Alumni and development professionals are chiefly responsible for an institution’s fundraising efforts, but that does not mean they are the only people involved. At any given time, there may be dozens of student groups and campus organizations conducting fundraisers of their own. This is a good thing, as it helps foster a culture of philanthropy on campus and it extends the reach of the development team. As beneficial as that can be, it is important that all fundraising projects be carefully coordinated. That does not mean the development team has to actually conduct each fundraiser themselves, but rather they need to develop a means of screening the proposals and tracking their progress. Here are five reasons why this is important.

1. Ensure Alignment with the Institution’s Core Values
It goes without saying that what people raise money for says a lot about them, who they are, and what they value. An institution that values diversity and inclusion would never allow fundraising for, or a donor to contribute to, something overtly racist or sexist. While the fundraisers proposed by student groups and clubs are unlikely to fall into those categories (at least one would hope), there are nonetheless times when campus groups push the envelope in ways the institution cannot sanction. Having a centralized approval process can safeguard the institution’s reputation, and ensure that the fundraiser is appropriate for all concerned.

2. Ensure Proper Reception of Donations
In order for the institution to maintain its 501(c)3 status, revenues have to be received and accounted for properly. If the alumni/development office does not know that a fundraiser is going on, it cannot be watching for gifts or remind those involved of where to turn in revenues for proper receipt. Undeclared income from a fundraiser can, if discovered by an institution’s financial auditors, have serious financial consequences.

3. Ensure Good Donor Stewardship
This one is related to the above. Properly receiving gifts is the first step to making sure that donors get recognized and thanked appropriately. A centralized process is better able to track not just revenues, but also who is responsible for thanking donors and whether or not it has been done.

4. Avoid Donor Fatigue
Any decent CRM will contain detailed information about each individual donor, his or her giving history, whether or not he or she is in cultivation for a major gift, the stage of cultivation, when he or she was last solicited, for what and by whom, etc. This information is so basic to modern alumni/development work, but it is largely hidden from the rest of the campus community. Professors, coaches, student clubs and organizations are unlikely to have access to this information and so they cannot always know the status of a donor’s relationship with the institution, much less how many times he or she been solicited and whether the timing is right to ask for another gift. By running fundraising project through a centralized process, the alumni/development team can avoid tiring donors with too many solicitations.

5. Avoid Conflicts with Other Campus Fundraisers
This one benefits all campus constituencies. If, say, the Newman club and the women’s soccer team are both wanting to sell t-shirts during the same week, neither group will raise as much as they could if they sold items at different times. A good approval process can help schedule and guide the fundraising efforts of different groups to ensure they are as successful as possible.

Question: How does your institution handle internal fundraising projects? Please leave a reply below.

Posted by Dr. Mark Zobel

Director of Annual Giving at Blackburn College

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