Key Recommendations for Academic Fundraising

Institutions of higher learning rely on more than tuition to operate. Contributions from alumnae and other benefactors make up any shortfall and allow an institution to embark on improvement projects.

Educated professionals like Joanna Hootnick build entire careers around fundraising for prestige institutions. Even with their best efforts, though, it behooves all the department heads to understand a few key facts about fundraising.

It’s All about the Relationships

The most effective fundraisers spend very little time talking about money. They understand that building trust and relationships is the most important part of fundraising. It takes time to cultivate long-term donors. People send their money to institutions and organizations because they feel connected to the place and the people. The time it takes to build a relationship pays off in donations for years to come.

Match Aspirations

Even when an institution needs money for a specific project, they would do better to not focus on the project when talking to potential donors. Instead, experts suggest that an institution take the time to learn and understand what the potential donor’s aspirations are for the program. This opens the door for an honest and meaningful conversation about the future of the institution.

Take the Time

It takes time to cultivate donors. Most fundraisers will have a number of conversations with a potential donor before any donation is made. In fact, it could take several months to over a year to build a deep and mutually beneficial relationship. The best fundraisers have the patience and foresight to build relationships well before financial needs arise.

Ask the Faculty

Although junior and senior faculty typically do not have administrative duties, their input is invaluable when outlining department needs. Regular conversations with faculty about the state of their department and current funding help to direct efforts to the most effective outcomes. When the faculty knows what is going on with fundraising, they are also in a position to help by leveraging their relationships.

Ask for Help

Another effective way to broaden the opportunities to build relationships with donors is to establish a board to advise on academic programming. Donors who are involved in the daily of the department become invested in the overall success of the department. As stated above, when people feel connected to an institution, they are more likely to be generous to the institution.

These brief recommendations merely touch the surface of the work involved in academic fundraising. Professionals like Joanna Hootnick spend their entire careers perfecting the process and helping academic institutions grow to their full potential.


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