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Donor Participation Project

Fundraising Success Through Internal Relationships and Strategic Engagement

Strong internal relationships and strategic engagement are the foundation for fundraising success, according to Adam Platzer, Assistant Vice President of College Advancement at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In a recent podcast, Platzer emphasized that “internal relationships are everything” for fundraisers. Without trust and collaboration across departments, fundraisers can’t gain access to key prospects or close major gifts.

Platzer recommends several strategies for building internal partnerships:

  • Report back to faculty and staff when alumni or donors mention them. Send a quick email to say the donor spoke highly of them. This shows you value their relationships and role.
  • Ask faculty, staff and leadership for prospect referrals and advice. Have regular meetings to ask who they’ve been in contact with lately and who shows potential.
  • Invite faculty, staff and leadership to participate in stewardship. Have them sign thank you letters or meet with donors. This gives them visibility into the fundraising process and the impact of gifts.
  • Attend departmental and university meetings to update colleagues on fundraising priorities and events. Remind them how advancement can support their goals.
  • Get to know faculty, staff and leadership on a personal level. Walk around, grab coffee and learn about their lives outside of work. Personal connections build trust.

Strategic engagement, tailored to your organization’s strengths and donors’ interests, is also key. Platzer developed a “tiered engagement system” with five levels, from volunteer opportunities up to serving on the board of trustees. As donors move up the tiers, they build greater affinity and make larger gifts.

Fundraisers should work with their marketing and alumni relations teams to create targeted engagement pathways. Meet regularly to discuss top donor prospects and how to plug them into existing events and volunteer roles. Explain that highly engaged donors often become the best donors.

Building internal relationships and strategic engagement requires work, but the rewards of increased trust, bigger donations, and more faithful donors make the effort worthwhile. Strong partnerships and meaningful involvement are a winning combination.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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