news & articles

Desperation. Or Reputation?

Jul 25, 2018

A seriously depressing article appeared in the Sunday Times last weekend (22nd July) on how a number of British universities are resorting to desperation tactics in order to attract the brightest students. This in a year when the number of student applicants is down to its lowest level in a decade.

No names, no pack drill, but apparently such is the level of their desperation that some universities are offering huge cash bribes, (aka posher-sounding scholarships) free airline tickets, free gym memberships and even football tickets in an attempt to persuade anyone with decent grades to go firm with them. Worse, the number of unconditional offers being made now exceeds 10% of UCAS applications, despite the evidence now readily available that students with unconditional offers take their foot of the gas and enter university with grades significantly lower than predicted.

This is not marketing. It is sales promotion of the cheapest and most demeaning kind. And it won’t work. Any student who is predicted AAB+ is going to focus on getting into the best university they can. ‘Best’ measured by overall reputation and history not just their most recent ranking. Students know when they are being bribed to go to an institution with a weaker reputation. They are some of the savviest consumers on the planet and prone to using social media to show their peer group how successful, fulfilled and happy they are. They will not be deflected into choosing a weaker university brand when they know that their decision will live with them for the rest of their lives.

Instead of coming up with cheap promotional offers typical of car dealers’ forecourts – offers which scream desperation – universities should focus on building their reputations. Notice the word ‘reputation’ not ‘ranking’. With over 130 universities in the UK, only a few will ever achieve high ranking, and they are not all Russell Group. Yet examine the websites, the mission statements and the claims, and you could be mistaken for thinking that there were at least a hundred research-intensive universities in Britain. Who do they think they are kidding? Maybe themselves but certainly not prospective students.

Take the universities which are portraying themselves as generic premium brands, when the truth is that most of their students are looking for a great vocational launchpad. No wonder such institutions are seeing declining enrolments – one institution has declined by over 35% in the past five years. These institutions are not being true to themselves.

A professional market-led organisation would first make an honest appraisal of their student intake. Understand what they want from their university. Understand their mindset, their abilities, their ambitions. Where they want to be when they leave. Armed with this understanding, the university would then tailor its offer accordingly, not to the whims of its academics. Better to be a brilliant vocational university than a mediocre ‘academic’ university which produces a meagre amount of 2* research. To thine own self be true.

Strong brands are invariably built on values, not facts. Think VW. Red Bull. Netflix. ASOS. Since we use the word reputation’ rather than brand in HE, decide what your values are – make sure they are relevant to your students – and develop a programme portfolio and student experience which brings them alive. And deliver this consistently over a decade or three. Brands – and reputations – take time to build in higher education.

Strong brands don’t need desperation tactics to win customers. Strong brands are distinctive and self-confident. The confidence that comes from knowing your customers and knowing that they are really happy with you.

David Miller is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin.

The shortcut to empowered communications

Jul 24, 2018

I recently facilitated a discussion at ‘Inspiring Women, Inspiring Women’: a networking and learning event in Devon organised by Clair Wellsbury-Nye. An impressive, diverse collective of around 15 women attended, and I’ve been mulling over elements of that conversation ever since.

The topic was, ‘Using More Empowering Language’. This has been mildly on my radar for a while – both as a wordsmith and as a woman. However, it’s not a subject reserved for women; plenty of men I know empower/disempower themselves with the language they use too. Whether it’s in speech or in the written word, there are some words that can quietly sneak into your vocabulary and make you sound a bit… lame.

But how do you employ more empowering language without bluster and boastfulness? First, let’s look at some common culprits:

Some non-empowering words

  • ‘Just’ – ‘I’m just emailing to…’, or ‘I’m just part-time’. Nope.
  • ‘Only’ – same as.
  • ‘Sorry’ – a hard one to shift, this one. But instead, perhaps, ‘Thank you for being patient/understanding’.
  • ‘Try’ – ‘I’ll try and get that done by Monday’. Meh.
  • ‘I think’ – dilutes your point before you’ve even made it.
  • ‘I should/I’d better’ – or, ‘I will’, ‘I want to’.
  • ‘I can’t’ – or, ‘I’m not willing to’, ‘I don’t want to’.
  • ‘But’ – experiment with switching ‘but’ for ‘and yet’.

