team. Share significant challenges with them and engage them in finding solutions before issues escalate and become a threat to the institution.
Respect one another’s expertise and skills.
Celebrate and recognize successes often!
Prioritize the relationship with institutional leadership (as you would an major donor). The more leaders are engaged in an efficient and meaningful way, the better they can support your success.
When forging this relationship, ask about expectations and preferred communication, engagement and reporting methods. Check in regularly to see if these expectations are being met and methods still effective.
Development efforts will only succeed with strong leadership and the co-operation of colleagues across the institution.
Engaging academic colleagues in development activities is vital. Their involvement is needed to ensure that fundraising projects not only appeal to prospects but also further the mission of the institution. They can also speak passionately and knowledgeably to prospects about their work.
Academics are busy, have limited knowledge of development activities and may retain some scepticism about their effectiveness. To work well with your academic colleagues, whether they are eminent professors or early stage career researchers, you will need to:
Educate them about the purpose and benefits of development. Talk to them, present at staff meetings, invite their input, share information about development activities and successes, listen to and address their concerns.
Respect the other demands upon their time – teaching, research, enterprise and administration.
Respect their expertise.
Make their involvement in development as easy as possible.
Engage them in the development of fundraising projects.
Engage them in the development of cultivation and solicitation strategies.
Value any information or contacts they share with you and keep them informed of how these contacts are managed.
Give them credit when they assist in a fundraising or alumni activity
How Can Academics Contribute?
Academics can contribute to development activities in a number of ways, depending on their comfort level. Typical ways for academics to be involved include:
Identifying potential supporters,
Providing information for proposals or alumni communications,
Attending a ‘meet and greet’ with prospects and senior alumni,
Acting as a host at events,
Serving as a ‘tour guide’ of research and campus facilities,
Presenting to trusts and foundations,
Explaining the technical aspects or impact of their research,
Providing support at solicitation meetings,
Providing information to support stewardship,
Helping to identify fundraising projects,
Gathering and sharing information about possible and known prospects and
Identifying suitable students to introduce to donors and prospects.
Easing the Way
The easier you can make getting involved for an academic, the more likely they will be to offer their co-operation. Guidelines to keep in mind:
Respect the academic timetable and avoid asking academics for their help around peak periods of activity, such as exam marking.
Give as much notice as you can about events, meetings and other calls on their time.
Be clear and concise about the extent and purpose of their involvement.
Provide them with detailed briefings in a format that is most useful to them – electronically, over the phone or in a printed folder.
Take responsibility for any travel, hospitality or other organisational details.
Act as a note taker at meetings involving the academic. Share the notes and actions from the meeting and support the academic in fulfilling any actions.
Ensure that you chose the right time to introduce your academic to a prospect (e.g., that your prospect has been researched and communicated with enough to spend the meeting focused on the academic’s work/project the donor is considering funding and not focused on basic information about the institution). Be confident that the ‘match’ between the two is right and that you are effectively using everyone’s time.
Consider whether it has to be the lead academic involved or whether he or she might be able to delegate the task to someone from his or her team.
Keep academics informed of the outcome of the activity they have been involved with, so they can gain an understanding of the whole development process rather than just the element they are involved in (and hopefully see the impact their contribution has made).
Say thank you!
If their work does benefit financially from their involvement in fundraising then make sure they receive this benefit promptly.
As you develop your fundraising strategy, determine how academics can best contribute.
Engage, train and support a few key members that best align with your strategy and fundraising priorities. If these academics have a successful experience working with the development office, they will become your champions to help other academic colleagues become engaged as your prospects, strategies and priorities advance.
A key component of development is securing financial gifts. The efficient accounting and reporting of gifts is critical because it reassures the donor that they are dealing with a professional organisation, and it means that you can:
‘Count’ the money received to know how much you have raised to date,
Generate reports and share information on your fundraising status/success,
Deal with the wide range and volume of gifts – from more than £1 million to just £1 dropped in a collecting tin,
Meet your obligations to the financial and charity regulators,
Make sure that income designated for particular projects is restricted for those projects,
Invest endowment funds wisely and
Fundraise tax efficiently.
