At the IDPE annual conference 2022, we heard from a group of talented and accomplished practitioners who shared their experiences in involving their whole school community in fundraising. Read the round-up of the panel session with Al MacEwen, Director of Bradfield Society and Development, Bradfield College; Alexandra Barlow, Director Of External Relations, Downe House; Britt Ellice Development Director, Bishop’s Stortford College; and Melanie Bushell, Development Director, Portsmouth Grammar School, chaired by Rachel Hadley-Leonard, Independent Consultant, RHL Consulting.
How do we define a whole school community, and what do we mean by an inclusive community?
Al: At Bradfield, we have tried to make the Bradfield Society as inclusive as possible by including lots of different segments within our community under one group, such as current & former parents, alumni, current & former staff, and friends of the college. There is no fee to join, and everyone is included in the community; this is reflective of the College itself and how we welcome people to the school. The framework we came up with was to get as many people involved as possible, with 8 different silos of people to bring on board, and show people what they can get out of being part of the society.
What can you do to keep your community engaged before they are ready to give?
Alexandra: We have a foundation but we also have an alumni association that sits beside us. Alumni do not typically give back with money at this point, but they do give back in other ways such as their time, careers events, supporting current pupils. We try hard to keep former staff and parents in our school community and keep them engaged in ways other than fundraising.
Why is it important to engage your whole school community for giving?
Melanie: In terms of the bottom line, your major donors and legacy gifts are what will make the difference, and I don’t argue with that, but certainly for us at the beginning we didn’t know who those major prospects were. We decided to kick off with a telephone campaign, including both alumni and parents in our calling list, and this had the knock-on effect of bringing our major donors to the surface and encouraging them to make a first gift, and then go on to make a major gift. We talked about fundraising for bursaries with our whole community, whether we were contacting them in the telephone campaign or not, so that there was a long lead time into our bursary campaign for people to learn more about why we were fundraising and the impact and importance their gift could have.
How do you use feedback from your community to segment and tailor the ask?
Britt: One of the first things we had to do ahead of launching any fundraising campaigns was to run a branding exercise to find out what our community thought about fundraising, the foundation, and the school. Receiving some negative feedback, such as that they didn’t want to be contacted or didn’t understand why they should give back, helped us to segment and use tailored messaging to avoid over-contacting individuals. It was a major learning experience, and using ToucanTech helps us to segment really easily and we plan to develop our segmentation approach over time to become more sophisticated. Thinking through our comms plan, we are considering segmentation every time we plan a new campaign to help our messaging feel more bespoke or relevant, for example whether the audience is alumni, parents, alumni parents, governors etc.
What does it mean to ‘normalise giving’ in your school culture? How can we achieve ‘normalised giving’?
Al: I spent the first 16 years at Bradfield outside of the development team, as a housemaster and teacher. When I started my role in development, I began with the fact that people have always given, both money and time, and there was a culture of reciprocity that encouraged these behaviours. When other people can see the benefit of giving, for example, current students receiving careers advice or opportunities from alumni, it sticks with them and encourages them to give back later in life.
Aside from fundraising, how else can engaging your school community yield positive results for your school?
Alexandra: An engaged community can give back in other ways, such as through time/volunteering, referrals & PR for the school, admissions, and building the school network. How you treat your community (even those who might not donate) says a lot about your school’s morals and values, and can have a big impact on your school’s reputation.
Thank you to all of the speakers for sharing their experience and expertise. Find out more about how ToucanTech can support your giving journey, from engaging your whole school community to tracking your fundraising progress.
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