Got any more?

So, what can we ALL do to use more empowering language?

The answer – and also the emerging theme in our discussion – begins with awareness.

Build in thinking time in to ensure you respond, rather than react. Notice your use of empowering/disempowering language, and that of others. Think before you speak/write (and read emails again before sending them).

And the key? It’s not the words you add in but the ones you remove which empower you.

From a creative perspective, this makes perfect sense. As a writer, I enjoy chipping away at a cumbersome, clumsy paragraph until it becomes one beautifully formed sentence. A designer will thrive on removing elements until the white space is given space to shine through.

I’m not saying that maintaining a frosty silence will do you any favours. But in a world of noise, claim back your measured silence: the gaps in the conversation, the spaces between the words, the pause for thought. Use this as your most empowering tool for communication.

Olivia Dunn is Head of Marketing & Communications for Halpin Partnership.

How much do Teaching Excellence awards and badges matter?

Jul 09, 2018

Are teaching excellence awards and badges just for the feel-good factor, or are they vital information for students to hone their consumer persona and ‘wise choice’ skills?

As we approach another glittering award ceremony, it gives me cause to pause and think about what ‘excellence’ means.

There are now so many different indicators of ‘excellence’ that a whirlwind of quality badge confusion can easily whip up gusts of cynicism, rather than leave recipients basking in the faint glow of praise.

From the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), league tables and sponsored award ceremonies (almost now industries themselves?) to the myriad of ‘Which University?’, ‘What Uni?’, and ‘Complete University’ websites, there is no shortage of information out there proclaiming and celebrating different types of ‘excellence’.

But what does it mean to the student?

Supposedly now put ‘at the heart of the system’, Government policy has created a ranking system in TEF for students to make wise choices about where their large indebted tuition fees will be spent. I know TEF is in its infancy, and we should all be quaking in our boots at the prospect of its subject-level TEF sibling joining the excellence badge party, but I am long-in-the-tooth and cynical enough to believe that this will have as much impact on student consciousness as Unistats (that last great hope for the informed student consumer).

Indeed, a Hot Courses whisperer confided to me that analytics of their webpages suggested that some of those Gold-medalled institutions were seeing a decline in page visits, and some of the Bronze-medalled ‘shamed’ institutions were seeing an uplift.

I did a quick kitchen cabinet poll this week (there are nearly always enough young people hanging around my house to make this a valid sample), and asked what kinds of information the gathered assembly had taken into account when reviewing their post-18 options. Recommendation from a friend was number one, followed by location and course facilities.

When probed, all of them concentrated most of their time on looking at course-level information, and only looked at institutional-level information as a final action (not even giving it the status of a final sway factor). Not one of them had consulted a league table and I had to physically point to the award proclamations and medalled images in various university website banner heads for them to realise there were such things.

The recommendation of a friend, teacher or family member is as old as the hills in terms of university choice – but whereas 30 years ago that was still a fairly elite group, the massification of higher education means that there are a lot more views and opinions out there.

Anyone who has worked closely with their admisisions team on data analytics will have experienced school cluster oddities that stand out in recruitment patterns – and not because of neat feeder chains and outreach activity, or travel to study patterns. These are clusters that often rest on a former student who has now entered the teaching or careers profession, who has sent their alma mater a steady stream of students ever since.

I recall my own comp in the West Midlands having a steady stream of students hitting the bright lights of the East Midlands in the form of Derby College of Higher Education (as was Derby University back in the day) mainly because Jimmy’s brother’s girlfriend’s sister’s best friend had a cracking time hanging out at the Assembly Rooms, got a 2:1 to boot and a job in the M&S management stream.

