Don’t Neglect Professional Development

As a fundraising consultant, too often I see organizations that don’t budget enough—or anything—for the professional development of their development professionals. Given that upwards of 75% of advancement budgets fund personnel, it’s strange that we wouldn’t strategize to maximize skills where it matters most.

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Begin by making professional development a top priority. Then budget to make it happen. I know the biggest reason we don’t train our professionals is a perceived lack of funds. Second, professional development seems expensive. But missing the mark here is analogous to buying a house and neglecting to insure it because the mortgage is so high there is nothing left for insurance.

There is a wide world of high quality professional development resources offered by nonprofit and proprietary providers focusing on nearly every professional niche and skill level. Use your skills as a leader to find and use the resources that will allow your shop to excel.

Make the creation of an annual professional development plan an intrinsic part of the annual performance review. And I think you will agree, it would be nice to have a few more carrots in our managerial arsenal.

follow url Professionals: Ask for Education

Development professionals should research the educational and training options that exist and the costs that apply. Not every option requires extensive travel. Some excellent providers, like The Fund Raising School at Indiana University, offer sessions in different cities around the country. Even if you have to travel, it may not be a long distance.

Ask for what you need. Raises can be costly, promotions out of reach in a small shop, but professional development can benefit everyone, every year. Do your research and make the case. Be persuasive. Let your boss know that investing in you now will mean more dollars on the horizon.

here Be Strategic About Your Choices

Annual conferences are a no-brainer. They offer an attendee-centered menu that allows a lot of latitude for professionals at different levels on the career ladder. Week-long intensives can be transformational. A fundraising 101 course is essential for people who are new to development.

Intensives on personal cultivation, solicitation, and prospect management are essential to professionals moving up the philanthropic ladder. We need to know how to manage our own psychology to excel in a field that is, as I say in my book, sales transformed by mission.

Successful professionals need theory, education and training. Think about the difference in these terms. Without theory you can’t plan. Without education you can’t apply what you know. Without training you can’t exercise the precise muscle needed to win the day.

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Professionals who enter the profession with a graduate degree in philanthropy arrive on the stage with a unique set of opportunities and needs as opposed to someone who transfers into development mid-career from another field. And that law degree doesn’t mean its holder understands fundraising.

If you offer that individual with the law degree theory, education, and training related specifically to planned giving as it exists in the real world, for real people with real needs, desires, and capacity, then you’ve got an appealing package.

Regardless of our origins and starting points, there are many models for success in development. A wide variety of backgrounds can inform the practice and a wide variety of personality types can achieve career success.

But here’s the deal: almost no one arrives at the profession fully formed. Those who think they are beyond benefitting from professional development may be suffering from a blind spot big enough to drive a truck through.

And senior-level professional development can be supremely rewarding. I say this as a past (and future) participant. As you consider the options, think about getting out from behind your computer to engage person-to- person with fellow participants, facilitators, teachers and students. So much of the magic is in peer-to-peer interactions!

So, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t sell your staff short. Educate and train, educate and train, repeatedly, throughout the arc of every career.

It takes just two things—commitment and belief—to get everyone in your shop onboard and learning.  ▪

[This article originally appeared at https://www.edusearchonline.com. February 2018]

A Note on Digital Strategies For Alumni Engagement

Here’s a  note of mine as published in a recent online post from Causeview, the giving apps company.  Read the entire post here: http://causeview.com/advancement-experts-share-their-favorite-digital-strategies-to-engage-alumni/.

 

Unfocused messaging and an over-reliance on social media as the primary engagement tool can combine to give alumni shops the feeling that they are doing much while accomplishing little.

As a better first step, I would propose greater exploitation of an earlier format, the monthly blast email “mini-magazine.” Combine strong photos with a compelling editorial voice that reveals college breakthroughs, powerful stories of student engagement and alumni achievement, together with a section on alumni milestones (with photos) and you have a package that possesses a greater chance of being opened.  Count clicks and time spent per page for engagement metrics. You can repurpose the copy on Facebook, and tweet the photos to tighten up your social media brand.

Do We Do What We Say We Do? Cognitive bias in the boardroom

A big part of my job as a consultant is discerning the big picture in things. Working with boards, two big picture factors play an outsize role in diminished governance outcomes. The first is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is, you will remember, the tendency to seek out, favor and recall information that confirms existing beliefs. As such, it is a prime component of erratic inductive reasoning.

