Reaching Out — and Reclaiming the Relationship
You know the rest of the story. Five years into the "remaking" of the school into the vision of the foundations' leaders, the two sponsoring foundations felt that they needed to "move on" as the school had "failed" to achieve the lofty new vision they had imagined. The funding — amounting to slightly over 50 percent of the operating budget — was suddenly, and almost without warning, withdrawn. The school's administration and the governing board had made a Faustian bargain and lost.
Carla and Juan have seen the hiring of a new administration and the enlistment of a number of new board members who want to return the school to its roots. Having survived the sucking sound of money leaving, school leadership wants to reach out to alumni but doesn't really know where to begin.
My counsel was to keep it basic; keep it simple. Avoid maudlin mea culpas or grand plans. Begin with the premise that there is residual affection and connection with the school among alumni. Build upon that — one piece at a time. Rekindling the fire, however, will not be a simple matter nor will it necessarily be on the old terms that were once sufficient.
As to where to start, I suggested to Carla and Juan to work with the administration to ask alums what they would like to see. Reach out to them without agenda or program but with an honest desire to reconnect on terms that the alumni set. I told Carla and Juan that the school had two tremendous assets in them and that they should be the vanguard to reach out to alumni for their input.
Gradually, alumni can be brought back into the life of the school. Yes, they could solicit alumni for the annual fund. There need not be a "waiting period" if it was kept low-key. Such a request coupled with a genuine expression of interest could actually work to strengthen the whole effort.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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