Faculty Milestones & Fundraising at CASE IV

By Tim Kubatzky,  CFRE

I had the great pleasure of presenting a breakout workshop at the CASE IV Mini-Conference  on Saturday, August 2, at the Pearl Hotel on South Padre Island. We talked about the wonderful and sometimes challenging opportunities to raise funds to celebrate faculty milestones. The development office often ends up very involved in these efforts if not completely in charge of them. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan for a successful and fitting tribute.

Who are the prospective donors? Alumni with fond memories of the professor or administrator, certainly. How about colleagues from your school or academic peers from other institutions? Did the professor have connections to an industry group or do research for companies? Some professors are known for their continuing education or certification prep courses and may have admirers outside your own alumni base. Don’t forget family and friends.

How much can you expect to raise? Goal-setting is an inexact science, but agreeing on a goal and defining how the funds will be used help give your fundraising effort momentum. The number of prospects, their financial ability and their level of interest are all factors in determining the goal. Do you have a lead donor who will get things rolling, or a person or foundation who will agree to backstop the goal so there is no possibility of falling short? You may want to define the tribute gift broadly at first–say a faculty excellence fund–and avoid calling it a fellowship or chair until you have those endowment minimums in sight.

What method will you use to raise funds? A retiring professor with corporate connections might be a candidate for a gala with table sales, while a professor who influenced international students might be better served with a mail/email campaign. Tailor your methods to your honoree and your constituents, and choose a one-off event, a traditional campaign or a crowd-funding drive based on what is most appropriate and has the best chance of success.

Do you have buy-in from decision-makers? If you set out to honor a faculty member with a tribute suggested by alumni, family or friends, make sure from the start that the intended gift is acceptable to the president, provost, dean or department chair. Ideally, the gift will honor the professor while meeting an institutional priority. Get your approvals before the word gets out to your constituents.  Development shouldn’t steer the ship–we just make sure it has enough fuel to get to port.

The elements that make for good faculty milestone fundraising efforts are the same ones that work for major gift planning of all sorts. The good news is that these faculty milestones are not uncommon, and we should embrace them for the wonderful opportunities they are.

If you would like a copy of the slides please email me at tkubatzky@polarisnps.com

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