Yet recommendations are probably still one of the most reliable indicators of ‘excellence’ or ‘quality’ in adjusted contextual terms, given the subjective nature of both concepts. Your friends know what will ring your bells. Indeed, Amazon has built a whole quality assurance model around customer recommendations.

So does that mean that the badges and award ceremonies are something that we should sneer at and dismiss?

Not necessarily. I’ve paid the submission fees, sweated over the application process and entered teams and pieces of project work myself that we have been extraordinarily proud of and there is no doubt that recognition – from within or outside the sector – does give the staff (and sometimes students) involved that warm glow and renewed motivation we all crave from time to time.

But more than that, Universities have a wider audience than students to appeal to. These external badges, accolades, league tables and honours of distinction can and do serve to assure those other stakeholders we work with that we are truly excellent, high quality, Gold-standard service providers.

Selena Bolingbroke is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin.

Fundraising lessons from Gareth Southgate

Jul 04, 2018

Let’s face it, who isn’t just a little bit in love with Gareth Southgate right now? Who wouldn’t be impressed by his focus, modesty, attention to detail, attitude and waistcoats.

As we all reflect on an extraordinary match, I think there are some interesting lessons for fundraisers.

Write your own history

How often do we hear someone say, “That won’t work for us”, or, “He/she will never give to this’? As fundraisers we should challenge these assumptions and consider, “How could it work for us?’, or, “They haven’t given yet, but what will change that?” That’s our job. If Gareth, of all people, can prove that England can win on penalties, then we can similarly write our own fundraising history.

Be happy for the team

We often hear the cliché that fundraising is a team sport, and yet I have often seen fundraisers’ CVs that suggest that they singlehandedly delivered big gifts. One of the greatest risks to fundraising success can be your own ego. If the gift comes in, be happy for the team – celebrate as a team. Tell the story of the team’s success, not your own. It’s hard to recruit and keep good fundraisers, but a team that celebrates together and that is a joy to work in will reap rewards. To see Gareth Southgate celebrating with his team and relishing them making history is to see a great leader in action. Who wouldn’t want to be on Gareth’s team right now?!

Harness your passion

Fundraising is all about passion harnessed for good. We must tell compelling stories and passionately advocate for change. But that passion needs to be harnessed with focused activity. Our donors don’t give just because we are passionate; they give because we communicate with them professionally, build strong relationships with them and ask them in professional ways. No one can claim Gareth Southgate doesn’t care, but his passion is beautifully harnessed with calm consideration and a focus on strategy and delivery.

Don’t let the media win

Fundraising and fundraisers have had some bad press recently, and the media seems keen to find negative stories about charities and universities. This is demoralising for fundraisers who are trying to do their bit to change the world. Whilst we must learn from the stories which have exposed poor practice, we must also not let bad news hinder our work, slow down our fundraising or make us so cautious that we stop trying new things. If Gareth listened to all the media, then he and his team would have long since fulfilled the stereotype created for them. Gareth has shown respect for the media, been honest and enabled the media to see the human side of his team. This careful media work has then enabled his team to focus on what they do best – play football – not on what the media is saying about them. Fundraisers need to focus on the donors, not on the media. Our donors want to change the world in some way, and it’s our job to help them to do that. We should work professionally and diligently, do our best to do good and help others to do so too. If sometimes we aren’t liked or are criticised in the media, that shouldn’t stop us doing what we do best – raise money to change the world.

So let’s love Gareth and the team whatever happens next – they have changed a little bit of the world for England. Let’s love what we do and our teams, because we can change a little bit of the world too.

Susie Hills

7 things state school Heads need to know about fundraising….

Jun 26, 2018

If you are Head of a state school you won’t have much time to read this so here are the 7 things you need to know about fundraising….

1. If Independent schools can do it, so can you They often focus fundraising on capital projects and scholarships and bursaries. They make the case that funds are needed to go above and beyond what fee income can provide –for amazing new facilities or to enable kids whose families can’t afford the fees to benefit from the education they offer. On average they raise £667k per year, 25 schools raise £1m+ a year.

