April 16, 2023
The foundation of your Development program—how you build relationships with your donors and prospects sharing their resources with your school—is strategically-focused, nimble, and focused on strategic planning.
Many changes have transformed our communities these past few years which have also underscored the need to assess the social landscape of giving—incorporating those trends into our planning.
Here are four trends your Development team should consider now.
Trend #1—Donors are Using Giving to Pursue Personal Interests
The proven effectiveness of donor-centered development—emphasizing donors’ interests and passions over the school’s for ways of giving, underlies the ubiquitousness of supporting self-interest over the common good.
According to the Giving USA Foundation annual report, overall participation is down and prospects who are giving are concentrating their philanthropy among fewer organizations and larger gifts. Prospects are looking to direct their gifts to specific programs that benefit their children or directly match their areas of interest.
When building profiles of your prospects, keep qualitative and quantitative data to better understand their giving preferences. Members of your team can contribute to these profiles, which may include:
- current financial status and wealth;
- personal information about the prospect—noting financial challenges or job loss;
- career information (what fields and industries they are a part of);
- capacity and giving interests;
- giving history; and
- relationships—including social circles or friendships you’ve observed within the school community.
Trend #2—Cultural Perceptions of Development and Fundraising Are Shifting
The demographics of the families who are enrolled in private schools is shifting, as is the perception of giving. Statistics show the average parent participation in the 1990s was 65-67%. But the current national average participation rate in annual giving currently hovers around 40%.
Generational perceptions of giving, focused primarily on personal interest, are hard to reconcile with the school’s need to raise funds beyond tuition. Additionally, private school enrollments bolstered public school children during the pandemic. Not unexpectedly, it is especially difficult for these parents to understand the need to raise money beyond tuition.
Overcome this by using your Case for Giving. The Case for Giving clearly explains why you need additional funds and how this money will be used to support students. Focus on the benefits students receive from philanthropic support and avoid talking about the features of your school (STEM labs,theater programs, etc).
Features are expected outcomes of the price that is paid for education. Benefits, on the other hand, are values-driven, intangible, and long-lasting.
Tune in to live webinars every week during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
Trend #3—Integrated Technology is Making Fundraising More Accessible
With the normalization of video conferencing, invention of convenience-laden software platforms for giving, and the availability and ease of use of communication, photo, and video editing software, donor contact is more manageable and robust—making fundraising more accessible, not only to schools, but also to donors.
For example, virtual meetings with donors and prospects are cost-effective and eliminate travel expenses, as well as easy to schedule. Virtual meetings create opportunities for schools to engage prospects personally, allow for spontaneous contact, and provide routes to highly personalized and effective stewardship of your donors’ gifts.
Use video technology to connect alumni with each other and current students. Invite your alums to be virtual speakers, panelists, or even mentors to others within your school community.
Trend #4—Major Gifts Are a Major Focus
Lower participation in giving requires development professionals to concentrate their efforts. For the most impact, development professionals should focus on donors and prospects whose giving will make a substantial (and sometimes transformative) difference to your school.
Even the smallest schools should devote resources to the identification, engagement, evaluation, solicitation, recognition, and stewardship of their major donors and prospects.
Concentrate your annual giving on leadership donations. Leadership donations are defined as donors whose combined giving represents 80% or more of the total of your annual fund. And pay particular attention to your constituents' interests. Get to know your leadership donors by asking questions to determine their goals.
Integrating these four trends will require a new focus. But together, your development team can create a plan to move forward effectively.