Fundraising is Everyone's Job
The hallways outside of your office are filling once again with the pleasant racket of footsteps and chatter. Faculty – and in many cases, students – are back on campus. They’ve all asked you how your “summer break” was, but of course, you took a one-week vacation, not a “break.” You’ve been right there the whole time, reaching out to donors and volunteers, closing out the fiscal year, updating the board, identifying a future class of trustees. You’ve been sitting around a leadership table talking about variants and masks and protocols when you had hoped you’d be talking about in-person reunions and feasibility studies.
As we come back to campus with an anticlimactic start to a still uncertain school year, how do we invigorate the conversation about fundraising and faculty involvement? How do we communicate the age-old adage that “fundraising is everyone’s job” when everyone’s job is harder than it used to be?
Here are some things I learned in my time as director of external affairs about the advancement-faculty divide and how to bridge it. These tips are likely not new to you, but I hope we can commit to trying just one of these in the coming semester to bring renewed energy to our work with faculty:
- Take them to drinks. When I arrived at my last school, the faculty and the external functions of the school were almost at complete odds with one another. They had no idea what we did or how it impacted them. Moreover, I don’t think they much cared. How did I combat this apathy? Faculty happy hours. If not happy hour, do whatever the appropriate version might be for your school. But whatever you do, make it truly fun and appealing (and appropriate to COVID protocols). Give faculty a chance to get to know you and your team as people, not as minions behind a social media campaign or an interview for the magazine. Cultivate them like you would a prospect: forge a meaningful connection before you ask for something later.
- Take them to lunch. At least, take your department chairs to lunch. Invite them to your office and order takeout. Go off campus if the schedule allows. Have 1:1 conversations with leaders among the faculty for all the same reasons I mention above. Find those who are passionate about their craft and ask them why they’re passionate about it. Convey to them that you want their department (or pet project or exciting idea) to thrive. Convince them that the difference between good schools and great schools is philanthropy. If they know that, so too will your parents and alumni.
- Attend faculty meetings. I feel strongly that a representative from the advancement team should attend every major faculty meeting. Show them you’re there with them, consistently. Ask for three minutes to present one or two slides on the annual fund, participation, or anything else they might want to know. Spend half of your three minutes thanking them for their work with students and reminding them you’re here to support it.
- Be thoughtful. Bring in donuts once a semester “from the advancement team” and leave them in the faculty room. Team up with enrollment management and buy them some small swag during teacher appreciation week.
The bottom line: butter them up. Remind them that you have a vested interest in the program. Reflect back to them that you understand that the humanities program is unique for X reason or that Y chemistry project led to a student’s successful matriculation to a great institution. Whatever the examples are, demonstrate your interest in them as individuals and in their work. Increase their interest in the annual fund, in payroll-deducted gifts, in helping your team during alumni weekend, and all the rest of it will grow as a direct result.
About the author(s)
Ann Snyder has served as Director of Independent Schools at CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) since March of 2020. Prior to joining CASE, she was Director of External Affairs at Stuart Hall School in Virginia. With more than a decade of experience in student and family marketing, school leadership, enrollment, fundraising, and external affairs, Ann is a seasoned school leader and industry expert.
In her role at CASE, Ann serves as the industry insider, expert, and thought-leader for schools globally. Professional facilitation and speaking engagements include serving as a key speaker and collaborator for the Canadian Association of Independent Schools, the National Association of Independent Schools (US), the Association of American Schools in South America, and regional associations throughout the United States.