The title of this blog may strike you as a little odd, particularly given our partnership with IDPE to deliver the most in-depth benchmarking of UK schools fundraising seen to date. And there is certainly a wealth of valuable insights to be analysed and implemented here. Yet it is important to remember that benchmarking is only one tool among many that can influence a step change in fundraising results. Here are three questions that no amount of benchmarking will ever be able to answer:
Do you have a secret weapon?
Our work with schools typically starts with a series of 1:1 internal discussions, focus groups, and resource reviews to help us get a sense of what makes the institution tick. We like to uncover and articulate a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that has the potential to leapfrog over best practices and accelerate fundraising. We are yet to find a school that doesn’t have a secret weapon, but unfortunately no amount of desk research will help you identify yours. There is simply no substitute for taking the time to have candid conversations with your colleagues to identify the magical affinity felt by alumni of the 1980s, or the connections your Head of Sport has to numerous industry sponsors.
How can you strengthen and overcome your Achilles’ heel?
Conversely, the conscientious, driven nature of fundraisers tends to mean that most are often well aware of the unique challenges their schools face. Perhaps multiple false starts in fundraising campaigns, a history of poor stewardship and burnt bridges, or simply a high turnover of staff pose particular challenges to your institution. Benchmarking will certainly help you to educate colleagues on how these challenges could negatively impact your fundraising, but it can’t help you turn back the clock and change things beyond your influence.
How will your strategy influence the success of future fundraisers?
The strategy toolkit of any school and fundraiser should never be over-reliant on just one approach. At Graham-Pelton, we like to think of the toolkit as a series of levers to be dialed up or down depending on the questions we are seeking to answer at a given point in time. So whilst the publishing of any new benchmarking data should make everyone sit up and take note, make sure your school supports you in recognising that strategic plans should not start and end with benchmarking.
This article is part of a series providing our analysis and key takeaways from the 2016-2018 Graham-Pelton/IDPE Benchmarking Report. Read other articles or sign-up for our email list to have the latest news on the benchmarking report and other fundraising tips sent straight to your inbox.