The second is what I call normative bias. That is a bias to favor the assumption that current and future events will tend to preserve and confirm the status quo. That tomorrow will look like today. That students in the next decade will face the same challenges as students in this decade.

That is, if you can’t see change, it most likely isn’t happening. Or, that the world leans toward stasis rather than change. And this factor is particularly applicable as a component of considering some localized issue at hand where the big picture is easily obscured by the demands of the moment. Think of it as the error of assuming past stock market winners will be future winners. Think of it as viewing any given infrastructure as immutable and not prone to degradation or obsolescence.

Together, these two biases lead good boards astray. They lead board to ignore threats and opportunities in the interest of preserving the status quo. On the face of it there might seem to be nothing wrong with such conservatism of governance. I do not discredit the term “conservatism” here in the least. The role of a governing board is to govern an organization in trust for the greater community in the service of a relatively immutable mission. That is as it should be. Reckless—and feckless—board governance is anathema to the continuity of a needed service.

But confirmation bias, especially collective confirmation bias, or groupthink, is endemic to board culture and decision-making. It begins with overbroad notions of collegiality, of knowing “one’s place,” of not rocking the boat; there are so many ways American idioms express the concept—precisely because it is so commonplace.

Confirmation bias tells us that since we serve an organization that does good work, the evidence tells us that we’re doing good work. Statistics are quoted, testimonials are heard, anecdotal evidence is convincing…or…the statics are not germane, the testimonials are pure emotionalism, and the evidence not actually evidence. What we are hearing in such a scenario is confirmation bias at work.

Confirmation bias gets in the way of realizing that we are underserving entire sectors of the community, that we are training for the wrong jobs, that we are not tracking our former enrollees (all too often inaccurate to call them graduates) for outcomes; all of these circumstances are serious business, but in the face of challenging notions, studies show convincingly that confirmation bias is invincible unless countered.

And what of normative bias? Normative bias says that change that happens slowly isn’t happening. Global climate change might be the poster child for this one. But it happens at every intersection of personal and collective experience. Baby boomers are not aging. Suburbs are not growing more diverse. College tuitions are not becoming unaffordable. White collar jobs are not disappearing.

In the rear view mirror, it all seems so obvious. Half of all Americans worked in agriculture in 1890. Forty percent of Americans worked in high quality manufacturing jobs in 1950. So we see titanic forces are obscured in the slowness of their conquest. It happens all around us every day, in nearly every neighborhood, but all to often we don’t know what we’ve got—or don’t have—‘til it’s gone.

When you pair confirmation and normative biases, the errors of inductive reasoning can be compounded to an astonishing degree. We develop an entire sector, let’s say the community college sector, that tells itself and the world that it is the go-to choice for job retraining and access to education for the underserved.

Yet we see that millions of jobs go unfilled every year in regions where un- or underemployed workers are legion and the community college sector has a strong presence.

The educational-industrial complex, to put an ironic twist on it, has not done a good job of providing meaningful retraining for the good jobs that actually exist. Why? Because we so busy doing a good job that we didn’t have room, time, or resources to do the job that needed to be done?

Boards need to ask themselves one question: do we do what we say we do? And they need to demand answers that are backed up by rigorous empirical methods that are as free of cognitive bias as possible.

Do we do what we say we do? That is the question. Let’s start there.

 

Stick with Mission in Tumultuous Political Times

While current claims that the USA has never been more divided may be a tad hyperbolic—the Viet Nam war era comes to mind—these certainly are polarized times, and they may become more polarized in the months and years ahead. Straddling political divides to support higher education philanthropy is difficult when the political fracture of the day is top of mind for colleagues and community members alike. Your own political feelings may careen from despondent (or triumphant) to angry in the course of a single tweet. That’s the way of the world right now.

My experience tells me that the best policy is to lead with mission in polarized times. And our mission is simple: helping students enrolled in higher education. When impolitic messages are expressed you can pivot with a statement like, watchMy concern is with our students, and one thing I know is they will need more resources, support, and superior education experiences to make it in this world.

We are lucky to have a mission as inclusive as students in higher education because our mission is nearly universally respected by people of all political persuasions. That allows us a little breathing room in divided arenas as long as we keep the focus where it needs to be, on the mission we serve.

I know it can get complicated. I have spent many years of my life in the company of CEOs, wealthy donors, small business owners, and successful professionals. I have heard thousands of directly political assertions that I have had to either sidestep or respond to with well-crafted noncommittal statements of one sort or another. It can wear on a person. Yet, we cannot make assumptions about the political leanings of a prospective or active donor. Money comes in all political stripes.

