Make the case for multidisciplinary proposals

The benefits of multidisciplinary gift proposals may seem obvious to advancement leaders and frontline fundraisers. 10% of donors are responsible for 90% of philanthropic revenue. And these top donors want to support multidisciplinary projects on campus. Therefore, gift proposals should become increasingly multidisciplinary in nature.

But getting partners across campus to work together is often easier said than done. Deans often worry about losing funding for school-based programs to new, multidisciplinary projects. Frontline fundraisers may be concerned about receiving adequate credit for gifts. Business staff need to know how the gift will be accounted for when it arrives. Decentralized advancement operations face a particularly difficult challenge when it comes to proposals that cross divisions on campus, since fundraisers seek to maximize the philanthropic potential for their assigned units and may not be incentivized to work with staff elsewhere.

Faced with increasing competition for donors, advancement leaders cannot afford to continue presenting single-discipline proposals to donors, who want to have an impact on wide-ranging, global issues. To encourage everyone on campus to work together, start with data.

The data-based case for collaboration

To determine the importance of multidisciplinary giving, the Advancement Forum collected data from research universities in the United States about donors who supported multiple campus units through their gifts. Among the respondents, on average, only 9.4% of donors were multi-unit donors. These individuals supported an average of 2.1 areas through their philanthropy.

Percentage of Donors Supporting Multiple Units

Multi-unit donors provide substantial share of philanthropy

While multidisciplinary donors comprise a relatively small percentage of the donor pool, they represent a large share of gift revenue to each of the institutions surveyed. On average, 48% of giving to these universities came from individuals who were supporting more than one unit. At the top of the spectrum 60% of giving at Institution J came from 13.2% of donors who gave to more than one area.

Gift Value from Multi-unit Donors

Make the data work for you

This data shows how a small group of donors is crucial to overall fundraising success. Retaining these donors over time will require consistently being able to present multidisciplinary proposals that solve global problems. As the principal gift ranks begin to be populated by impact-oriented Gen Xers and millennials, the pressure for multidisciplinary ideas will only increase.

Use this data, or data from your own donor base, to encourage deans and faculty members to think beyond their school, college, or division. To assuage their concerns, have clear gift acceptance and accounting policies in place, and ensure that fundraisers are prepared to think beyond their assigned unit when working with principal gift donors.

When you need campus partners to collaborate on proposals, start with the data.

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