A recent survey of 75 advancement professionals conducted by the Donor Participation Project found several barriers to improving donor participation rates at their institutions. The majority of respondents felt they lacked key resources and support to drive meaningful growth.
The survey found that while 40% of respondents felt they had adequate budget for donor participation efforts, 73% did not believe their campus culture fully understood or supported the work required. Respondents cited a lack of collaboration and buy-in from leadership across their institutions.
“If that is happening from leadership, then the AVP level will be kind of on the same page…we know this is the direction our leader wants to go.”Cameron Hall of the University of South Carolina
Another key finding was that advancement teams often lack staff with skills in emerging areas like digital marketing and analytics that are crucial for engaging today’s donors. According to Sean Devendorf of Tufts University, “there are new skill sets that need to be developed all the time…I have had to become a ChatGPT prompt engineer to be able to produce some of the things I’ve been able to produce.” Advancement leaders will need to make skills development and hiring for these roles a higher priority.
To address these issues, the Donor Participation Project recommends:
- Advancement leaders focus on educating campus partners about the significance and ROI of donor participation using a long-term “pipeline” approach.
- Evaluate team structures and budgets to ensure they are aligned with current needs.
- Staff will require ongoing learning opportunities and support to build skills in new technologies and strategies.
- Finally, leaders must create a culture where teams feel empowered to test innovative ideas, fail quickly, and adapt.
Overall, the survey highlights the need for advancement leaders to communicate a shared vision, build buy-in across their institutions, and make key investments in staff and resources to strengthen donor participation over the long run. With a more collaborative, forward-looking approach, advancement teams can overcome roadblocks and transform donor participation into meaningful, long-term relationships.
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