With board members, we might learn to encourage a little more comity (not comedy, although it bit of levity might help) in awkward times. I have had the experience of working with boards that shared tacit political biases, and I don’t think that’s right. I think the need for board diversity alone argues against that. When I see a board that leans 90% toward an identified political party, that’s a problem.

People give where they feel their contributions make a difference—and they give, and serve, where they feel welcome. In sharply divided political times a board chair or president may need to—rarely, we hope—ask a group to table remarks or a discussion or continue it outside of any institutional context.

But foundation executive directors and development officers may sometimes need to respond to unprofessional remarks by stifling themselves in the interest of promoting overarching philanthropic goals. I am not talking about hate speech, overtly offensive racist or misogynist remarks here. Those need to be documented and reported to the proper institutional authorities, because they directly threaten the mission of the institution. Thankfully, those comments as heard in a professional context are rare in my experience.

In these highly charged times it can be excruciating to stifle oneself. It isn’t like we learned the fine points of rational discourse only to suffer the slings and arrows of brutish politics in silence. But work is work. We are paid to cultivate gifts to the institution to further its mission, and that must be our higher calling, at least for the 10 hours a day we are on duty.

Off duty, especially in a small town, can also be a minefield. And while we do not take the vows of political chastity journalists must adhere to, high profile political engagement carries its own career risks. That is not fair, but there it is.

It is assumed that development professionals will work with donors of divergent political views. Some of those will be strident. We need to lead with mission at all times in the face of charged political emotion. The more we can promote the comity of big-tent philanthropy, the better chance we have of preventing push from coming to shove in our professional lives. But sometimes it arrives anyway. Perhaps that is a topic for another day, one that comes under the header of crisis management.

In the meantime, we may be in for heightened political tensions for the long haul, so setting positive, well-framed precedents right now is imperative. And leading with mission is never a bad thing. It is a proud tradition; one that can serve to unify divided communities in difficult times. I wish my fellow practitioners the very best in that endeavor.

 

 

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“Stand for your mission,” is an image belonging to standforyourmission.org. Check it out.

“Working Class Colleges” Lead the Way in Educating for Upward Mobility

New York Times opinion writer David Leonhardt’s article, “America’s Great Working Class Colleges” is a must-read for people who care about higher education in America. It concerns a recent study of the ability of colleges to launch students from the bottom fifth of American earners into the top three-fifths, a pro-forma measure of upward mobility toward the middle class.

The findings: less selective institutions such as City University of New York do a better job of helping graduates move up the economic ladder than do selective and elite institutions.

It includes the astonishing finding that “the City University of New York system propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined.”

Leonhardt asserts that deep declines in state support for working class colleges cuts at the heart of their ability to outperform, even as they beat better-funded institutions at a core element of their missions. That is, they provide the most help to the students who need it most.

Why can’t America’s more selective universities and colleges replicate the success of so-called working class colleges in launching graduates into the middle class? And why aren’t more community colleges taking on the challenge in a more focused manner?

So-called “working class colleges” offer more learning supports including “freshman experience” programs that reinforce how to learn, cohort identification and persistence. The “elites” stick closer to the sink-or-swim model. Open access allows many more students who are only marginally qualified to succeed access to college, yet these institutions still outperform the “majors.” It comes down, I believe, to a comprehensive program of financial supports, cohort supports, evening classes, faculty commitment to teaching and a learning-centered posture on the part of these colleges.

In a moment when the nation considers infrastructure as a potential spending priority, I would argue that this type of educational infrastructure should become a public investment priority. And for those who complain about rising tuition, how about correlating that to declining state support for higher ed?

As to the role of community colleges in student outcomes, while they generally do a laudable job, on par with the great working class colleges, in serving their least affluent students, they persist too often in viewing students as à la carte consumers, and do not take sufficient responsibility for student outcomes.

It’s not that hard to survey student intentions at the outset, and for those students who identify their goal as to use the community college as a primary provider for their first two (or more) years and then matriculate for the final two (or more) years it will take to earn their four-year degree, these colleges need to first track outcomes during the two years those students are on campus and beyond to learn what works. That is to say, they should use the longitudinal methodology of The Equality of Opportunity Project’s study in measuring their effectiveness.