Establishing the Relationship
A newly appointed director of development should meet with the director of finance to pool their knowledge and understanding of the management of fundraising income. Some key questions to discuss are:
Does the institution already have any philanthropic income? How is this identified and accounted for?
Does the institution have an appropriate level of expertise in charity law, taxation and finance to support a growing level of philanthropic income or is there a training requirement?
Who will be responsible for receiving and processing donations?
Does the current finance system allow income to be restricted for special projects and carry forward from one accounting year to the next?
Is the institution familiar with government funding incentives or matched funding schemes (e.g., Gift Aid in the UK)?
Does the finance office have capacity to support the development office or are there some staffing issues to resolve?
Where should the boundaries of responsibility lie?
How are pledged gifts accounted for?
Are there any IT infrastructure issues that need to be overcome to enable communication between the two offices?
Once this initial discussion has taken place, the two directors need to work together on a strategy to establish a strong working relationship. An initial decision is whether the balance of finance management should fall in the development or finance office responsibilities.
Some larger development offices have their own finance teams who work closely with the institution’s finance office; others just do gift processing and rely on the finance office for the management accounts. Some rely totally on the finance office for everything from gift receipts to annual returns.
Staff members in both the development and the finance office need to develop a strong understanding of the journey a gift makes through the finance systems from the moment it is pledged to its receipt, recording and processing and ultimately to when it is spent. This journey needs to be transparent and accountable.
Identifying Previous Donors
When you start your development office, you must determine who has given to your institution previously. The finance office may be the most likely place for you to find this information.
Advising on Budget Development and Management
The finance director is a great source of help and advice when you are preparing your budgets. He or she will be able to offer insight into what level of funding is feasible and assist you to gather financial data to support your bids for further investment. The finance director will also have advice on how to best manage your budget on an ongoing basis.
Your finance office will be best placed to help you to measure your progress by generating reports. It will also be able to work with you to provide the relevant returns to organisations such as:
Government or charity regulators (e.g., the Charity Commission in the UK),
The Ross-CASE survey,
Higher education funding councils,
Larger trusts and foundations and
Your institution’s board of directors.
Advising on Endowment Fund Investments and Gift Fees
As your development activities mature, your institution may find that it is able to build up an endowment fund to support its long-term ambitions (or may elect to have a gift fee).
Your institution needs to decide what percentage of the interest generated through endowment investments (or fees) can be spent or will be reinvested, and what the criteria for expenditure should be. An endowment policy or gift fee policy will also need to be established.
Colleagues in the finance office play an important role in devising the best investment strategies to nurture this endowment. They will also be able to assist in recruiting external advisers as appropriate, and to help establish policies and endowment administration procedures.
Making It Work
You will have a successful working relationship with your finance office if:
You communicate frequently and openly,
You respect each other’s expertise,
You have mutual understanding of each other’s objectives,
The boundaries of responsibility are clear and
The level of service each can expect is clear.
Establish a relationship with the finance office early on – defining roles and responsibilities, outlining the procedures for processing a gift, identifying past donors, learning about the budgeting process and reporting obligations, determining how you will work together, etc. The strength of this relationship is critical.
The human resources (HR) function of your institution is an important ally as you establish a successful development team.
The role of HR often includes:
Coordinating (or even leading, depending on the staff position and office capacity) the staff hiring process,
Serving as a resource as you determine the positions for which to hire (short- and long-term), your staff budget and even specific candidate criteria,
Developing job descriptions,
Identifying internal candidates for new positions who are currently employed elsewhere in the institution,
Managing financial and legal paperwork for new hires,
Designing new staff induction and training programmes,
Designing staff strengthening activities and
Helping you learn to manage a growing number of people.
To work effectively with your HR colleagues, share your development strategy – not only for the current year, but your three- to five-year growth strategy or vision – and use their expertise to determine the best staffing structure to accomplish your goals and activities. It often helps to identify a primary point of contact in the HR office with whom you can establish a good relationship and who understands what you are trying to achieve.
The expertise of your HR colleagues could also be helpful in developing ways to recognize and reward academics and other institutional staff members (e.g., recognition in the promotions exercise or equivalent) to incentivize participation in development activities.
