by Michael Preston, EVP, National Accounts The Expo Group Level5 Events
When higher education institutions are looking to advance their causes and grow their funding, it’s wise to heed the words of great UCLA Coach John Wooden: “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
Public launches for comprehensive fundraising campaigns can be improved by focusing on the following four things that can and should be done to ensure success.
Be More Inclusive
Your university has a profound impact on students, parents, faculty and staff, but it also significantly affects the local community. In many localities, your university is the largest employer AND provides the majority of the health care to the local population. “In at least 25 metropolitan areas in America, higher education institutions and their accompanying hospitals, a sector often dubbed ‘eds and meds,’ account for roughly 1 in 6 local jobs,” according to an analysis of 2016 federal data by the Martin Prosperity Institute published by Governing, October 2018.
When planning the public launch, don’t merely focus on top donors — many of whom already have a strong affinity — but also include members of the local community. In addition to adding potential donors to your campaign, the launch provides an opportunity to share your school’s plans for the future and how it will positively impact that community.
A Mile Wide, A Foot Deep
The launch event of a campaign is not the time to drill down into the specifics of every priority, institute, capital improvement or research project the school is undertaking. Instead, focus on the breadth of what your school offers its students, the community and the world. Find transdisciplinary programs that touch multiple schools and use the power of emotional storytelling to share how those examples are representative of what’s happening campus-wide.
Focus on the feeling that people have in common when it comes to your school as a whole. “Donors need a quest to achieve, and want to see institutions as heroic partners in that quest” is a great quote from a 2016 article Why Fundraisers Need to Be Excellent Beat Reporters in Academic Impressions.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
Authenticity rules today, so rather than burying the focus on fundraising at the bottom of an invitation, lead with it by highlighting the giving component. “Alumni today respond better to events that are explicit in their ‘asks.’ Young alumni, in particular, are highly transactional; you can appeal to them by positioning these events as ‘parties with a purpose,’ Campbell & Company revealed in their study Alumni Engagement: Best Practices for Building Long-Term Relationships.
Be upfront for the reason behind your campaign launch celebration. Just make sure you deliver an experience worthy of your guests’ time and attention.
Go Big or Go Home
Societal expectations for live events have changed so your university needs to WOW people when launching a comprehensive campaign. Your primary donors attend numerous charity functions each and every year, knock them away from the belief this is just another one of those. It’s a once-a-generation celebration of your University!
Deeply immersive, emotional storytelling supported by the latest technology will drive your donors to stronger levels of commitment of their time, talent and treasure.
If you have a question about creating an extraordinary campaign event, contact us!