So why can’t state schools similarly make such a case and make it with more urgency? We all know our state schools are chronically underfunded and are cutting the very things that are urgently needed – like special needs provision and pastoral care. We know that capital funding for new science labs etc. is harder to come by. We know that good state schools are vital to our communities and the economy. We also surely know, whether we like it or not, that state funding is not going to increase substantially any time soon. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted an eight percent real-terms cut in school budgets by 2020. Some state schools are developing their fundraising, particularly state grammar schools who are raising on average £212k per year.

2. You will never sell enough cakes Whilst having a PTA or ‘Friends Of’ group who organise cake sales and quizzes may be great way to reach out to parents, encourage involvement and build bridges with the local community, this kind of fundraising won’t deliver transformational changes to the school. At best it will provide lots of things that you would love but can’t afford – bits of kit and help with school trips. I don’t mean to downplay the significant role that PTA fundraising plays in the life of a school; some raise thousands and create a buzzing atmosphere of family involvement. But with budgets as tight as they are for state schools this type of fundraising isn’t going to get the tough stuff done…

3. It’s not all about parents Independent schools raise significant sums from their alumni. Their pupils also benefit from their alumni in other ways – careers advice, work placements, mentoring, inspiration…. You will have alumni who have gone on to do fascinating things, have impact and make money. By building an alumni network you can not only raise funds but also boost your school’s results across the board and unleash an army of powerful, supportive advocates – we all need that in these challenging times. Check out Future First. Their mission is to “see every state school and college in the UK supported by a thriving and engaged alumni community.”

And beyond your alumni community there will be local individuals, trusts and companies who will want to see their local school thrive and who will be willing, and able, to provide funds.

4. It requires professionalism Most independent secondary schools have paid fundraisers working to raise money from parents and alumni, and there is an emerging trend in state schools to do likewise. Most Universities also went through this journey 20 years ago, and much of their experience is relevant to the situation schools find themselves in.

Like anything else in your school, professionalism pays and without dedicated staff it’s hard to move beyond the realms of PTA fundraising. Whether you hire a fundraiser or outsource it to a fundraising consultancy – both routes have their pros and cons – the reality is you need to invest to get good returns.

You will also have to be clear about who is fundraising and how you claim gift aid – you might wish to direct donations through a charity/foundation which is connected to the school or through the PTA which is a registered charity. Good governance, professional handling of gifts and appropriate stewardship all require a professional approach. There’s lots of good advice out there on how to do this the right way - see ‘State schools look to fundraisers and donors to fill budget gaps’ in the Financial Times April 14 2017. Don’t be put off though, it’s not that hard to get it right and you probably have someone in your school team who has the skills to put the right processes in place.

5. It takes time To build a strong fundraising programme takes time. You won’t see the returns on your balance sheets in the first year, and maybe not until year 3 or 4. But all the research shows that there is a clear correlation between the age of a ‘Development office’ and increased philanthropic income.

In reality with budgets under such tight pressure this might be the hardest aspect of all. How can a state school find funds to invest in fundraising when headteachers have almost no headroom to invest in anything new? This is where I would suggest that you make the case to your governing body and consider how you could creatively address this. Indeed, you might find a supporter willing to help you set up fundraising or persuade the PTA to focus their energies on raising money to invest in a fundraising office. The key is developing a clear plan for fundraising with the RoI mapped out over a 3-5 year period. If you never get started it will never happen.

This time horizon might be longer than you see yourself being the head of your school for, but don’t let that stop you. Imagine the satisfaction of knowing you created a lasting legacy for your school (indeed it might lead to the school receiving legacy gifts!). I got immense delight to see that an organisation I worked with nearly 5 years ago has just received a transformational £10m gift from a relationship that I helped to build 10 years ago. The journey has to start somewhere.

