Tis the Season! No, not the Holiday Season. The Back to School Season. And for those of you working for educational institutions, there is no better time than today to start working with your class of incoming parents.
Parents are such a unique constituency for educational institutions and research shows that they can be loyal and dedicated supporters. However, research also indicates that if you don’t instill the spirit of giving while their children still attending your institution, the chances of converting a non-donor past parent to a donor past parent is incredibly unlikely. So, take advantage of this captive audience early on in their relationship with you!
Here are three quick ideas to you started. But don’t feel constrained by my ideas. Be creative, be strategic, be good stewards of your captive audience, and do what makes sense within the culture of your specific institution.
- Survey your incoming parents. Let them do your research for you – you will be amazed at how much you can find out! Ask questions regarding educational background, employment information, family information (including the age of other children and schools they attend), community/philanthropic affiliations, and if they are interested in volunteering for your organization. Use all of this information to prioritizing your prospecting.
- Form Parents Councils. Peer-to-peer asks are always the most effective form of fundraising and there is no reason not to utilize this approach with your parent population. If you have already done a survey (see above) you may already have parents ready to volunteer! If not, focus on current parent donors. And remember, parents who are not comfortable making the ask themselves can serve in other ways such as thank you calling, stewardship and general communication/advocacy among the entire parent pool.
- Hold special events. You institution probably has orientation for your incoming students, why not have a parent orientation too? The purpose of such an event can be less about fundraising and more about engagement. And, decide if you want to reach out to all incoming parents, or if you want to focus on those with the most potential to make a financial impact. Also, consider having specific donor recognition/cultivation events for certain parents at Parents’ Weekend, Homecoming, or whatever time makes sense in your programming year.
How are you reaching out to your new parents?