We use the phrase “Directional Analytics” because much of the fundraising consulting industry is talking about “predictive analytics.” By doing much more than predicting where support might come, we can show clients where their time and money is best spent, and which strategies are most effective in engaging prospective sources of support. Our Associates have almost 60 years of fundraising and private equity experience. We don’t just crunch data to provide voluminous reports; we have studied the hallmarks of philanthropic success and failure across many organizations and studied the psychology of philanthropists, so we know what questions to ask and how to analyze the data we collect to show clients where their time can be most profitably spent. We do that by showing them which prospects are most worthy of their attention, which systems and strategies are most effective with their best prospects, and how to engage and steward those prospects to build communities of shared interest.
While large consulting firms will sell new clients large analytical packages, claiming to do all sorts of mysterious math and data crunching, our emphasis is to educate the advancement staff to do an initial data review in far less time and with much greater clarity. In short, we demystify the process and help clients to understand and interpret their own data. A culture for fundraising must also be in place, with defined roles for the ‘whole shop’- from the president to the development staff. More than only a role definition, each staff member must have a roadmap for daily, weekly and monthly expectations. (ie. How to segment the top prospects and how often to ‘touch’ them? How many times per annum, and in what sequence of actions?). We present in the form of result-based “findings and recommendations”; with “how to” implementation strategies customized to what the data and culture reveals. To put this in perspective, most schools and colleges will spend at least $1500 per person per day to send someone to a regional or national conference that is in no way customized to their unique set of challenges and opportunities. So, for what they would spend on three people, we can provide high level, customized modules for 10-30 people that have won acclaim from seasoned practitioners across the country.
A wonderful way to connect students to the institution for a lifetime is to begin at once to train students to interview alumni. This article on the subject that Jim Langley wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights what can be gained from these interactions. To the best of our knowledge, over 200 institutions of higher learning have adopted this innovation. We have provided conference training, in person and through webinars for scores of institutions. This program, combines other services, of course, including providing realistic prospect ratings, setting ambitious but attainable fundraising or campaign goals, conducting campaign feasibility studies, developing a “phase and flow” system of monitoring fundraising efforts, developing campaign plans, discussion papers, and cases for support. Because of the cost-to-quality ratio and because the program involves proven innovations, personally developed by Jim Langley while leading organizations toward record levels of support, this initiative has benefits that touch literally every constituent- including donors, prospects, students, parents, friends, volunteers, and faculty… with tangible outcomes including sustainable gifting, consecutive years of giving, employment options, and renewed attachment to ‘my alma mater’.
If the triangle of fundraising leadership is formed correctly between the President, Board Chair and Vice President, Advancement, and each party meets the expectations of the others, the institution will greatly improve its probability of philanthropic success. As with all good teams, one member may have to ‘pick up’ the others from time to time when their energy or focus wanes. When all eyes are on the same horizon, all stay true to the chartered course and all remember and respect the need for each other, the voyage will succeed. Langley Innovations helps put into place the necessary guideposts for success, particularly when presented to the cabinet and leadership team at their annual retreat; during off-site meetings with the full board present; or prior to any consideration of a fundraising campaign.
The strategic planning process usually progresses in a laudably thoughtful and thorough manner, but it is appropriate to initiate an outside review of the plan to ensure it resonates with the most likely sources of support. An effective analysis produces not only an insightful enumeration of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – it also explores how to achieve increasingly greater access to human and financial resources to build an ever stronger faculty; equip it with the most effective pedagogical tools; enrich scholarship; and provide the necessary wherewithal to keep ahead of the pace of change. The strategic concepts must have strong resonance with the hopes and concerns of all constituents. If not, the plan will not generate the private or tuition support to fully realize the proposed qualitative gains. A plan’s key concepts employ the lexicon of higher education. This is understandable. Yet, we know that those in the key value chain are motivated by value-added concepts and difference making outcomes, not process. Emphasis needs to be on outcomes, and ‘the story’ more about creating direction that is clearly action oriented. This will begin the process of aligning internal aspirations with external realities (the true work of a strategic plan) and create conceptual corridors that will inspire higher levels of support.