Reorienting Toward the Top

Targeted Strategies for High-Value Parent Fundraising

This study examines three steps to engage and solicit parent prospects to ensure a high-impact fundraising approach.

Reorienting Toward the Top

Over the last decade colleges and universities increased their parent fundraising efforts. But most institutions apply a mass solicitation approach to the acquisition of parent donors, which struggle to attain results.

Colleges and universities need a more targeted approach. First, institutions have to identify, target, and acquire the right parents as early as possible. Second, institutions have to cultivate prospects using high-touch methods that make financial sense for the institution. And third, institutions need to capitalize on the senior year to secure a major gift and bring students into the philanthropic process to inspire young alumni giving.

Diversity is key for effective fundraising

Alumni giving has long been the established core of college and universities' fundraising efforts. But, despite the fact that colleges and universities are graduating more alumni and using new ways to reach them, alumni participation rates continue to decrease. Even when advancement shops do acquire new alumni donors, their gifts are smaller than before. Moving the needle on alumni giving is tougher than ever.

While alumni will undoubtedly remain the biggest donor population, betting solely on this revenue stream leaves no room for error. Nonprofits with the best fundraising outlooks diversify their revenue sources. Failing to expand fundraising efforts beyond alumni places colleges and universities at a disadvantage in a time when presidents and provosts are looking to advancement to meet budget shortfalls with increased philanthropic revenues.

Parent giving is on the rise

Higher education institutions are increasingly turning to a new market to diversify their donor revenue sources—parents. In the last decade, parent giving to higher education increased 49% and the percentage of parent programs that fundraise nearly doubled.

While parents perfectly fit the donor profile because of their investment and engagement in their children's education—among other reasons—advancement leaders are still trying to develop the best approaches to target this particular demographic. Many have taken an all-parent approach with the hope that casting a wide net will capture the few who could make a substantial impact. But these mass solicitation efforts have dismaying returns. Institutions that have opted for a more targeted approach have seen positive yields.

This is a preview of restricted content.

Full access to this content is reserved for Advancement Forum members. Log in now or learn more about Advancement Forum.

Next, Check Out

Parent Fundraising Implementation Guidance

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague