To source the best big ideas, engage campus leaders from day one

Expert Insight

To source the best big ideas, engage campus leaders from day one

Today’s top donors want their philanthropy to have a transformational impact on the institutions in which they invest. As a result, advancement leaders are under increasing pressure to find visionary ideas to show both long-time donors and new prospects. However, these ideas do not originate in the development office—they come from academic leaders, faculty, and other stakeholders across campus.

But, in the face of immediate needs, sourcing these “big ideas” is rarely a top priority.

Plus, the process of sourcing ideas, choosing the best proposals, and creating the case for support can seem overwhelming for advancement staff with little history of engaging with academic partners.

More on this topic

This resource is part of the Achieve Scale, Sustainability, and Impact in Principal Gifts Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.

A key tool to kick-off the process

To facilitate the launch of a big ideas process on your campus, The Advancement Forum has developed a presentation that can be adapted to your needs and timeline.

The presentation includes pre-prepared slides covering:

  • Why big ideas are crucial to appeal to today’s top donors
  • Steps in the process at best practice institutions
  • Interactive exercises to develop criteria and decide how the best proposals will be selected

As you think about introducing this process to key campus stakeholders, consider customizing the presentation in order to share how the big ideas process relates to your campaign timeline, current fundraising goals, and particular campus needs. You may also want to add details about what will be included in the eventual case for support for the best idea proposals.

The importance of engaging leaders across campus

To source ideas as effectively as possible, include a diverse set of perspectives at all points in the process, from setting criteria for ideas to selecting the best proposals. When planning a big ideas process on your campus, consider inviting the provost to play a guiding role. Invite academic deans to participate, since they can encourage faculty in their divisions to submit idea proposals. Furthermore, the head of student affairs, chief business officer, and director of athletics can all contribute their expertise to the process.

A process for any point in the campaign cycle

Many institutions look for new fundraising priorities at the start of a campaign, or at the halfway point when priorities need to be refreshed or new prospects are ready to see a proposal. However, a process can be used to source fundraising priorities at any time. Regardless of when the process takes place, communications staff can create the case for support for the best ideas, ensuring that they are ready whenever an interested prospect comes along.

Advancement leadership at the University of California, Davis plans on conducting a big ideas process every three years, regardless of their campaign status, in order to source new ideas (and match them to any new prospects). This way, frontline fundraisers have a constant stream of groundbreaking projects to present to donors.

Next, explore the full toolkit for 17 tools to engage academic partners

Use our latest resource to start a process to source big ideas, communicate impact, and prepare faculty to connect with donors. Download the toolkit.

Additional resources on sourcing big ideas

Watch the on-demand webinar on our YouTube channel. About the Webconference Donor investors want their philanthropy to have a global impact, and advancement is often responsible for predicting and communicating that impact over time. However, much of this information resides with academic leaders, who often struggle to communicate in a way that donors will understand. […]

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