“How Can I Give When I’m Already Paying Tuition?”

Vol. 12 No. 4


Your phone rings, and it’s an outraged parent on the other line, demanding to know why they’ve received a request to make a gift to the Annual Fund. “I just paid the tuition bill! How could you ask me to give even more? Money’s so tight right now!”

As Development Director, you’ve fielded questions like this before. Ideally, expectations between the Development Office and the parents were set at the start—“We strive for 100% parent participation in our Annual Fund”—but that’s not always the case.

At that point, asking parents to give even more time and funds to your school can feel like trying to walk through a field of land mines, but it’s all in how you ask and what you’re asking for.

The nice thing regarding parents as potential donors is that you’ve already convinced them that your school’s unique approach to education is worth investing in—their children are attending! Your job as the Development Director is to sell them on a specific program or enhancement that does two things:

  1. Aligns with your school’s mission, which the parents already support; and
  2. Gives their children something they would not otherwise have.

Let’s say part of your school’s mission is to provide students hands-on training with modern technology so they’re adequately prepared for the constantly evolving “real world” workplace and global community. Parents enroll their children so they can get that preparation, but additional investment may be necessary to guarantee the teachers have the necessary equipment and training to meet that mission-specific goal.

Such specificity and transparent connection to your school’s mission will be the key to winning extra gifts from your parents. Related stories from current or past families who have made donations to your projects will bring your campaign home for your prospective donors. Keep in mind, though, that not all stories are created equal: feature a story that directly relates to your current funding goal.

In the above example, it would be more appropriate to ask a family who funded a small portion of a crucial software upgrade to speak to their peers to encourage more donations for a similar goal, than an alum who donated a larger quantity earmarked for the new art wing. Both gifts were important and both would probably be willing to speak on your behalf. But, in this case, the closeness of the family to the current program and the connection to the funding goal would work to your advantage.

Asking parents to donate to a large, anonymous project or not setting the expectations early on in your relationship can lead to angry calls that are unpleasant for everyone involved, but by stewarding your resources and “asks,” you can cultivate a rewarding partnership with everyone involved.

Additional ISM articles of interest
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 7 No. 7 You Want Me to Ask for Money???
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 8 No. 2 Bonding With New Parents

Additional ISM articles of interest for Gold Consortium members
I&P Vol. 30 No. 4 A Comprehensive Development Model
I&P Vol. 27 No. 4 Charitable Giving in a New Environment

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