Last week, GG+A hosted the first in a series of Rise + Shine breakfast gatherings. As London’s morning rush hour was hitting full throttle, a handful of experienced fundraisers and development directors sat down with us for a hot meal and a candid conversation.
While our conversation covered several topics, most of the discussion was focused on the role that academic partners can and do play in the fundraising process.
Universities have a unique opportunity to connect with donors on an intellectual level and an emotional level — that makes us special and something that should inform the discussions with academics and our fundraising propositions. Everyone recognised the responsibility of academics – especially those direct beneficiaries – to build and maintain substantive relationships with donors. Yet we all agreed that that as fundraisers we must work with our partners to help them understand the strategic nature of our work and the critical role they play in articulating priorities that can ultimately be translated into gift opportunities that will appeal to an ever increasingly discerning philanthropic marketplace.
We discussed the importance of building trust with faculty and shared experiences where that trust was won by demonstrating a track record not simply of success, but of the process that lead to that success. We agreed that seemingly all faculty come to the conversation of development with their own experiences often based on unsophisticated fundraising techniques (read fundraising galas and golf tournaments) that run counter to that professional, strategic form we now practice.
We determined that it was in our best interest to work with our academic leaders or councils of influential faculty to create buy-in to an approach that links the strategic imperatives of the institution with philanthropic objectives. From there we can build development plans for raising money that can be understood and supported by all institutional stakeholders.
The last portion of our discussion addressed the development of compelling propositions. Bursaries and endowed faculty positions, while important, are no different from the needs of every institution. We stressed the need to work with our academic partners to answer three important questions:
What will make us better?
What would differentiate us?
What might transform us?
If we can work with our faculties to answer those questions we put them in a position to be successful and to raise considerably more private support.