How can an institution can make wise investments in its philanthropic future and build a sustainable culture of philanthropy? Thomas Minar, president of Franklin College, offers five suggestions.
- Don’t be afraid to ask, just be careful about how you do it. Philanthropy should be based on passion – what ignites you and other constituents – so share your passion for your institution’s vision and mission and it’ll be easy. Ask others to join in your passion: “Would you consider joining me in supporting this important effort at the university with a gift?”
- Make sure goals are attainable. Whether the goals you set for your board, your president, your staff or the institution as a whole, no one will be helped by great-sounding goals that no one achieves. Too many leaders are romanced by the fancy, round sounds of “$100 million” or “$1 billion.” Goals that are impossible to reach simply serve to demoralize and increase turnover in staff and volunteers and, ultimately, can decrease results by setting the wrong tone.
- Fundraising is a team sport. Share in goal setting, planning, solicitation, and credit.
- Pre-ask, early ask, ask, ask again, keep them engaged, and go back for more. Don't be afraid to keep trying with the prospect with whom you don’t first have success. A donor long ago taught me “no doesn’t mean know until they have your lawyer say it to you.” Her point was that personal engagement on an ongoing basis changes relationships!
- Make sure your donors can be partners in your institution’s successes. Share information with them regularly. But help set their expectations, too; the $25,000 donor who wants to be included in every event or have input on everything a department or program does is asking too much. Help donors understand that in a resource-constrained environment, stewardship and fundraising cost time and need to be efficient and effective, just like your core programs.