At the recent Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia Conference in Adelaide — Fearless Girls. Strong Women. — I was struck by the growing culture of Youth Philanthropy that is developing in many girls’ schools. These girls are learning valuable philanthropic lessons through these programs: social awareness, leadership skills, civic engagement, team working skills, service learning, empathy, assessment tools, and the spirit and meaning of philanthropy. Many of these philanthropists, either today or in the future, won’t be in the headlines for making large multi-million gifts; however, by actively working to make their communities better and helping those who need help, they will become the next generation of strong, compassionate women.
Each school is unique, abiding by its own independent philosophy and mission. As a result, each social justice program (SJP) is varied, supported as they are by students, volunteers, teachers, and administrators. There is nevertheless a common theme: a growing number of schools are making a huge sacrifice by using the energy and limited resources to benefit others, not themselves.
This sacrifice is selfless and generous, but in some cases it isn’t necessarily the best way forward. Philanthropists are keen to support organisations making a difference in the lives of those they serve as well as the lives that these individuals touch in such a positive and helpful way. A good warm-hearted story goes a long way in motivating a philanthropist to make a gift. What better story than one of Youth Philanthropy and the impact these fearless girls are having on the lives of others?
If you aim to make a commitment to care for someone, then it is critically important that you first take care of yourself. The Alliance members are doing wonderful work in educating girls, but there is a need to look to the future and the role philanthropy can play. In many cases, a potential donor does not contribute to a worthy cause because they weren’t asked. Unfortunately, some of the schools are not asking for themselves and they need to start. A more overt focus by school leadership on philanthropy is a significant opportunity for any school to do more for others and do more for itself, because both pursuits ultimately benefit girls.
How does a school allocate the finances to invest in the personnel and tools needed to commence a sustainable, and beneficial, fundraising program given the pressures on the budget?
The answer is that the school leadership (board and executive) must find the will to act. Fundraising is a team sport. It can’t just be left to the fundraiser as the fundraiser needs the involvement of the board volunteers, the principals and deputy principals, the teachers, and other staff to promote and share the case for support. Further, fundraising is a profession and takes a dedicated budget that supports the professional(s) who are implementing a fundraising plan, putting a great deal of time into running fundraising activities and cultivating (along with others) high quality relationships.
A necessary fundamental tool to raise funds is a dedicated constituent relationship management (CRM) software system for fundraising. Fundraising is about relationships and without a fit-for-purpose CRM designed to support building lasting relationships, i.e. institutional relationships that continue from one principal to the next, the aspirational goals of raising significant dollars will be very difficult to realise. Over 60% of the schools reported not having a CRM to support their fundraising activities, i.e. activities raising monies for the benefit of their school, and yet the 2018 Fundraising and Alumnae Relations Alliance Survey clearly showed that schools that had invested in a CRM were achieving better results.
Schools must allocate staff time to work with the girls and volunteers to ensure that such activities are well-organised, are following the law (e.g. raffles), and are promoting the school appropriately along with the other good causes they have chosen to support. In addition to time, schools must find the will to set out the fundraising work as a strategic and operational priority and allocate sufficient human, marketing, and operational resources in the annual budget. Asking for a gift to benefit the school directly doesn’t have to been done at the expense the SJP. Quite the opposite.