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Are You Following These Annual Fund Strategies?

The 2015/16 Independent School Advancement Survey of 352 institutions, conducted in January 2016, found major differences between what development leaders say is important and what they actually do. Researcher and consultant Ingrid Healy explains the trends:

The trend: Fewer schools—64 percent, down from 82 percent in 2013—allow donors to designate annual fund gifts to specific causes.

Why it's happening: Schools allowed designated giving because following the recession donors wanted more transparency and accountability. But donors were giving to an "area of greatest need."

The takeaway: This is a discouraging trend: Designated giving shows that you're accountable, which increases trust. Healy fears donors' reactions when they're not given the option.

The trend: 90 percent of schools said data analysis was important, but only 45 percent use it in their annual fund strategy.

Why it's happening: Too many schools are focused on tactics instead of strategy.

The takeaway: Successful schools approach the annual fund as a mini-capital campaign. They drill down in the data—who's giving, who's not, and why—and focus on upgrades and retentions.

The trend: 96 percent of highly successful institutions send donors a printed annual report.

Why it's happening: Annual reports are still an effective way to show how giving affects the student experience.

The takeaway: The schools that create annual reports are right to use stories and visuals to connect giving to what's happening at the school.

The trend: 76 percent of high-performing schools use personalized stewardship.

Why it's happening: Understanding and engaging donors through their passions is a more effective way to steward.

The takeaway: "It's not about saying, ‘your gift bought x, y, and z,' " Healy says. "If you know they have an affinity for the writer's workshop, share students' work or invite them back to campus to participate."




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