Academic Fundraisers: Use the Summer to Kickstart Next Year’s Success

Even if you aren’t a university or independent school fundraiser, keep reading.

Summer vacation is here!

We all look forward to the slower pace that the summer months bring to us as administrators and educators. But don’t let the opportunities of summer pass you by.

Summer is your chance to plan for next year by stepping back and analyzing last year. It’s a time to be intentional and get things done without distraction.

Actionable Item #1 – Answer These Questions

The summer is made for stepping back, running reports, and critiquing the year’s progress.

  • What went well this year? What didn’t?
  • What was your funding breakdown?  Did you focus enough on alumni giving, planned giving, parent or grandparent programs?
  • What was your annual fund participation rate?
  • Did you advance your development or advancement plan? If not, what needs to change for next year?
  • Did you do a good job keeping your donors aware of how you used their investments?

Actionable Item #2 – Use Your Head

Even in a university or independent school, people give to people. Use the summer to cultivate and strengthen constituent relationships. Because most donors place a high value on being part of an institution’s inner circle, don’t forget to leverage your head, your president, or other senior leaders.

Arrange meetings between high-level administrators or faculty members and your largest donors. Visit areas with clusters of major donors or alumni. These informal meetings often naturally lead to brainstorming sessions and opportunities for your constituents to be heard. The summer is the perfect time to dream big and listen to feedback.

Actionable Item #3 – Keep Your Online Presence Current

Your social media should never go on vacation.

Alumni, donors, and prospective donors use your blogs, tweets, and posts to communicate and get information. If you stop posting when school’s out, guess how often your prospects are going to think about you.

Instead, your social media posts can be creative—talk about the life lessons your students are learning as they travel, intern, take a mission trip, or head off to college. Have students write guest blogs or post pictures of their adventures. Post teasers about exciting plans for the school year. Instead of being out of sight and out of mind, be the connector between your families.

Actionable Item #4 – Take Care of Faculty & Staff 

We often fail to appreciate the immense value faculty and staff can add to the overall success of development operations. In universities, professors are building relationships with students (future alumni donors). In independent schools, faculty are interacting with your key prospect pool (i.e., parents) more frequently than you do during the course of a typical school year.

Spend time over the summer thanking faculty and staff for what they do, asking their opinions about advancement, and listening to any concerns. Make sure they understand just how important they are to the school’s future by being part of the fundraising efforts.

If you are planning an end-of-summer meeting or retreat that includes faculty, include a development component, even a short one. Emphasize the faculty’s role as ambassadors of the school and help them understand the mission and goals of the development office. Your time will be well spent and will help build a stronger culture of philanthropy across campus.

The dog days of summer pass quickly. Use them wisely and you will thank yourself in the fall.

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