Baking In School Tradition
By December 2020, many institutions around the globe had hosted online donor events and galas. But The Fessenden School—an all-boys, pre-kindergarten through grade nine day and boarding school in West Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.—decided to try something different in lieu of its annual leadership giving society reception.
- Baking In School Tradition
- The Power of Pizza
- A Taste of Emporia State
- Cuban Coffee and Collaboration
- Bagel Bites
Instead, the advancement team created a nostalgic and family-friendly activity that participants could access on their own time, making it inclusive to Fessenden’s global community of leadership donors in 11 countries and across the U.S.
Leading into the holiday season, Fessenden mailed donors a package containing the recipe for the school’s favorite treat, the Congo Bar, along with branded Fessenden aprons.
Every package was customized for the donor’s family: each set of adults received a red apron with “Fessenden Top Chef” embroidered across the front, and each child received a white apron adorned with the red Fessenden bear paw.
“We knew that this could be something that [donors] could do at home with their own kids or grandkids,” says Rachael Singmaster, Director of Annual Giving.
Participants were emailed a lighthearted, behind-the-scenes video tour of the Fessenden kitchen, with the Fessenden Head Chef and a visual arts teacher demonstrating how to make Congo Bars. The video began with a message from the Head of School sharing gratitude for donor support, noting that 90% of annual fund dollars are raised from leadership gifts. Most importantly, the video reminded donors of Fessenden’s food and dining traditions, including a family dining program students missed due to the pandemic.
“[The project] was very Fessenden-focused—it wasn’t that we were just sending a chocolate chip cookie recipe. It was specific and true to Fessenden because the Congo Bar is a beloved dessert that resonates with alumni, students, families, and grandparents across all decades,” says Singmaster.
In response to the gift, grandparents reported they were excited to bake with their grandsons, and parents sent in pictures of themselves wearing aprons with their sons. The following year, giving from leadership donors increased by 25% compared to the prior year.
The baking lesson won a 2022 silver Circle of Excellence Award in Fundraising, Donor Relations & Stewardship Initiatives.
“[While] putting together the submission I felt very proud of what we were able to accomplish as a team of seven,” says Singmaster.
About the author(s)
Hannah Ratzer is Editorial Specialist at CASE.
Article appears in:
May - June 2023
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