And, as your development activities evolve, you are likely to be fundraising for income to support new staff positions such as professorships or research posts. The HR office can help you to ‘cost’ these projects accurately and assist in the recruitment of the most appropriate people.
Before you start hiring - find a point of contact in the HR department with whom you can share your strategy, get advice, determine the structure of your working relationship and establish responsibilities.
Separate from your institution’s governing board (i.e., board of trustees or directors), which is responsible for the overall guardianship of the institution's assets and management, the development office may elect to create a volunteer advisory board that focuses solely on helping improve the performance of fundraising.
Before establishing an advisory board, carefully weigh its role, the benefits of having such a board and the demands that will go with it.
Role and Benefits of an Advisory Board
Advisory board members should be your leading ambassadors, most loyal supporters, most trusted advisers and sternest critics. They can:
Provide objective guidance and feedback on the development strategy,
Identify donor prospects and introduce them to the institution,
Cultivate prospects through events, campus visits, communications, etc.,
Solicit prospects by helping the development director make the ask,
Inspire prospects by becoming donors themselves and encouraging others to follow their example,
Support stewardship activities,
Assess the progress of development activities against the agreed milestones and help identify appropriate future action,
Bring expertise and networks to supplement your in-house resources,
Be your champion and help you develop your case for support and
Bring prestige and credibility if well-known and respected.
Demands of an Advisory Board
Although there are many benefits to having a volunteer advisory board, be aware that this body can be extremely time-consuming from a management and administrative perspective, as you must produce appropriate paperwork, recruit members, provide training and organize service meetings. You must also offer your volunteers the highest level of stewardship.
Cautiously determine the best time, structure, size and responsibilities of the advisory board before creating one. Here are some questions you might ask yourself:
Should you wait until after the start-up phase or do you need the support early on?
Do you have a current donor who could help lead or chair the board (possibly one involved in the feasibility study)?
Should you start with four or five members and then expand as you have the capacity to manage more people?
Do you have a clearly defined role with a few key activities for a board to initially focus on?
Who Should Be on the Board?
Board members can be recruited from all occupations and backgrounds but should be representative of the institution’s stakeholders. They should be willing to assist with the development plan (primarily the identification and cultivation of donors outside of formal board meetings) and to offer relevant expertise or experience in fundraising.
You will need to decide whether every member of the board is expected to donate. If they do not give, there is a danger that the board will become a talking shop without any real sense of drive and purpose. (See below, "When Board Members Give.")
Typically, board members might be recruited from among the alumni, the local business community, long-standing donors or partners and other positions of influence, such as government. One to two members could also be drawn from senior staff within the institution, such as the vice-chancellor, chief operating officer or finance director, or from among senior academic staff. Most boards have between six and 15 members.
You can also set up subcommittees for individual large-scale projects, events or specific campaigns. By doing this you increase the number of opportunities for people to get involved and support your activities.
Creating an Advisory Board
If (and when) you decide to create an advisory board, the development director and institution’s leader should work together to:
Clearly define and document the role, responsibilities and commitments of the board,
Ensure there is a plan for creating and supporting the board, including the timeframe, prospects, communication strategy, objectives and benchmarks and staff responsibility,
Determine the top candidate to lead or chair the board (and approach first) and
Draft your ideal advisory board structure (to revise with the chair).
A well-run board should:
Have a constitution,
Ensure that its members have ‘job descriptions’ and a thorough understanding of their role and responsibilities (particularly between meetings), as well as if there is a fundraising commitment,
Provide adequate training and information to its members,
Keep accurate records,
Comprise a good mix of qualified people,
Have limited terms of office of its members and
Engage members in the work of the institution outside of meetings.
Together, the development director and institution’s leader should carefully determine the role and ROI (i.e., the benefits, risks, timing, support structures, commitment, etc.) before creating an advisory board. A board is a powerful resource, but only when managed and used well.
A common feature of boards in the United States is to have an agreed-upon minimum financial contribution for each member to either ‘give’ or ‘get’ through other sources. Although a give/get commitment may not be the norm in your country, you may want to discuss this strategy when creating an advisory board.
One benefit: With even a very modest financial contribution from every member, your institution can relay to prospects that you have 100 percent giving from your board – providing credibility and inspiring confidence.
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.