Fundraising for Universities and Colleges: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you looking to raise money to help support a university or college? Here you’ll find everything you need to know about fundraising for higher education. We’ll provide clear and actionable advice on how you can help improve the effectiveness of your institution’s fundraising programs.

Understanding the Scope of University and College Fundraising

Fundraising is vital to higher education finances. Successful fundraising campaigns allow institutions to provide better services to students, good working environments for staff, and improve community engagement. 

Key Areas of Focus in Higher Education Fundraising

Fundraising is important for supporting a range of higher education programs and activities, including:

  • Scholarships and financial aid to students
  • Funding student services, like welfare and wellness initiatives, sports clubs, societies, and development programs
  • Community engagement and outreach
  • Funding research and innovation
  • Supporting faculty development initiatives, like endowments and research chairs
  • Upgrading campus infrastructure 

Setting Fundraising Goals

Before any fundraising begins, the goals of a fundraising campaign should be stated. Goals should be clearly defined, made as specific as possible, and be measurable. 

The more precise goals are, the better they’ll motivate those involved, as people will have a clear objective to work towards. Defined goals allow fundraising efforts to be measured and enable activities to be tailored towards those goals. They can be clearly communicated to improve donor engagement and they allow success to be quantified and celebrated.

Ideally, fundraising goals should also be aligned with the institution’s strategic priorities as this can help with senior management support, can encourage more resources to be devoted to a fundraising initiative, and will minimise any potential organisational friction. 

Identifying Potential Donors

Once the goals of your fundraising campaign have been clearly set out, the important next step is to identify the different groups of donors you want to contact.

Engaging Alumni

Alumni can be one of the most crucial audiences for fundraising campaigns. Alumni may have the financial capacity to donate generously and may have extensive networks of contacts that can be used to spread fundraising communications. Many alumni have deep emotional connections to their university or college and are keen to stay connected and help where they can.

Attracting Corporate Sponsorships and Partnerships

Universities and colleges can offer considerable benefits to businesses. Large campuses can offer plenty of exposure to sponsorship and advertising, plus businesses can enhance their brand through association with education and the activities of your higher education institution.

Key to successful sponsorship is identifying the unique needs of business partners and developing sponsorship opportunities that best meet these needs.

Applying for Grants and Endowments

Government and charitable grants and endowments are becoming an increasingly sought after source of funding for UK higher education institutions. A wide range of grants and endowments are available, like Research Council funding, UK Higher Education Funding Councils, the Wolfson Foundation, and the Welcome Trust.

The process of applying for grants and endowments will vary by funding body, but these are usually detailed on their websites.

Fundraising Methods for Universities and Colleges

Once fundraising goals and targets have been identified, fundraising campaigns can be established that utilise a range of different fundraising approaches, like:

Traditional Fundraising Methods

Traditional approaches to fundraising can still be very effective. They include activities like periodic or special event direct mail email appeals, fundraising fetes or festivals, sponsored events, phone-a-thons, and invitations for major gift donations and legacies. 

Digital Fundraising Methods

Digital fundraising approaches have become increasingly popular and widespread in higher education due to their capacity for wide reach and effective engagement, often with a relatively low cost. 

Online fundraising methods can include the use of crowdfunding campaigns and platforms for both one-off donations and to set up regular contributions. They also allow for email campaigns, social media campaigns and digital advertising. You can also use specialist platforms for virtual events like online auctions and create an eCommerce website to sell university merchandise and other materials online.

easyfundraising also offers a simple and powerful way for people to donate to your fundraising efforts. Simply register your higher institution with us, and supporters can donate by shopping online with our more than 7,500 partner retailers. 

Effectively Promoting Your Fundraising Campaign

Effectively promoting your fundraising campaign will be central to spreading awareness, engaging with your target audiences, and ensuring the success of your fundraising efforts. The methods of promotion you pick should complement your fundraising methods and be suitable for your target audiences. 

Leveraging University and College Websites and Social Media Platforms

Your institution’s website is a valuable resource for raising awareness for fundraising initiatives. A dedicated section on the website’s homepage that highlights fundraising will benefit from a high volume of traffic from interested audiences. 

Likewise, your institution likely already has a range of social media accounts with established audiences that can be leveraged to raise awareness for fundraising. As well as social media accounts for the overall institution, seek out those for relevant departments too, and encourage staff members who are active on social media to share and repost your communications.

You can provide materials for social media for others to use, including text, visuals and video, and links to where supporters can find out more and donate.

Email Campaigns and Newsletters

Most higher education institutions today use CRM tools to manage databases of contact information. You can utilise these to create dedicated email and newsletter promotions. The key to using these effectively is to tailor communications to your different audiences. Craft specific messaging, with tailored text and images, designed to appeal to your different target donors. 

Engaging the Media and Public Relations

Media can serve as an extremely impactful way to bring awareness to your institution’s fundraising endeavours. To effectively engage media sources, you need to develop a compelling story that will be interesting to readers, and produce a professional press kit. Reach out to your institution’s press relations department to engage their support and expertise in how best to do this.

Ensuring Transparency and Compliance in Fundraising

When formulating your institution’s fundraising initiatives, due care must be paid to legal guidelines, whilst an ethic of transparency should be embraced and communicated.

Upholding Transparency and Accountability in Fundraising

Transparency in all fundraising activities is very important. It is essential for maintaining trust and accountability, both with donors and stakeholders within the institution. Transparency can also help you build strong relationships with donors, by demonstrating your responsible use of their donations and through highlighting the impact of the money they give. 

By prioritising transparency, you can strengthen your institution’s reputation, attract more donors, and help guarantee long-term sustainability in fundraising.

Legal Guidelines for Fundraising in Higher Education

Before fundraising activities begin, you should consult with a legal expert to understand the guidelines and legal obligations your fundraising projects will involve. Legal responsibilities can all too often be overlooked without expert guidance.

Streamlining Fundraising for Universities and Colleges with Easyfundraising

Whilst fundraising for your institution can be an involved process with a lot to consider, it can have a substantial impact on the activities of your organisation. And with a wealth of digital tools available to you, many of the steps can be streamlined and made more effective, including raising awareness through social media and collecting donations online. 

We can offer you a simple and convenient way for supporters to earn donations for your institution’s fundraising efforts, without it costing them anything. When supporters shop online via easyfundraising, a portion of the money they spend will be donated by the online retailers to a charitable cause of their choosing, such as your institution. easyfundraising is simple to use, and the donations will be paid for by the online retailers, not by the shoppers, making it an attractive proposition for donors.