Editorial note: Check out Joe Garecht's worksheet, Telling the Story of Your School to Donors and Prospects.
Your school has an amazing story to tell. Do you know that? Do you really believe it?
In my experience, far too many schools and fundraisers tell small stories about their institutions. They rely on memories and warm feelings in order to fundraise. Their annual giving programs focus on reminding former students of their glory days on campus and trading on the positive feelings current parents have for the school in order to raise money.
There’s not anything necessarily wrong with that. Of course, you should be talking to your alumni about their days as students. Obviously, your current parents want to hear about all the great things you are doing with their children. But your donor messaging can be – and should be – so much more than that.
It Takes a Major Vision to Raise Major Gifts
Remember that everyone – including your parents, donors, and alumni – wants to get caught up in a story bigger than themselves. Everyone wants to make a difference… everyone wants to change the world.
If the story you are telling your donors is a small one, based on old memories and current campus events, you should expect to raise smaller gifts. If you want to raise larger gifts, and to encourage your small and mid-sized donors to give more often (including well after their children leave your school), you need to cast a big vision and paint a compelling message for your donors.
How Are You Changing the World?
When I work with schools on crafting a bigger donor message – one that will help transform their fundraising for years to come – I ask them to answer two questions:
- How are we changing the world?
- How are we saving lives?
For many schools, those questions are difficult to answer. I try to have my clients come up with at least five different answers to each question. Not all of the answers will be good ones, but that’s ok. The point of the exercise is to get the school’s fundraising team to think bigger and bolder… to think differently about their work than they ever have before.
I do this because I know something that often, they do not. I know that they really are changing the world and/or saving lives. I know that they are creating the next generation of leaders. I know that they are instilling a unique value set into their students. I know that they are creating places of safety and hope in the inner city.
Your school has a story like this – no matter where you are, or what your focus is. You have a bigger vision to cast and a bigger story to tell. If you want to raise more money, find more donors, and seek bigger gifts, now is the time to tell that story. Donors don’t want to invest in small stories. Make sure you are casting a vision that is bigger and more irresistible to your donors and prospects than ever before.
Don't forget to check out Joe Garecht's worksheet here!
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