The IDPE Benchmarking Report demonstrates consistently the need to focus on major gift fundraising. When time and resource is limited, major gift fundraising can have the biggest difference to yield, ROI, and the impact the donation can have.
- Allocate the appropriate amount of time to be successful.
There are many demands on what type of fundraising a school should complete. Average annual philanthropic income of schools that spend the most time on major gifts is £848k, nearly 60% higher than what the average school raises.
Dedicated resource must be allocated to make major gift fundraising a success because it requires time to build meaningful relationships with potential donors. Schools raising more than £1m a year devoted twice the amount of time to fundraising activities than those raising £500k-£1m annually. Of the schools that spend 50% or more of their time on outward-facing activities, those with a focus on major gifts raise £884k per year, whereas schools spending the most time on alumni relations raise £465k, and schools spending the most time on regular giving raise £230k.
- Ensure you have the tools to be strategic.
Good major gifts activity is based on relationships that are both strategic and meaningful, but need to be managed carefully to move prospects forward. Investment in the database and research, and the staff to manage it, correlates to successful fundraising initiatives.
One hundred twenty-eight schools in this report stated that they have a defined prospect pool. More schools are embracing the use of a moves management system to track prospect relationships – 39% in this survey compared with 30% in 2014-16. Once schools raise more than £1m per year, 57% of them have a moves management system.
- Help the head to be successful
Major donors will inevitably want to meet with the school leadership before making a gift, and managing the internal relationships is a big part of any major gift fundraiser’s role.
In schools where the heads spend 5-10% of their time on fundraising and are involved in asking for gifts, the average gift is six times higher than where time spent on fundraising is less than 5%.
However, there is a concerning trend identified when we look at the four-year data. Two years ago, one-to-one meetings with prospects was among the top five activities of heads at schools raising more than £500k. This year, one-to-one meetings fell to eighth place. This may be because the head’s time is being used for other activity, or their overall time on fundraising has been reduced. It is vital that the head’s time is used strategically and appropriately, and this must be agreed not only by the development director and the head, but also by the governors.