Increasingly, two-year colleges are recognizing and responding to the challenge, but unless they can make their own case based on objective data, they will not be competitive in making the case for reversing much of their own declining state support.

If we want to avoid the creation of a permanent two-track society—the effects of which are becoming strikingly apparent at this very moment—we had better get in gear for education-based upward mobility again. Better funding colleges like City College, the University of Texas at El Paso and California State Los Angeles would be great way to start.

As a consultant in the field of philanthropic funding for higher education, I know that the great class divide is actually deepened by the tendency that donors have to give to high-prestige institutions. That reality increases the demand on the elites to do much better in raising the bar on educating the nation’s poorest students.

10 Things Colleges Need to Know About Alumni Relations

Think of alumni relations as a close cousin of fundraising. Two-year colleges often have under-resourced, rudimentary programs that lack the focus of their four-year counterparts. And if your fundraising program is under-resourced, it’s hard to invest much in alumni relations. But invest we should. And we should remember that alumni relations is a separate cost center from development, one that should not be reflected in your cost-of-fundraising reports like the IRS form 990 or your audit.

Here are some reasons to invest in alumni relations:

  1.  Alumni are a resource of the educational mission of the college.  Their relation to the institution comprises interactions that transcend the fundraising program.
  1.  The college needs to offer multiple, coordinated entry points for interactions with alumni, coordinated by a specialist reporting to the VP of Advancement.
  1. The college needs to promote interaction with the alumni so that they remain informed about the educational activities of the college and can serve as ambassadors of the college in ways that benefit enrollment management, career placement, and other core activities of the college even before we see their cultivation as a future resource of the fundraising program.
  1. Alumni often want to maintain a relationship with the college directly via their academic department, as with professors, or coaches, and don’t want to be perceived primarily as donor prospects. I believe this is particularly true for alumni in their 20s and 30s.
  1. Young alumni as a group cost the fundraising program money to stay in touch with them during the twenty-year period it takes for them to become significant donors.  A balanced, professional alumni relations program will undertake that challenge based on a rationale that is more encompassing than the Annual Fund dollar value of each class of alumni.
  1. Tracking contact information for alumni often exceeds the data management capacity of a fundraising office, requiring significant integration with the data management capacities of the college. This is the most intractable issue facing community colleges today because the effort is under-resourced and not seen as an institutional priority. Even so, much more can be done by most colleges to keep track of alumni, including mailing to them at least twice a year and using NCOA protocols.
  1. A primary way to remain in touch with alumni is a college magazine, backed up by a strong online program for alumni contact.  The editorial content of these reflects the entire college and therefore must be managed to reflect the interests of the college, while at the same time viewing editorial through the lens of Alumni relations and development.
  1.  With younger alumni, their relationship to the college may benefit the college in ways that pertain more closely to marketing than fundraising.
  1. Alumni benefit the college directly by:
  • Providing expert advice and guidance to the university’s leadership
  • Providing case study material, guest lectures, equipment or similar to enhance teaching
  • Supporting student recruitment
  • Providing careers advice, mentoring, placements, internships to students
  • Acting as positive role models to current students

[Source for #9 (condensed): http://www.case.org/Publications_and_Products/Fundraising_Fundamentals_Intro/Fundraising_Fundamentals_section_1/Fundraising_Fundamentals_section_12.html]

These activities reflect the degree to which the alumni relations program must be managed by the college to provide systemic, comprehensive management of the aggregate and individual relationships with alumni to benefit the college as a whole.

  1.  Colleges often provide services or benefits to alumni, both tangible and intangible, that reflect interactions with the entire college, including athletics, academics, placement, and advancement.  An advisory team that reflects the life and values of the college should assist in oversight of these benefits.

Conclusion:  it’s never too soon to invest in alumni relations.

Not All Actions Are Equal: From High Touch to Low in Donor Cultivation

We don’t just count the number of actions in assessing our cultivation record; we look at the quality of the interactions themselves. More is not always better—highly personal contacts are. As useful as email is, for example, it is a third-tier form of cultivation. Here is how I rank cultivation actions:

High Touch – Most Valued

  • Solicitation in-person
  • Meeting (not including board committee meetings)
  • Visited contact
  • Breakfast/Lunch
  • Campus tour
  • Conversation

Medium Touch – Valued

  • Dropped by
  • Proposal
  • Phone call
  • Personal letter (even a personal acknowledgment letter)
  • Note

Low Touch – Less Valued

  • Email
  • Left message
  • Fax

Therefore, a visit trumps a phone call, which, in turn, trumps an email.