6. ‘Everyone’ won’t give £1 or £10 (and it damages relationships if you ask in that way) “If every family gave £x a month we’d raise £y”. We hear this approach often from those who haven’t undertaken fundraising on a large scale. The fact is every family won’t give. Some simply can’t afford to, and even if they can some will feel, perhaps on principle, that they don’t want to. And that’s ok – giving is a voluntary act. Indeed, in my opinion it can be damaging to the sense of community to expect everyone to give or suggest that everyone should. It puts people in a position where they feel they have to say no – or want to say no but feel guilty. Guilt is never a good way to get people giving in a sustainable and satisfying way.

A realistic target in terms of % of families who will give might be lower than you imagine. Whilst 61% of people in the UK give to charity in some way each year, most of this is ad hoc cash donations in response to things like Children in Need or a friend running a marathon. Far fewer people give monthly donations in a focused way to causes they have proactively chosen – 25% report giving in this way.

But the good news is that amongst those who give there will be some who are able and will want to give larger sums – after all everyones circumstances are different. One size doesn’t fit all and the key is to develop a gift table like this one used by a school whose aim was to raise £50,000 a year from parents.

7. It will need you As the leader of the school, you will need to give time to fundraising. You will need to ‘sell’ your vision, talk about your plans, and be comfortable talking about money. Successful fundraising schools report that their heads give 10% or more of their time to fundraising. If you are going to do it then you will have to make time. This is hard, really hard. You might also need coaching and support from experienced fundraisers, who can give you confidence. What I can promise is that winning support for your school and the kids in it can be one of the most rewarding things a head can do.

That’s it for starters….there’s more…of course. Halpin Partnership is here to help and there is support available through The Institute for Development Professionals in Education and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Follow Susie Hills and Halpin Partnership on LinkedIn for more.

http://www.pta.co.uk/funding/faqs-gift-aid.aspx

[4]IDPESchools’ Alumni Relations and Fundraising Benchmarking Survey 2016

https://idpe.org.uk/uk/idpe/uploads/files/IDPE%20School%20Alumni%20Survey%202016(1).pdf

A new recipe for higher education governance

Jun 18, 2018

A dash of ‘business’ and a dollop of ‘charity’ – the recipe for Vice-Chancellor pay?

The governance of our universities has focused inwards and concentrated on compliance rather than focusing outwards and on culture. This lack of focus on culture is very risky.

It has become clear that compliant organisations can fail through catastrophic cultural shortcomings. If you focus on targets rather than compassion in a hospital or deliberately advocate a “hostile” immigration environment then don’t be surprised if you get Mid Staffs and Windrush.

In higher education there have been two (sometimes seemingly irreconcilable) positions as to what the culture of governance (and remuneration) should be. One might label them as the “business” view and the “charity” view.

The “business” view holds that universities are complex, global corporations, in a highly competitive market, which need to be run as businesses, albeit for a public purpose.

The “charity” view emphasises universities as part of their communities, as charitable endeavours which should be run in participatory, transparent manner.

What has this meant for VC pay?

The “business’ view has been dominant in past remuneration practice. Remuneration Committees have been populated by independent, external non-executive governors who have drawn pay comparisons with the private sector, North America and Australia, in addition the transparent publication of VC pay has had the unintended consequence of causing an inflationary spiral – which self -respecting chair of council wants her or his VC to be bottom of the pile?

However increasingly staff, students, stakeholders (and politicians) tend towards the ‘charity’ view – looking to other locally provided services for comparators such as health and local government (or even the Prime Minister!) as comparators for VC pay. There is a hunger for transparency and participation in decision making and a belief that the remuneration of senior staff should not be excessively out of kilter with the ‘rank and file’.

There must be a way for governing bodies to bring together the best of ‘business’ and ‘charity’ and establish a new culture of governance and remuneration practice.

