Tis’ nearly the season of goodwill, or so the saying goes. Xmas has historically been the time of giving. Twenty percent of Brits say they tend to give more
to charities at Christmas. So schools often run fundraising campaigns during the Holiday Season — nativity plays, Xmas fairs and fetes are all good opportunities to warm up your donor base, according to Tom Robertson, Head of Alumni Development, Alpha Plus Group.
“Xmas has always been an opportunity to steward your donors,” he says.
But can December really yield a bigger Santa’s sack for development officers?
A mixed Santa’s sack
According to Robertson, who is responsible for fundraising for several of the UK’s top prep schools, it’s a mixed bag.
He says capital projects — typically infrastructure development, like building a new school sports complex — get a lukewarm appeal at Xmas. Conversely, if it’s a less tangible and more emotive subject, he reckons you’ll get a good response.
Pull on their heart strings
“Look for projects with more of a heart string tug,” he says. Alpha Plus Group, which creates centres of educational excellence in schools and colleges, ran a big Christmas appeal for an inner-city youth club last year and had a “huge response”.
Bursaries, too, which offer life-changing opportunities for pupils to study at certain schools, are also good emotive subjects to push at Xmas, Robertson notes.
But unless it has a strong emotional theme, he says he wouldn’t launch a major campaign in the run up to Christmas.
Instead, he would opt for Easter. “That’s prime season,” Robertson argues. He says that there’s usually a big opportunity for a fundraising push at the end of the tax year, which falls in April, when you can “reminder donors that there are tax efficiencies through giving”.
Use Subtle Hints
What does work well during the Christmas period are subtle hints, according to Robertson.
“A lot of fundraising is based on gentle reminders,” he says. “You could write your donors Christmas cards and maybe provide a little update on your fundraising projects, to say there’s still some work to be done.”
“It’s also a great time to activate PTAs,” he adds. “They get very excited around Christmas. It’s a time when a lot of parents and grandparents — who are increasingly the fee payers — get to experience the school and see the children performing. There are lots of wins if you make sure you get your cause in front of them.”
Take a unique approach
As ever, success will differ from school to school. There’s no silver-bullet solution, Robertson suggests.
“It depends on the age of your operation and the school’s regular giving patterns,” he says. “We’re identifying major donors and building a strategy for the opportunities in each school we work with. Some have a larger pool of top-end donors. Others have only a few major donors.”