Giving your all
Inspiring leadership is a necessity for a school’s success in fundraising. But what does this mean for school governors? Alison Graham reports on how they can play an active role in encouraging others to donate
Where schools are charities, governors are also trustees and therefore are financially and legally responsible for the well-being of the institution and its continuing strength. They are required to work for the long-term future good of the school and the pupils of tomorrow. With the head, they help set the strategy for the school, devise the plan to achieve that vision, including authorising all major fundraising campaigns. In any fundraising charity, the active involvement of trustees is instrumental to successful campaigns.
Recent research shows that there is a direct correlation between the amount the trustees give to a campaign and the likelihood of achieving the target. Making a personal gift to a campaign is one of the obligations of leadership, setting the example to others. If the governors sanction a project and a campaign, yet are reluctant to give themselves, they send out the message that they are not wholeheartedly committed to the campaign and don’t believe it will be successful. This will be picked up by other supporters and the campaign will founder. If the leaders won’t give, why should the parents, alumni, staff or any other stakeholders?
Not just time
A common objection is where governors say that they give their time, which is immensely valuable to the school and greatly appreciated, so they shouldn’t have to donate money as well. However, time will not finance a bursary place, nor can it be used as collateral for a loan to build a new library. Obviously, not all governors can make major gifts (though one hopes that there will be a few able and willing to do so), but everyone can make a donation, however small.
Showing leadership and backing for a campaign is more important than the amount. When asking parents for their support, announcing that all the governors have made their own gifts has an impact on success. Fundraising is primarily an activity led by example – come and join us, not do as we say – and involves the whole school community.
Ideally, the chair of governors or another senior member of the board should be enthusiastic about canvassing other supporters for gifts. No one has a moral right to ask for a gift without making one first, and it is easier to ask for a gift once you have given since you are only inviting someone to do something you have already done.
Get your cheque book out
Governors can help fundraising in other ways too. They are often well-connected individuals who can help the development team reach other supportive people by opening their address books, making phone calls and arranging appointments or talking about the campaign, preparing the ground for an eventual ask.
At development events or campaign information meetings, their presence lends gravitas and authority, and signals that the fundraising programme is important. As the decision-makers, they can explain why the school is following this course of action, speaking with authority: potential donors always want to talk with those at the top.
A school can help facilitate this by clarifying what is expected in the terms of service for governors so that they know beforehand that supporting school fundraising is part of the commitment. Training in development should be offered to all governors and be part of the induction for new ones, including practice in how to ask for money for those who feel comfortable with this role: not eve yone will nor should they be expected to undertake this. A successful campaign engenders a wonderful sense of community and achievement, where all involved, especially governors, feel great pride.
Alison Graham is a senior consultant for Brakeley Ltd.
Return to Development