January 29, 2023
Fundraising plans, strategies, and expectations have been significantly impacted over the past few years. Beyond the vast implications of the global pandemic, independent schools navigate additional circumstances, such as political unrest, unpredictable economic times, international tensions, reevaluation of personal growth, and more.
While the needs of school communities may have shifted in response to these factors, the need for fundraising remains.
As development professionals work to understand the “new normal,” now is a great time to assess donor stewardship efforts, including increasing education opportunities for current and prospective donors.
Here are a few ideas to consider as you assess your activities.
#1—Assess where you are.
While you likely know your school community well, take a step back and evaluate what you’ve done in the past to engage them and who has been actively involved.
The pandemic shifted many community-building and fundraising events into hybrid or virtual spaces. How does that work for your community? Renewed focus on systemic racism has shed light on injustices. Are your materials and efforts inclusive and equitable? Are you communicating your school’s mission, values, and efforts in an impactful way?
Whether you analyze data, facilitate a focus group, or work with a consultant to conduct a full audit of your giving programs, determine how successful your recent stewardship efforts have been.
#2—Create additional touchpoints with donors and prospects.
If you have “gifts” or “development” in your title, it’s likely that donors and prospects immediately suspect that you will ask for money when you reach out. However, opportunities to nurture donor relationships come from having both planned as well as impromptu touchpoints with your community that don’t revolve around a financial ask.
Additional interactions with your community can be as simple as an email or phone call update about an improvement project, or sharing photos of that new program the annual giving campaign helped fund. Take stock of what’s happening inside your school and view these activities through the lens of those who care about students being engaged, fulfilled, and progressing.
Tune in to live webinars every week during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
It’s one thing for a donor to give and trust their gift is being used well. It’s another for them to hear, see, and experience the impact of their contribution.
Be creative about following up on a gift with live examples of what has resulted. You might showcase the construction of a project or identify success stories of new programming. Connecting a donor’s gift to its tangible influence on children’s lives is a powerful way to show your donor community what is happening behind the scenes due to their generosity.
#4—Be transparent and genuine.
Explore how to add genuine and transparent communication to your stewardship efforts, while keeping your school’s mission and values in mind. A handwritten note from your School Head is a meaningful way to add a genuine connection between a donor and the administration. A phone call from a Board member with an update, a celebration, or a simple thank you can increase the likelihood of ongoing giving.
Your donors and prospects are already invested in your school community—return that investment through intentional outreach and genuine effort.