Independent school fundraising during challenging times: past, present and future

GG+A President Suzanne Hilser-Wiles and a panel of GG+A independent school practice area consultants share findings from a GG+A survey of independent schools from around the globe on key fundraising challenges related to the pandemic. In this discussion, the panel offers practical fundraising strategies to strengthen programs going forward on topics including leadership, major gifts, and stewardship. Listen to their conversation here:

We experienced technical difficulties during the second question asked during the webinar. Please find the answer to this question below.

What are the strategies and tactics successful development programs have been using to ensure that major gifts fundraising has continued over this past year?

Successful programs have shown courage. They have continued asking. One of the Heads I work with at a client school said this fall, “We can’t take a year off from philanthropy.” And he was right. One of the most interesting – but not surprising – phenomena of the pandemic has been an uptick in fundraising at some schools. Why? The tangible and defined gift opportunities that schools have been able to present to prospective donors have increased major gift donor engagement and excitement. Donors want to make a meaningful impact, so when approached to fund the OWL cameras or increased financial aid, many major donors have responded quite positively. Also, when the pandemic first hit, some of the more successful fundraising programs prioritized stewardship outreach. The smart ones used those initial calls as a springboard to continued conversations with their prospects. Major gift donors want to feel like advisors, insiders, and helpers. Schools that have been successful are those who have spent time bringing major gift donors closer during these tough times. Finally, as those who have heard me speak before on the topic of major gifts know, I always advise transparency. The schools that were using best practices in major gifts work before the pandemic are those that have been able to pivot more easily. The gift officer who had a major gift donor relationship that was predicated on a candid, continuing conversation about increasing that donor’s support of the school has had a much easier time ensuring the continuance of major gifts fundraising.

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