Board Annual Giving

Every foundation board must give to the Annual Fund at the level of 100 percent participation. Board participation rates are publicized in proposals to foundations, to the staff and faculty during the employee annual giving campaign and in annual reports to the community. Taking board support as a given, the goal is to realize the maximum amount of support in the most efficient manner.

TIP from the book: Kick off the Annual Fund with board of directors giving in the first month of the fiscal year.

Begin the fiscal year with board of directors giving, to “prime the pump”, and put some numbers on the board during July, the slowest month of the fiscal year. Board giving often comprises between 12 and 15 percent of the Annual Fund goal. The chair of the annual fund committee makes the pitch during a July board meeting. Ask amounts are determined by the CDO using the guidelines of past giving as well as the overall goal of making board giving meaningful. I start with an automatic “floor amount” of $1,000 per member. The most common board Annual Fund Ask amounts are between $1,000 and $5,000. Any amount above that is all for the better.

Thirty thousand dollars plus would be a normal yield from a board of 20 members. In fact, this is a conservative estimate. And usually, this is their personal giving, not the dollars that members may also leverage from their companies.

Here is how to make a group pitch at a board meeting: the annual fund committee chair hands out personalized pledge cards containing a specific ask amount. The chair explains that board members will have 11 months to fulfill their pledges. The chair requests that board members hand in their pledge cards at the meeting if possible. This will prevent the director of annual giving from having to chase down board members individually for their gifts over the ensuing months. You want to report 100 percent participation by the time you launch your employee annual giving campaign in August. By all means, encourage gifts of securities. These are usually paid in December.

Reduce you annual workload if you prefer by introducing multi-year Annual Fund pledges, perhaps tied to board membership terms. Just recognize that you may sacrifice a bit of flexibility for gift upgrades with this approach.

If you have difficulty reaching the board Annual Fund goal, it is usually an indication that something is wrong at the board level—unless you simply miscalculated the goal. Most likely, the problem lies in the previous practice of not making giving expectations clear. You will need to enlist your annual fund committee and chair to have private conversations with any members who do not understand that it is their obligation to give. If you are serious about the Annual Fund then you are serious about board of directors giving. Board giving is where college philanthropy begins.

The Actions Meeting

Development consultant Mark Davy recommends that development officers coordinate team efforts through the means of a brief, weekly “Actions Meeting.”   At Dunwoody College of Technology, the development staff began each week with a half-hour meeting first thing Monday morning.

At the Actions Meeting, each development officer presents his or her actions of the previous week for review by the group. Development officers document their own actions, without fail, by Friday afternoon, in the donor database. The development officers then run their own action reports before the meeting. In Raiser’s Edge, this is a simple, automated report. The Raiser’s Edge entry includes a brief statement communicating the gist of the interaction, such as, “asked Ron to make a personal call to Tom about his Annual Fund gift.”

Sometimes the group reviews the report in silence, pausing only for questions or clarifications. Sometimes the development officer walks his or her colleagues through the highlights. You only need to spend a few moments on each entry. Each development officer is expected to have a minimum number of contacts for the week; for example, 10, but lists of 20 contacts or more should be commonplace. Each contact should be a meaningful interaction. Do not list routine attendance of board members at regular meetings.

At Dunwoody, the president usually attended the meetings to present his actions along with the development officers. If he could not attend, his assistant would submit his weekly list of contacts in advance of the meeting. The fact that the president attended was a powerful testament to the value of direct donor contact and the importance of accountability.

In a one-person shop, the chief development officer should attempt to institute a 10-minute weekly meeting with the president to share contacts.

Another feature of the Actions Meeting is a quick review of the main donor-related events of the coming week. If Monday is a holiday, convene the meeting on Tuesday. Actions meetings are never cancelled. The Actions Meeting is a powerful tool in building a culture of accountability on the part of the development officers. It illustrates the point: what gets noticed gets done.

 

Tip: Convene a Monday morning Actions Meeting to review donor contacts of the previous week.

10 Things You Can Do to Increase Year-End Giving

imagesThe end of the calendar year is a wonderful time for donor engagement. The tax deduction available to itemizers, while never the primary philanthropic driver, is always a good reminder that it’s time to give. December is the biggest month for annual giving and many donors are keenly attuned to their year-end giving cycles. Here are a few things we can do to promote their end-of-year generosity.

