10 Things Every University Fundraiser Should Do in the First 90 Days

Amy Towery, CFRE, chief advancement officer at a top college preparatory school in Florida, gave a conference presentation that laid out the “ten things every fundraising professional should do during his or her first 90 days” of a new job. While the presentation was helpful for those getting started in a gig, her list offered a great refresher on the key fundamentals of being an effective university fundraiser.

We especially liked number 6 and number 10!

Towery’s 10 things every university fundraiser should do are:

  1. Know the Job: It’s important to be clear about your job description and the job descriptions of those you will manage, Towery says. She suggests asking the questions, “Does a job description exist? Does it accurately reflect the roles I carry out?”
  2. Know the Goals: It’s vital as a university fundraiser to understand the goals of your university, your department and, of course, yourself! “Make ethical fundraising the standard,” Towery says. Ask questions like, “What plans are already in place? What did the development team achieve last year? How will success be measured?”
  3. Know the Numbers: Gain a firm understanding of the general fundraising numbers for your university. These include: the annual budget; the fiscal year cycle; prior year expenses and revenue; month-over-month projections/actual; year-over-year projections/actual; and baseline fundraising measurements, like participation percentage, average gift amount, total number of gifts, pledge fulfillment percentage, donor acquisition cost, cost per dollar raised, etc.
  4. Know Your Board: Be sure to get to know your board and volunteers, Towery says. Who are they? What is the scope of their involvement and how do they show their support? Other important questions to ask include: “What motivates them?” she says. “Do we have the skills we need on our board to advance our mission?”
  5. Know Your Donors: You must research past giving histories and cumulative involvement, Towery says. And don’t underestimate the importance of data. She suggests asking, how has your university stewarded donors in the past? Do you have a formal stewardship plan?
  6. Know Your Data: Again, don’t underestimate the importance of data. “Invest the time and money to get this right,” Towery says. “Data will determine future success.” It’s important to pay attention to how data are received, recorded and acknowledged. Ask the question: What do we have and what do we need?
  7. Know Your Direct Reports and Co-Workers: While this should be obvious to anymore wishing to be an effective leader, it’s crucial to take the time to get to know your direct reports, Towery offers. Assess your abilities as a group and ask, “Do I have the right people in the right positions?” Get to know your co-workers and their role within the organization. Invest time in building relationships and continuously ask, “How can I improve relationships with my colleagues?”
  8. Understand the Perceptions of Your University: Towery says this involves establishing a baseline and being a good listener. A good question to ask, does what I’ve observed about my university align with perceptions?
  9. Build A Network: Anyone who has worked as a university fundraiser realizes the importance of a strong a network at all levels — local, state, regional, national and international. Towery says building your network requires constant diligence. Ask yourself, what have I done this week to build a stronger network?
  10. Invest in Yourself: Finally, it’s important to find balance, Towery says. Take time to reflect and always keep learning.

Towery is director of advancement of The Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota, Fla. She gave her presentation, “10 Things Every Fundraising Professional Should Do in Their First 90 Days,” at the 2017 International Fundraising Conference in San Francisco.

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed