Yesterday I posted an entry about a fundraising workshop I was scheduled to attend today. The workshop turned out to be a rewarding experience, as I developed strategies that I can use once I start at UW-Parkside on July 1. The biggest lesson? I’ll need to develop a “vision story,” a “narrative that describes what you are working to accomplish and how you are working to accomplish it, shared in such a way that inspires others and motivates philanthropic support. It is specifically designed to use when speaking with donors/donor prospects.” A vision story contains a WOW statement (one-three sentences that capture an ambitious big picture), supporting themes, and inspiring examples. The WOW statement should be far-reaching, optimistic, compelling, unifying, and societal (how will the plan make a difference for society). The ultimate goal is to create a ROPI, a Return on Philanthropic Investment. The donor’s philanthropic investment (contribution) is gratifying if the investment [a contribution should not be called a “gift,” as that implies a one-time contribution vs. the creation of an on-going relationship] creates impact (the contribution makes a difference), meets expectations, and the donor is treated with respect as a whole person as opposed to being viewed as just a source of money. There is definitely a science as well as an art to philanthropic stewardship!

In the workshop we learned about the process of philanthropic development, donor motivation, crafting compelling vision stories, articulating compelling vision stories, building a philanthropic development culture, securing financial commitments, and creating meaningful ROPIs. The leaders closed the workshop with a note that although the philanthropic development process takes a lot of time and energy, it can be fun if academic leaders remember that the purpose is to create more opportunities for the institution and its constituents. I’m looking forward to the journey!