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Donor Participation Project

Lack of Campus-Wide Support Hinders Fundraising Efforts, Say Advancement Leaders  

A recent survey of university fundraising professionals revealed a significant roadblock to increasing donor participation: lack of support from campus leadership and culture. Of the 75 advancement leaders surveyed, 73% disagreed or strongly disagreed that their institution’s culture understands the work required to drive donor participation.  

Without buy-in from leadership across the university, fundraising teams struggle to get the resources and collaboration they need to effectively engage donors. As Cameron Hall, executive director of annual giving at the University of South Carolina, said, “Really shaping how we are having those conversations with our presidents, with our boards to give them a greater sense of what the current market looks like and how we need to be adapting to communicate with donors the way they are instead of relegating a lot of these sort of tasks and skill sets to lower level employees.”

Fundraisers also need support from their own institutional leadership, not just presidents and boards. The survey found a lack of alignment and buy-in even within advancement divisions, with some teams operating in “Hunger Games”-like environments of internal competition. This dynamic blocks the kind of collaboration and innovation that fundraising—and donor engagement in particular—demands today.  

To overcome these roadblocks, advancement leaders recommend:

• Educating campus stakeholders about the work of fundraising and how to achieve key metrics like donor participation. This includes communicating the need for investment in staff, skills training, and new technologies.  

• Adapting to engage today’s donors by hiring staff with digital marketing and analytics skills and training existing teams. Advancement needs leadership that can pivot quickly as new technologies and engagement channels emerge.  

• Fostering a culture of collaboration over competition within advancement divisions. Teams should align around shared key performance indicators and work together to achieve institution-wide goals.  

• Measuring and communicating the ROI and long-term impact of donor engagement efforts to make the case for more resources and support. Building the donor pipeline requires long-term investment.  

With the support of institutional leadership and a collaborative culture focused on donor experience, advancement teams can overcome roadblocks to growing donor participation and build a sustainable fundraising program. But first, they need to make a compelling case for this vision of the future. Fundraisers, make your case.

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

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