  1. Keep the office open between Christmas and December 31.

At Dunwoody College of Technology the development staff took turns staffing the office between Christmas and December 31. What’s more, we kept open the line of communication with board members and close friends of the college, suggesting that we were open for business and that we cared about donors’ year-end gifts. If your college or organization is closed, at minimum offer a cell phone number to those who call the development line between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

  1. Check the mail for postmarks.

Any gift delivered by mail with a postmark of December 31 or earlier was intended by your donor as gift to be credited to the previous calendar year—and the IRS allows it. So respect that intention by acknowledging the postmark date and crediting the gift on your database as a December 31 gift. You may need to change a sentence or two in your standard acknowledgment letter. Keep the postmarked envelope on file to document the gift date. You could even add a page to your web site containing year-end giving details. Here how UC Berkeley does it: http://haas.berkeley.edu/groups/alumni/giving/haasfund/endofyear.html

  1. Encourage gifts of appreciated securities.

The overall market is slightly off its mid-year peaks, but many segments of the stock market are quite healthy. Gifts of appreciated securities are the most cost-effective means to make meaningful gifts or fulfill pledges. But you have to be around the office to close these deals. Check in with your bank, broker or local branch of a mutual fund company to be sure you have phone numbers, account numbers, routing numbers and especially electronic funds transfer protocols on file before your donor calls you. If you need leadership authorization or participation to conduct these transactions, make sure you can find board members or organization officers during the busy holiday season. If this becomes a problem, amend your account authorization records so the chief development officer can make deposits without board participation.

  1. Email board members who have yet to give.

Get the word out to board members that you are open for gift processing while highlighting opportunities for gifts of appreciated securities. It is one of the most cost-effective ways for board members to make bigger gifts to your institution. Highlight the tax deduction available and let them know you are striving to meet mid-year revenue forecasts. The truth is, if they don’t make a gift now you may be chasing them around for the balance of the fiscal year. It never hurts to have a message go out from the board chair to all the board members of have yet to make their gifts or fulfill their pledges.

  1. Send a blast email containing a year-end tax advantage message.

Let them know that the dollars they give now will reduce their tax bills when they itemize. Those dollars will then be available for spring disbursements from the foundation to the college. Your donors may have a few days off and a few spare minutes to think about their charitable intentions for the year during the holidays and be moved to act. Emphasize the ease of online giving in the holiday season. (See the link in #2 above.)

  1. Run a report on all year-end LYBUNTS from last year and email them.

If you don’t have gifts in hand for this calendar year, email those donors to offer a gentle reminder that this is the month they gave last year. State their last gift amount to make the pitch more concrete. One of the biggest questions we hear in phonathons is, “When and how much did I give last year?” Get out in front of those good intentions by getting to LYBUNTS before they go stale. Few people are motivated to make gifts in January when all those credit card bills arrive.

  1. Remind staff and faculty that they can make a seasonal gift in honor of someone.

Holiday gifts can be hard for busy colleagues to keep up with. If it’s the thought that counts, a gift in honor of a friend, family member or colleague can be a meaningful way to give. Offer to send out a “Season’s Greetings from Prof. X” card, which lets the honoree know that a gift has been made in their honor. (Of course no amounts are mentioned!) And of course you must have someone in the office to send out those cards.

  1. Ask your president to call his or her top ten prospects over the holidays.

Your president has a list of top ten prospects right? A personal call wishing happy holidays to someone important to the college is one of the easiest, most natural, most appreciated cultivation calls a president can make. And even though this is just a cultivation call, it can inspire donors and prospects to make that gift they have been thinking about. If your president is a little light on prospects, compose that list now. No one possesses the golden opportunity to make a positive impression on friends of the college than does your president.

  1. Send a personal holiday card to your top 25 donors.

Nothing says thank you like “thank you.” And no time is better to say it than now, in the holiday season, when cards are the norm. So even if your college sends out boilerplate cards to friends of the college, say something personal as a steward of philanthropy at your college. After all, the season of giving is your season, right?

  1. Call and thank your volunteers.

Where would we be without those special volunteers that put us over the top on our fund drives? In this era of texts, emails, tweets and so many of the lesser communicative arts, phone calls are often regarded as a more personal medium. Sometimes a thank you is all about inflection—as in, conveying emotion and meaning it! So how about five calls a day, every day through the year-end? Your volunteers will know you care about them. That, as they say, is priceless.

Good luck, and good works to you all!