Schools often couch their fundraising goals in terms of revenue. They set monetary goals for each aspect of the development program, and track progress towards those goals. That makes sense, given that the school relies on that fundraising revenue to keep the doors open, to educate students, to offer scholarships, and to provide a superior educational experience.
That being said, the real goal of any school fundraising program—the goal that will allow you to maximize revenue and build a steady income stream for the school—is relationship building. In order to succeed in fundraising, your development team must focus on building and strengthening relationships with prospects and donors. These donors are likely to be individuals and families, but could also be decision makers at foundations, businesses, or government grantors. No matter what type of donor you are talking about, the goal for your development program is to develop long-term relationships with these donors that result in ongoing fundraising revenue for your school.
As a school, you have a certain number of built-in prospects such as alumni, parents, and family members of current and former students. You also have faculty (and former faculty), trustees (and former trustees), as well and businesses in your local community. Just because someone is already familiar with your school, though, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to continue to build relationships with them. Your alumni may harbor warm feelings for your school because of the time they spent on campus, but it doesn’t mean those feelings won’t fade or get superseded by the concerns of daily life. Your school’s development team will need to constantly refresh those relationships to keep alumni, families, and other donors giving for a lifetime.
The process of building and strengthening relationships with your donors is called “cultivation” and “stewardship.” We generally refer to relationship-building with first-time donors as cultivation and relationship-building with donors who have already given to your school as stewardship. Either way, the goal is the same: to build relationships, strengthen ties, and move the donor towards their next gift.
Many schools have trouble figuring out the best ways to build relationships with their donors. They think simply holding the occasional reunion is enough to support growing relationships . . . and when they realize that’s not true, they wonder what other strategies work for deepening relationships with both alumni and non-alumni donors. In this eBook, we’re going to take a look at some advanced donor relationship-building strategies you can use to cultivate and steward your donors. We will start with a brief reminder of some best practices for donor relationship-building, then look at some very specific strategies that just might work for your school.
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