Faculty can be valuable partners to the fundraising and advancement team in strengthening program interest and investment. Faculty are key storytellers when conveying a school’s mission and value, with veteran faculty often embodying the school’s unique culture and educational philosophy. Partnering with faculty for fundraising, however, can take a bit of finesse; fundraising is your job, after all, not theirs. But by understanding why, how, and when to engage faculty, fundraisers can benefit from their perspectives and produce compelling stories that impact institutional giving.
What type of donors would be interested in hearing from faculty?
Faculty stories may add depth to donor conversations and underpin the school’s unique value proposition. Prospective donors with particular interest in faculty stories may include:
- Leadership/Major Gift Donors who seek a connection between capital projects and curriculum.
- Leadership/Major Gift Donors who have an interest in endowment and perpetual investment in people.
- Annual Fund Donors who are unfamiliar with the professional development, learning, technologies, and other opportunities annual giving provides to support faculty’s work in and out of the classroom.
Because each of these donor types have different motivations for understanding faculty perspectives, it is important to adapt your creative storytelling to your audience. Advancement may consider integrating faculty voices into the following communication channels and fundraising material:
- Campaign proposals
- Annual fund appeal and/or brochure
- School website
- Stewardship material (reports, ‘thank you’ videos)
- Roundtable conversations/events
- State of the school or townhall presentations
What are considerations for selecting faculty?
Faculty can be valuable fundraising resources for educational institutions as advocates for the school, fountains of knowledge about programs, and connectors to students, alumni, and families —but they are also busy people. When considering asking faculty to give their support and time to fundraising efforts, it is important to know when and how to ask. Consider: when are the hectic times of the semester and academic year? What is their current course load? Are they also a department chair, athletics coach, activity leader, researcher, or faculty representative on a committee? A faculty member who is thinly spread might not have availability to help now, but may be available to help next semester. Do some initial research into their workload or schedule before making a formal request, and then try to be flexible in planning around when they are most likely to be able to help. Fundraising is not their job, so remember that your willingness to work with them will go a long way in a partnership.
How should I request faculty help?
When asking for a faculty member’s perspective, frame your request in a way that clearly illustrates two things:
- How their voice and expertise connect to the fundraising effort, and
- How a potential gift will impact their day-to-day work experience
For example, a science teacher who made do with an undersized lab, yet has a waiting list for her classes and a roster of alumni who have become scientists, has a compelling narrative, and the case for support should include her story. Her story will add authenticity and convey urgency and impact. Let faculty members know that their voices are valuable assets, and the goal of including their voice in fundraising is to enhance their programs.
When should I engage faculty?
It is important to know when it’s worthwhile to leverage faculty viewpoints and knowledge for fundraising purposes. Specific fundraising opportunities that can benefit from faculty stories may include:
- Broad parent, grandparent, and alumnae engagement
- Generating interest in the school’s unique educational vision
- Creating connection between curriculum and capital projects
- Providing context for technology needs
- Demonstrating impact and value of investment
- Sharing gratitude through stewardship initiatives
How should I work with faculty to have their voices represented?
Working with faculty also requires connecting the fundraising goal and message to the faculty member’s area of expertise and personality. Consider: is the individual a good speaker and comfortable on screen, and would a video serve their program and message well? Or, would an interview that translates into written materials be more appropriate? Additionally, how much time can they lend to the effort—can they do an in-person interview, or is it easier for them to answer questions via email? A captivating performing arts department chair hoping to get a major theater renovation could be a great candidate for a video that includes on-screen speaking and clips of recent productions, as an example.
Remember to meet the faculty member where they are in their availability to assist, and tailor the fundraising materials and media to produce the best outcome for them, their program, and ultimately, the school.
How can I establish an ONGOING partnership with faculty?
At the core of an ongoing engagement with faculty for fundraising purposes is a mutually beneficial partnership. But how can advancement staff motivate faculty to participate?
- First, make it easy for them to contribute their thoughts and expertise by asking the right questions that get to the heart of their valuable input.
- Also, help them garner the buy-in they want and need for their programs. For example, invite faculty to events where they can speak directly with potential donors about their work and vision.
- Lastly, consider how faculty can use advancement resources, such as: learning how to communicate their funding needs, gaining exposure to additional funding opportunities or interested donors, or marketing their programs through advancement publications.
Under the right circumstances, faculty can provide impactful firsthand perspectives that contribute to a stronger case for support with donors. Knowing the right situations for engaging faculty, and how to work with their expertise and schedules, will go a long way toward creating a powerful and lasting fundraising partnership.
Year-end fundraising campaigns are an opportunity to provide donors with every possible option to support your mission.
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