June: A Good Time To Ask For Gifts

As the summer approaches, Development Development articles will shift toward activities of an overall development program.

I like to use acronyms because it makes the things which need to be done easier to remember.  That’s why the DREAM Framework was created, and is now transitioning to the ARMED Framework.  Same elements, but definitely more powerful, since your school needs to be ready for the challenges it’s facing…or will face.  These elements – Asset Management, Retention, Marketing, Enrollment, and Development –  create a system with an emergent principle of Advancement.  It’s only one of five systems in play at your school, but it’s always the one that seems to be non-related to the rest of the work of the school, when, in reality, it’s the one that holds the other systems together.

When I first began my work in development, I realized that it, like education and marketing, was all about change.  Development is the engagement of people in the mission and vision of your organization, where it’s all about relationship.  As the relationship deepens, the feelings associated with the organization begin to change, and as those emotional ties become stronger, the potential for commitment increases.

I thought it was fitting, then, that the acronym CHANGES described the activities associated with Development, namely Communication, Happenings, Appeals, Networking, Grants and Gifts (which include Grant Writing, Major Gifts and Planned Giving), Energize, and Strategic Planning.

Then someone commented that I had mentioned in a presentation that complete systems have five elements, so CHANGES became ANGEL (Appeals, Networking, Grants and Gifts, Events, and List Management) since communication and networking seem to be synonymous on one hand, yet splitting apart into two different elements, namely Associations and Networking – with Associations providing the help necessary to “Energize” the Advancement/Development professional.

There were then others that said there needed to be more distinctions among the elements, since the aspect of planning its importance to the overall effectiveness of development was missing.  So, an acronym that spelled it all out – GAMEPLAN – was developed.  Just as in sales, you have to have one – especially in Development.  It consisted of Grants, Appeals, Major Gifts, Events, Planned Giving, List Management, Associations and Networking.  Note that the first five elements deal with generating revenue, while the last three are associated with the development individual regarding office work and connections to facilitate professional growth.

But there still seemed to be something missing.  There was!  Rest.  You need it.  Or you’ll burn out.  Fast.

Now, the system is represented by 10 elements, and contained within the word ARCHANGELS:  Appeals, Rest, Communication, Happenings, Associations, Networking, Gifts and Grants, Educate and Energize, List Management, and Strategic Planning.  You’ll notice that in the middle of it is the word “CHANGE,” and it’s the appropriate place for it to be.

So why is June a good time to ask for gifts?  And how do you ask for gifts, since “The Ask” is said to be the most daunting challenge for one involved in fund development or institutional advancement work.

While many non-profits ask for a gift during November and December, and tie their campaigns with a “Thanks” or a “Gift” message associated with the holidays during those respective months, many businesses end their fiscal year this month – which is why you may be finding more and more appeals from non-profits in your home mailbox (and your email inbox, too).  This could be a good time for your school to do a “last-minute appeal” to your donors that may have not contributed to your annual fund which took place during the fall.  If you think this is a good idea for your organization, now is not the time to start working on it.  Instead, put it in your blueprint for success for next year, and begin working on it during your mid-year break, or in February – perhaps, if you’re in the northern tier of our nation, when you’re snowed in.

With that in mind, this month is a good month to get your year-long blueprint together for the coming school year. It’s also a good time to take some time and NOT focus on development. When you do, a strange thing happens – you’ll get all kinds of ideas for development! When the conscious mind is not focused on the matter at hand, the subconscious takes over. It’s why many people find creative solutions to problems just before they go to sleep, right before they wake up, or while they’re in the shower. Personally, I go to the beach at some point during the summer. I hate being in the water, but listening to the waves and walking along the shore in the early evening is more relaxing than getting burnt during the day. The relaxation is quickly broken, though, when the amount of “breakthrough” ideas start happening when the relaxation starts to take hold.

If you haven’t experienced anything like this, perhaps it’s because many vacations are now “experiences” – Disney, a cruise, a trip – ANYTHING with an itinerary.  It’s also why parents will still continue to pay for “experiences,” which hopefully makes you think, “What is the experience my school is offering to our tuition-paying parents?”  Maybe this is the year you can take some time to “retreat to a quiet place,” spend some time in prayer, and do nothing in order to let God speak to you.  Remember, in the words of Thomas Merton, “There are times when, in order to keep ourselves in existence at all, we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing.”

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2011-2017