Whether you are working in a new or established development office, it’s important to build relationships with key stakeholders around your school, including school staff and your senior leadership team. A recent webinar hosted by Rachel Hadley-Leonard, schools development expert, answered questions from the audience on their challenges when engaging different stakeholders, from managing expectations to working collaboratively.
Introducing yourself and your role to teaching colleagues may initially lead to some confused looks, but it’s important to spend time sharing how development can benefit them - through careers, mentoring & funding - as well as getting to know your colleagues and learning about their skills, such as proof-reading or video creation. You can also learn much more about your alumni and even feature long-serving colleagues in alumni newsletters or gather content for archives. Inviting school staff along to events and involving them in event planning is another great way to bring staff on-side with development.
Governors may not have worked with development offices in the same way, if at all, but they are a fantastic asset to help you reach different parts of the school community and often, they are keen to get involved! You can encourage governors to shadow your development office to understand what the day-to-day activities include, but the key to sharing responsibility with governors is to empower them to share your fundraising purpose in their own words, so they can feel confident to talk about development when building relationships with new and existing community members.
Your Headteacher can be extremely influential in the success of your development strategy; research shows that when a Head spends 5-10% of their time on fundraising, the average gift more than triples compared to where time spent on fundraising is less than 5%*. To convince your Head that they need to get involved, it’s important to create clear responsibilities for how you would like them to spend the time (e.g. attending development events, speaking to new parents about philanthropy) and share how valuable their role can be in contributing to success.
Benchmarking reports offer a great starting place when researching for your development office, by sharing important data related to resources, fundraising and donor breakdowns. ToucanTech shared the first UK Schools Report in 2021, which offers an analysis of both engagement & fundraising activity and compares 2019 data to 2020 data to draw insights on the effects of COVID on development, assisted by commentary from several schools.
While the measure of success for development offices is often attributed solely to the income, there are other ways to share the success of your team that can help your stakeholders to realise the holistic approach taken to your fundraising. Delivering on agreed KPIs is a great way to show you are on the right track, and sharing insights related to your fundraising goals such as pipeline movement and engagement with your online platform can also demonstrate the steps you have taken to building a culture of philanthropy.
Sharing insights from your CRM may seem too granular, but it can be fascinating for your senior leadership team who rarely have time to dig into the details to understand how you can manage relationships across your whole school community. Using the ToucanTech system, you can show examples of mass communications, as well as sharing stats on your online platform engagement. You can also dig deeper by sharing pipeline movement for donors, and an activity tracker to demonstrate the timeline of building a relationship with a new prospect or donor.
Managing expectations is one of the greatest challenges of any development office, but particularly newer offices where the roles and responsibilities may be more likely to be misunderstood. By setting expectations early, you can take steps to avoid people setting unrealistic expectations. You can do this in a number of ways such as sharing feasibility studies which take into account the size of your constituency and current level of fundraising, using comparable benchmarking to what other organisations have managed to achieve with similar levels of resources, and agreeing on targets ahead of time. By getting your governors/trustees on board early, you can also help them to understand the process of setting up a new development office.
*Schools Fundraising and Engagement Benchmarking Report, 2018, IDPE Graham Pelton
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