A small number of universities have made the important step of including staff and student members on their Remuneration Committees. It’s not a straightforward thing to do since neither staff nor students are independent in the sense that external governors are and may be conflicted by the expectations of their peers. However, with training and support there is no reason to believe that they will not behave responsibly and sensibly. They have the advantage of bringing the ‘charity’ view to the table and ensuring it is considered alongside the ‘business’ view. Unhelpful caricatures of plutocratic governors drawn from business or politically motivated staff and students need to be avoided since, when they sit down together, they are very likely to find there is much more that unites than divides them. They are all passionate about HE.

This feels like a smart direction of travel.

The creation of the Office for Students (whose clue is in its title) and the increasing exploration of employees’ interests being represented on boards eg from the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) mean that the governance model of universities with a lay majority but strong staff and student representation may increasingly be regarded as an exemplar.

The CUC has now made welcome steps to reform the remuneration section of its code for governors. Chairs of governing bodies will no longer Chair remuneration committees and vice-chancellors will not be members, although the CUC code does not go as far as the equivalent Scottish Code in envisaging staff and students being part of the solution.

It’s clear that Universities are being expected to reform their governance (and remuneration) and the recipe for success should marry the best of practice from all sectors.

After all Universities are private corporations with a public purpose and have charitable status. The public and the private should be mutually reinforcing, never mutually exclusive. Compliance should be seen as an entry ticket to the much more interesting world of corporate culture – a world in which success lies in greater transparency and greater participation.

Susie Hills

Funding the fundraising

Jun 14, 2018

When I began my career in fundraising, the accepted mantra was that people would not give significant gifts to support salaries for professional staff. They would give to buildings, they would give to research programmes, they would support a professorship, but they would not be interested in the salaries of support staff. Still less would they invest in supporting the salary of a fundraiser.

The joyful thing about fundraising, as in so many other walks of life, is that accepted wisdom becomes wrong over time. Technology changes things, there are generational shifts in attitudes. As consultants, we work with many more organisations and donors who take a very long view of the impact excellent fundraising can have.

And some of them are becoming interested in funding the fundraisers. This is particularly true for those who come from a Private Equity background, where they are used to investing in capacity in order to get a better long-term outcome.

We worked with a donor in the Arts & Culture sector who not only invested in the salaries of the fundraising team, they also invested in us as consultants so that the team could hit the ground running. And of course, I am bound to say that is particularly enlightened!

Donors who want to fund the fundraisers are usually highly entrepreneurial; interested in ROI and impact; ready to be convinced by an excellent plan with measurable goals and clear stages. Sadly, they are also usually less interested in publicity, possibly for obvious reasons.

Of course, there is another way to make this happen too – by introducing a gift ‘tax’ – whereby donors pay a percentage of their gift to support the fundraising office. This happens in the USA, although certainly not everywhere and the amount of this ‘tax’ varies considerably[1].

This effectively happens in the charity sector as a matter of course, where the cost of administration (i.e. raising the gift) must come out of gifts. Gifts are, after all, the main source of income for most charities. That is easier when you rely on mass fundraising.

But if you are trying to increase your major gift work, might this gift ‘tax’ be a barrier? Universities have been working in major gifts very successfully for some time. One of the key arguments they use against introducing this idea is that, at present, major donors can be reassured that 100% of their gift will go to the project they are interested in.

Paying such a percentage could be voluntary, but that isn’t a reliable plan for the future.

I think that, as fundraisers, we need to start having more sophisticated conversations with donors on how to fund fundraising. This probably needs to start with the right type of donor, who could be excited by the idea of pump-priming a team that could then go on to raise much more money.

So how do you find such donors? Firstly, I can assure you that they are out there. The only way to find out if your donors might be interested in doing this is to ask them (at the heart of all good fundraising is excellent relationships, where honest conversations can be had).

By encouraging and educating donors to challenge the ‘accepted wisdom’ of how fundraising has traditionally been funded, a tremendous opportunity for change – and a new way of thinking – presents itself. And that is something we should all be excited by.

