Setting staff up for stewardship success during a global health pandemic

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Setting staff up for stewardship success during a global health pandemic

Many advancement leaders know this is a vital time to steward donors in a way that builds and solidifies relationships. It is crucial that donors are hearing from us and feel supported and appreciated during these challenging times. Below are four ways that advancement leaders can assist their staff in current stewardship efforts. 

1. Ensure continuity by equipping staff with scripting for university updates


Answering external stakeholders’ questions about COVID-19 is difficult—especially for staff who are not immersed in day-to-day strategy conversations.

As frontline staff take extra steps to keep in touch with constituents, its vital to equip them with key COVID-19 information and talking points. Use the Advancement COVID-19 FAQ Builder to help construct a cheat sheet with a quick overview of response strategy, top-of-mind concerns, and information about long-term plans.

A few benefits of creating these FAQs include approved scripting for interactions with key constituents, staff are prompted to pro-actively generate answers to common difficult questions and staff have the information needed to direct stakeholders to proper institutional next steps or university resources.

2. Create space for staff to share and discuss difficult donor questions about COVID-19

Keep your cheat sheet updated by providing staff with space to surface consistent or difficult questions relating to COVID-19.  For example, create a survey to collect difficult questions encountered by frontline staff or add it to the agenda for a regularly scheduled team check-in. Encouraging staff to voice difficult questions may help identify common themes and lead to the creation of a synthesized team response.

3. Survey your team to assess digital skill gaps and carve out time for staff to share best practices

There is now a plethora of online instructional resources to help new remote workers use tools such as Zoom, ThankView and Social Media. To ensure your team is up to date on digital tool best practices, ask them what skills or tools they would like to learn more about and provide opportunities for them to share best practices with each other. For example, some institutions are crowdsourcing training.  A handful of advancement offices are now holding Zoom training sessions hosted by coworkers and peers because they know what features and tools are most helpful in their daily work. Other institutions are focusing on sharing out lessons learned. For example, several advancement leaders reported that their teams have started holding regular drop-in zoom meetings where colleagues can share digital tips and tricks for interacting with constituents in this new environment. The meetings help staff avoid “re-inventing the wheel” and are incredibly helpful in boosting team productivity.

4. Provide essential tools to create quality constituent communication

Consumers are 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching a video about it and 52% of consumers say watching a video about a product makes them more confident in buying it online.

Empower frontline staff with quality content by providing key stakeholders with the resources needed to produce it. Making it easier for university leadership, coaches, and faculty to record impact stories – improves the ability of frontline staff to provide high-quality touchpoints highlighting impact. 

Tips to help staff work with campus partners to provide quality virtual stewardship:

BYU created the below guide to help faculty members create 14-second videos sharing words of encouragement with new graduates, they shared the videos on the university’s Instagram account.

Michigan State streamlined the production process by providing guidelines for advancement and academic partnerships when creating donor-focused videos.

By offering key script components and outlining the common distribution of responsibilities between advancement staff and academic partners, they removed uncertainty and confusion on both sides of the partnership.

Kansas State created production backpacks to help university leadership and staff produce high quality videos without additional technical expertise.

A sample backpack contains a battery pack, selfie stick, tripods, lighting options, microphones, various USB options and microfiber cleaning cloths. The average total cost is $313 to create one backpack. However, contents of the pack can be modified to suit the needs of the creators. For example, a basic kit may include a cell phone tripod, clip on light, and a microphone with a clip that they can plug into their phone.

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