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Three Takeaways from the Benchmarking Report

The Graham-Pelton team are really proud of this year’s report. We listened to your feedback and we hope that the report design and layout makes it easier for you to use and implement changes to your programme.

Over the coming weeks, the Graham-Pelton team will be providing our thoughts on some of these topics, going beyond the data and applying our diverse experience to really dig in to the ‘how’ and the ‘why’. Whether you are a head, governor, or development or alumni relations professional, here are our top three things to really consider when you look through the report:

Use time wisely

We were surprised to see that one-to-one meetings with potential donors had dropped to eighth place in how the head’s time is used. Whilst signing letters and attending events is valuable, it is vital that the limited time a head has to work on fundraising is used to move the school (and donors) forward. Stewardship is of course another vital element of their role. That said, the tipping point has to sit in the range of 5-10% of the head’s time (around five hours a week) on fundraising and engagement activity. This has to be supported by other staff and governors, and managed carefully and strategically by the development director. There was also a stark difference in the amounts raised based on how the development team use their time – unsurprisingly, those with a focus on major gifts raise more.

Establish a winning formula

There are many financial pressures facing our schools, and the future is equally uncertain. Whilst every school is different, our analysis shows that investment in the office has to be sustained for at least four years to see a strong ROI. But it is not just time. The team (at least two people) and the budget (£100k, including salaries) has to be in place for that four-year period. And finally, those team members need ambitious but realistic targets. Many school leaders will not have managed a development or alumni team, and ensuring that both the team and leadership have some professional development in this area will help to achieve KPIs.

Major Gifts, Major Gifts, Major Gifts (and that includes legacies)

Regardless of the make-up of your alumni and parent communities, dedicating time and resources to this area is fundamental. Understanding who your potential donors might be and what inspires them will have a meaningful impact. But you have to take the time to build relationships and understand their capacity, affinity, and inclination. This applies to legacies too, which for many schools are even more significant than major gifts. Bequests can be a vital source of income, even if it means delaying gratification.

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.