[1] See Strategic Fundraising, Universities UK, p 13

Shaun Horan

Four ways to bolster your independent school’s fundraising in choppy financial waters.

Jun 07, 2018

The Independent school market is facing a storm of pressures. Costs and customer expectations are going up yet there is a deflationary pressure on fees, international markets are challenging and there is a scarcity of capital funding.

These mean that, at best, development and alumni relations teams are under more pressure than ever to demonstrate their worth, and at worst are considered as luxury overheads.

Yet challenging markets present opportunities for talented development and alumni relations professionals to show how they are part of the solution – that their work is vital to the long-term sustainability of their schools.

Costs are going up, but fees can’t keep going up (and the potential of VAT on fees).

At a time of increasing costs, independent schools are facing deflationary pressure on fees from UK pupils. Families are facing similar constraints on their budgets and are less willing and less able to pay higher fees.

The years of fee increases outstripping inflation seem to be coming to an end. There are signs that the market won’t bear further inflation-busting increases, as this Independent article reports.

And it’s not just UK fee income that’s under pressure. Whilst the weak pound may have been attractive for international families, the uncertainties of Brexit, hostile immigration services and increased competition in other countries (some from UK schools overseas) mean that its harder than ever to predict international income.

Schools marketing and brand position will surely become a hot topic and an area in need of investment (as those of you who have marketing and fundraising in your brief will know).

All in all, a tough landscape. And I haven’t even mentioned political interest in charging VAT on fees….

This downward pressure on fees and uncertainty in the market will make it harder to maintain or build reserves. This makes capital projects harder to fund.

So how do independent schools navigate this tough terrain?

Cost-savings must be on the agenda. But there are few places in which savings can be found.

It’s very hard to cut costs without affecting customer satisfaction. In a highly competitive market, schools have to demonstrate RoI not only against other independent schools but against some excellent state schools too. Independent schools have to maintain their added value – small class sizes, diverse curriculums, great extracurricular activities, top notch facilities etc. Protecting all this means that there are few areas to cut.

So, what does all this mean for development offices?

The good news is that the money you raise is more important than ever, as school leaders look to diversify income away from fees so that they can protect what makes them great. Bursaries and scholarships (to soften the impact of fees) and capital projects (where reserves are scarcer) are likely to be at the top of any wish lists for fundraising. As fundraisers you really can now, more than ever, play a vital role in protecting what is great about your school.

The bad news is that the pressure to demonstrate and predict RoI will be higher than ever. Some schools will find it very hard to invest in development without seeing a swift return, so you will have to work hard to model how income will come in over a 3-5-year period. Where there are existing development offices who are not yet delivering RoI, questions will be asked and cuts may be a reality.

For fundraisers reading this I would advise you to:

  • Be extremely well-informed –understand the school’s market strategy and financial position. Make sure you have a seat at the table as the school’s finances and strategy are being discussed – if you don’t have one, ask for one.
  • Have a strong 3-5-year plan with clear KPIs and RoI
  • Ensure that your operations are as focused and efficient as possible
  • Be a team player – If marketing isn’t part of your portfolio then working as a team with the marketing department will be key. Make sure you work in partnership with your bursar/finance director.

For heads and bursars reading this I would advise you to:

  • Review the performance of your fundraising team – benchmarking data will help with this. Try to develop a realistic picture as to what you should expect from the investment you put in, and how long it takes. Look at the KPIs that show you are heading in the right direction as well as the cold hard cash numbers. If you don’t know what these are, get advice… my offers some insight here.
  • Ensure your fundraiser is party to all strategic discussions and financial planning – they can’t do their job without being part of these discussions.
  • Ensure you are giving sufficient time to fundraising. If it’s not a comfort area, then get some coaching. The money won’t come in without you asking for it and putting time into building great relationships with your donors and potential donors.
  • Make sure your governors/trustees are supportive and have a reasonable understanding of fundraising. Ensure fundraising is regularly on their agenda. See my earlier post on what trustees should ask their fundraisers.

Susie Hills