Tara Patel, Analyst
A Growing Landscape
Over the last decade there have been a proliferation of parent programming at colleges and universities, and while many have made strides engaging parents in programming, and yet for many advancement leaders, this work has come with a lower-than-hoped return on investment when it comes to fundraising from this constituency.
Services Offered by Parent Programs
National Survey of College and University Parent Programs, 2011
Shifting from Mass Engagement to a More Focused Approach
Most institutions have applied their mass engagement approach in tandem with a mass acquisition approach to parent donors. Though first-year efforts yield some revenue, without a more segmented, high-touch approach, wealthy parent prospects focus their philanthropy elsewhere and disappear by the time their student’s senior year rolls around. The mass engagement approach dilutes the prospect pool treating all parents the same. In addition, this event-heavy approach dominates resources that could be better deployed toward cultivating top-parent prospects. Parent programs who want to move toward a more fundraising-focused approach must begin by acquiring high-net worth parent prospects using alternative methods.
Resource Allocations for Parent Initiatives
Three Steps to Acquiring High Net Worth Parent Prospects
Step one: Systematically gather parent information
There are often many hurdles that must be cleared on the way to effective parent fundraising. The most common and largest of these is an inability to gather parent information from other offices on campus due to privacy concerns. The good news is that based upon the proliferation of parent events, many development offices are provided with an opportunity to ask parents to share their information directly. This should not preclude development teams to discuss with and partner to share data with financial aid and student affairs whenever possible.
Step two: Qualify parents quickly
In order to qualify parents with high capacity as true major gift prospects, we need to be systematic with our discovery approaches with this constituency. These are details that major gift officers have the time to do with alumni prospects, but they often don’t have time or comfort and experience to do with parents. We’ve seen first-moving organizations putting their parent/family alumni councils to work completing welcome calls with parents. Welcome calls can be structured to simply collect key pieces of information, for example, where parents volunteer, and when they plan to come to campus. Or they can be used to ask for their first gift, or to join the advisory council.
Step three: Deploy segmented high-touch solicitations
Once parent prospects are successfully qualified, to make the most of your solicitations, much like any other major gift prospect, advancement teams must deploy segmented, high-touch strategies. From assigning parents to a specific staff member, who is responsible for strategy creation, to moving high-potential prospects into existing MGO portfolios, strategy development for in person gift requests made in partnership with existing parent volunteers and donors.