Survey: Targeted capital-use funds make up only 41% of fundraising efforts
- Soliciting major and planned gifts remains the top focus of advancement officers, but "cash for today" is an increasingly high priority of institutional fundraising campaigns, according to a recent survey of higher ed advancement officials across the country.
- Targeted capital-use funds make up only 41% of campaign efforts, as both budget pressures and a need to show donors and campuses an immediate effect from the campaign are driving a need to see more unrestricted immediate-use funds.
- Institutions spend an average of 65% more in a campaign year than in regular budget years, but there is still not enough attention paid to tracking of gift officer and annual giving program success metrics beyond basic activity, though survey respondents indicate a desire to spend more in that area.
In the past, capital campaigns were typically launched for a specific purpose, like funding a new building or some other long-term project. Increasingly, however, as budget pressures increase, institutions are launching campaigns to generate unrestricted funds that can be applied to any area of operations or grow the endowments more broadly.
The insights from advancement officers about attention being misplaced on productivity rather than effectiveness — for instance that success might be measured by how many calls an officer was able to make, rather than the quality of interactions with potential donors — is consistent with findings from an earlier survey in RNL's "Advancement Leaders Speak" research series. Officers report that a need to pad their schedules with meetings means about half of their top prospects are getting meetings each year. Not only that, but many reported they were using irrelevant ratings systems to determine how likely a donor would be willing to give.
In the newest survey, predictably, finding new channels and new donors are top priorities, and brand monitoring and productivity tracking remain top focuses. Raising the institution's public perception and learning from donors are also important goals of campaigns, officers say. But in the earlier survey, most respondents indicated their time was being mismanaged, and it may be worth a series of conversations about how to best re-purpose the time spent to maximize impact.
For example, if hiring is increasing around a campaign, employing one person solely as a scheduler would free up a significant amount of time for officers to attend meetings. If another person solely put together research packets on top prospects, it would allow the officers deployed to those meetings to identify things each prospect might personally connect with, allowing the ask to be made in the first meeting rather than requiring a "feel-out" introductory meeting. This shows the donor their time is valued and helps build a more personal connection to the campaign.
- Ruffalo Noel Levitz Future of Campaigns
Follow Autumn A. Arnett on Twitter