Early fundraising success could signal positive trend for capital campaign: experts

Media Credit: File Photo by Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Donna Arbide, the vice president for development and alumni relations, said this year’s fundraising numbers indicate “good progress to our FY19 goal of $115 million.”

The University is fundraising ahead of schedule this fiscal year.

Halfway through fiscal year 2019, fundraising was “slightly ahead” of the amount raised by the same time last year, officials said. Development experts said the trend could indicate a strong start for GW as it revamps its development strategies in preparation for the launch of a large-scale capital campaign in 2021.

Donna Arbide, the vice president for development and alumni relations, said this year’s fundraising numbers indicate “good progress to our FY19 goal of $115 million.” She declined to say how much money has been raised so far this fiscal year and declined to specify how far ahead of schedule that number is.

She said each fiscal year has different fundraising patterns that can be distorted by large donations, but donors typically give more at the end of the calendar and fiscal years in December and June, respectively.

“Philanthropy and constituent engagement is a key priority, and we have invested in building our fundraising operation and enhancing outreach and relationship building to attract new donors and steward existing ones,” she said in an email.

Arbide said details about GW’s fundraising progress will be shared “periodically” on GW’s website listing updates on University President Thomas LeBlanc’s strategic initiatives.

She said LeBlanc has embarked on a tour of the United States over the past year to meet stakeholders including alumni, parents, students and donors and talk about his priorities, which could have favorably impacted fundraising efforts.

“Our goal is to build awareness of the exciting things happening at GW, seek input and feedback, engage more constituents as ambassadors for the University and strengthen our networks, which we believe will positively influence our philanthropic efforts,” she said.

She declined to say how many donors have given to GW so far this year. She also declined to say how an increase in fundraising would affect officials’ development goals this year and next ahead of the rollout of the University’s next capital campaign during GW’s bicentennial, which officials announced earlier this month.

But fundraising experts said the positive update could serve as an early sign of the campaign’s success.

Peter Moes, the director of annual giving at the University of Utah, said raising more funds than anticipated shows that GW has a good base of donors and support from which to build a campaign.

The University unveiled a new set of goals for its development office last fall to build up a pool of 16,000 alumni donors by July and retain 64 percent of all donors as part of GW’s overall effort to improve fundraising.

Moes added that campaigns typically have a “quiet” phase where fundraisers have not officially launched a campaign, but the donations made during that time period are still counted toward the campaign’s fundraising goals. GW’s last major campaign also had a quiet phase for about two years before it launched officially in 2014.

“It’s sort of projecting, assuming that things continue on a positive trend, that going into the campaign will be an exciting time,” he said. “You already have a great base of people that are supporting your institution.”

Moes added that the arrival of a new chief development officer last year could have injected motivation and new ideas into the alumni relations team.

Kim O’Neill, the associate vice president of development at the University of Idaho, said moving past a fundraising goal before expected does not necessarily mean that the University will raise more funds by the end of the year. Sometimes, donors give large gifts before fundraisers expect and move the needle in a positive direction – but if fundraising lags in the second half of the fiscal year, GW could end with the same or worse numbers than years prior.

She said having a fruitful year will lay the foundation for the next capital campaign.

“A campaign is supposed to accelerate fundraising for some projects and so if the fundraising success is ahead of schedule now, that’s an even better case scenario for the campaign planning process,” she said.

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