WP Remix


The family and I have returned from vacation and I’ve finally cleared enough of my desk and email to spend time tonight on gettinggiving.com.  After a week at Walt Disney World, the obligatory post about Disney customer service is sure to write itself, but that will have to wait.  I want to spend some time on something a little more time-sensitive.

Tomorrow, my little girl is starting a new phase of her life.  Mommy and Daddy will be taking her to her first day of school.  The first day of kindergarten will surely start with tears (mine, not hers) and we’ll drive away as proud parents with a sense that high school and college aren’t all that far away.

Like parents everywhere, we attended the orientation, met her teacher, and signed up for multiple ways to help at school – the PTO, snack volunteer, fundraising programs, room mom (sexist isn’t it!??!) and more.  We pretty much would do anything they asked if we thought it would make her experience and the school’s programming better.

Like us, many other parents are doing the same at colleges and universities around the world.  After lugging boxes, mini-fridges, microwaves and untold numbers of milk crates to the dorms, parents will give their little boys and girls a hug and depart.  As the leave behind their most precious possession, they try to hide their tears as they head home to their empty (or emptier) nests.  Like me, they want to make any impact they can on their child’s educational institution.

And with a strong Parent’s Fund, they can.

All too often, parents are overlooked as potential donors.  Common objections to establishing or enhancing a program include:

  • Parents can’t give much, they have tuition to pay;
  • Parent’s won’t give much, many aren’t alumni;
  • Parent’s are only involved for four years and aren’t worth the investment;
  • Parent data is protected by privacy laws, we don’t have access to their names anyway;
  • And the list goes on. . . . 

Malarky.  The fact is, parents can be one of the most loyal and generous segments of any development program.  Not just from an annual mailer, but as a full-fledged segment of the annual fund.  And, to top it off, they can make very significant major gifts as well.

If your program is a ‘one parent mailing a year’ program, it might be time to look at parents like you would any other segment.  They want to help your institution (and their children) succeed as much as you do.  You probably wouldn’t settle for a single mailing a year to your alumni population, and you shouldn’t settle for that with your parents either.  Develop a strategy to provide a comprehensive annual giving program for your parents that includes all the channels you would normally utilize for your alumni and friends.  And then develop the population for leadership annual giving and eventual major gift solicitations.  The results may amaze you.

Oh, and about that data. . . in most cases the data isn’t an issue, but depending on your organizational structure and the interpretation of FERPA, it can be challenging to get any or all of the data.  Work at it.  One common compromise is a list of students and their permanent phone numbers (but not parent names) – don’t let that hold you back.  Asking for ‘The Parents Of. . . ” is better than nothing and it probably won’t hamper your efforts at all.

If you’re like me and sending somebody off to school for the first time, the last time, or somewhere in-between, just remember how you’re feeling right now about wanting that wonderful little boy or girl to succeed.  Now translate that feeling into proper messaging for your Parents Program and enjoy your newfound success!

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