Advancement Tour to the UK: Highlights of Day 3

Advancement Tour to the UK: Highlights of Day 3

UK Fundraising Advancement Tour Delegates Oxford

The Advancement Tour to the UK is an incredible week of case studies and best practice solutions in advancement from leading fundraisers from the educational, research, arts, health and cultural sectors. A group of fundraising consultants from AskRIGHT is accompanying participants from Australia and New Zealand during their visits.

Oxford University TourOn Day 3 we travelled to Oxford University to meet with a series of university, college and school fundraisers and leaders.

Fundraising at the University of Oxford

Fundraising insights from Professor Sir Richard Trainor

Sir Rick spoke from the perspective of Vice-Chancellor or equivalent leaders.


In this Q&A session with our fundraising consultant Robin Williams, Professor Sir Richard Trainor drew on his leadership:

  • at the large King’s College London at the time of King’s very successful campaign,
  • at the University of Greenwich which is a new university, and even newer to fundraising,
  • and now at the long-established Exeter College, Oxford.   (established 1314)


The fundraisers and principals present were delighted to hear Sir Rick endorse:

  • greater investment in fundraising (”Fundraising is almost always worthwhile. It is never a suitable area for the chop”),
  • the need for head of institutions and head of fundraising to work closely,
  • and the need for fundraising to synchronise and align with other activities.


On how much to invest in fundraising and when:

As much as possible and now.”


On percentage of time given to fundraising:

The percentage of time spent on fundraising is not a useful question. It is an integral part, and mostly a pleasant role. Fundraising is not a burden. It is a very important task.”



“Oxford Thinking” – Overview of The University of Oxford Fundraising Campaign

University of Oxford Fundraising Campaign

Ben Plummer-Powell, Associate Director of the University of Oxford Development Office and Amy Trotter, Principal Gifts Officer provided an overview of the University’s incredible £3 billion capital campaign.

How we delivered this is not by chance – this campaign shows the importance of systems and structures”.


As speakers from the previous days, Amy and Ben again highlighted the importance of engaged and supportive leadership in all their fundraising successes. They also spoke of the central development team’s move to an open-plan office to ensure good communications; the need to an outward focused message for the campaign – it is about how Oxford can change the world, not what the world can do for Oxford.

The university has made good and selective use of matching gifts schemes and currently works on a 4% draw from their endowment (as does the Rhodes Trust, as we heard later in the day).


Cecil the Lion unexpected scenario in the fundraising of the University

On the killing of Cecil the lion, US TV host Jimmy Kimmel opined. “If you want to make this into a positive, you can,” he said, before choking up. “Make a donation. Support them.

Fueled by this kind of call to action, more than 12,000 people donated to Oxford University’s wildlife research unit, giving more than £1 million. This example illustrates the need for every research website to link to an on-line donation facility.


RBA Telephone Fundraising ConsultantsTelephone Fundraising Campaigns case studies

John Rux-Burton and Hugh Langford, telephone fundraising consultants from Rux Burton Associates (RBA), provided some great case studies on effective telephone fundraising campaigns.

They also reminded all the tour delegates of the value of each and every donor, regardless of the size of their gift, especially for their first gift.

Regardless of the size of the donor, they all feel the same – they want to see what you’re doing so they know you do amazing things and that you’ll do the same with their next gift”.

RBA’s affinity approach to alumni fundraising is working very well for many of the Oxford colleges the telephone fundraising consultants have worked with. Some of the colleges’ biggest donors began their giving via a telephone fundraising campaign, many giving initial amounts less than £250.


The story of fundraising at The Rhodes Trust

Alastair Maclay, Director of Development at The Rhodes Trust, explained his challenge clearly: The campaign goal is to double the endowment in five years after a century without any fundraising.

He took to the group the Trust’s approach to fundraising. Despite the fact that the program – which only began 5 years ago – is still very much in its infancy, the Trust’s endowment has already doubled. It is an incredible feat after not actively fundraising for over a century.

Because education inflation far exceeds investment earnings, the fund is going backwards but Alastair found that the case for additional support could not be based on this financial imperative. It also had to have a vision of what could be accomplished by new scholarships, and the answer was found in new nation-based scholarships. Although former Rhodes scholars are the first and obvious donors, the trust has had to go beyond them, to find others who share the values and aspiration of the trust.


The Case for Endowment Fundraising: Christ Church Oxford case study

Marek Kwiatkowski, Director of Development at Christ Church Oxford presented on the College’s successful approach to endowment fundraising and of how integral a case is for endowment.

I need to stress the case – endowment requires a case more than anything else”.

Marek went on to explain how Christ Church has successfully achieved endowment funding, for the work it already does, not for new projects.

Marek walked Tour delegate through the College’s case and explained how breaking the need into ‘bite-sized’ endowments has made endowment much more interesting and much more appealing to their donors and prospects.

Perhaps more than any other session, this came across as a novel idea and sent us home wondering about the situations where this might apply in our environment in Australia and New Zealand.


Fundraising for the private schools sector

Matthew Dear, Director of Development at Oundle School provided a thought-provoking presentation on fee-charging at schools and of the public perceptions of charity. He noted that there is an “arms-race” for facilities at independent schools. Matthew’s experience at Oundle is that the “sweet spot” for fundraising is with those people who are both alumni of the school and current or past parents of the school.


Matthew was followed by John Rolfe, Director of the Foundation at Shrewsbury School, who finished the day with a dynamic lesson on campaign and major gift fundraising.

He spoke of the fundraising campaign feasibility study as the equivalent of indemnifying yourself, reducing risk.

He said you can engage teachers by telling them fundraising is all about pupils and teachers: The better I (fundraiser) do, the better you will do.

John provided a good summary of the conversion from prospects to gifts: for a university, he suggested the ratio of prospects to prospects to donors for a university is 9:3:1  while for a school is 6:4:2.  John’s believes the 80/20 or even 95/5 principle for fundraising no longer applies, and that we are fast moving towards 90/0 or even the 99/1 where 99% of funding comes from one donor. When queried on what makes a successful fundraiser, John Rolfe said:


When asking for money and the heart rate of the person being asked goes up, that’s when you know you’ve got a good one”

An inspiring quote to finish the day on.


We were then delighted to be taken on a behind the scenes tour of the historic Oxford campus before being treated to dinner in Lincoln College, hosted by alumni John Rux-Burton. Tour delegates left Oxford tired and full but very motivated and stimulated from a day that will be, for most, a once in a lifetime lesson in advancement from one of the world’s most successful fundraising institutions.

UK Fundraising Advancement Tour Delegates Oxford


Lauren Vertigan

Lauren Vertigan

Former Fundraising Consultant at AskRIGHT
Lauren has worked with numerous national, state and local organisations in Australia and overseas over the past decade, helping them to achieve their fundraising objectives.
Lauren Vertigan

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Dr Daniel McDiarmid

Dr Daniel McDiarmid

Principal Consultant at AskRIGHT
Daniel is a highly experienced and innovative fundraising professional with more than 30 years of success raising funds for higher education, research, religious and other organisations in Australia and New Zealand.

To find out how Daniel can help your organisation, contact
Dr Daniel McDiarmid

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