3.5 Lessons Learned from the 2018 Parent Giving Conference

(...and how to use CampusESP like a Fundraising Rockstar)


I recently attended the Parent Fundraising Conference in Syracuse, NY. It was a great opportunity to meet with 150 leaders in parent giving. My goal was a little unique from a vendor perspective. We were there to learn.

How can we help parent fundraisers with our current set of CampusESP features?
What features could we add to strengthen parent fundraising potential?

My biggest takeaway? Start early. The consensus was that solicitation usually begins around Parents & Family Weekend, although some schools start even earlier. If you don’t get started year one, it will  probably be too late to take the next steps:


1. ORGANIZE your parents.

Matt Mullen, Director of Parent Giving and Programs from Colby College, shared his thoughts on how to qualify and segment your parent community. Giving levels will vary greatly by school, but the categories and levels below provide a solid example:

  • Initial outreach - All parents receive some level of engagement, especially first year families, regardless of giving capacity.

  • Parent Programs engagement ($100-$10,000) - Special events and programs are unlocked for parents who make a show of financial support.

  • Parent Advisory Council ($10,000-$100,000) - Access to college leadership and regular meetings is provided for those who want to engage more deeply in the mission of the school.

  • Major Gifts ($100,000+) - These are the special parents with the ability to give at the highest levels. Usually they will be assigned a major gift officer.

How we can help...

All parents in the CampusESP system are tracked in demographic and interest communities. Want to run a list of parents on your Advisory Council, view their engagement levels, or send them targeted communication? It’s just a click away.


2. QUALIFY your parents for annual giving.

Each new year brings a  new group of parents to engage. Most schools look at wealth ratings to understand a parent’s capacity to give. However, accuracy can be an issue with these ratings. Sometimes you miss the enthusiastic parents who can ultimately provide the most support.

How we can help...

CampusESP tracks opens, clicks and overall engagement rates for all parents. The system can easily generate a list of your most active and engaged parents.

Plus if you’re using CampusESP’s Student Integration version (requires our FERPA Management module), you can see a list of your most engaged parents… paired with your most successful students. This feature provides even more precise screenings and qualification.


2.5 QUALIFY your parents for major gifts.

OK, so qualification is really important. It’s on this list 1.5 times!

You’re not only looking to see if parents are willing to engage, but also if they have the capacity to give at significant levels. This can be a sensitive situation. You want to identify parents with the ability to give at the highest levels, but you don’t want to alienate the rest of your parents.

How we can help...

The CampusESP survey feature allows you to easily create and publicize parent surveys that can help with your qualification process. Some of our customers ask questions such as: “Are you interested in being a mentor for a student?” If the answer is yes, CampusESP can collect additional information on the parent’s job description and level. Maybe you find 5 or 6 CEO’s. Not only do you have a list of parents that can support your students, you also now know parents who are able to support your institution financially.


3. CREATE an expectation to give.

Heather Bennett, Director of Development for the Duke Parents Program, discussed Parent Councils and how to develop the expectation of support from families. It’s important to develop a culture of giving early, so that making the ask later doesn’t become a barrier.

How we can help...

CampusESP automatically generates personalized newsletters for each parent, depending on which communities they belong to.. This means that first year parents, second year parents, and even members on your Parent Council will each l see unique newsletters personalized for their needs and interests.First year parents might see posts and events around how to get involved in the community, while Parent Council Members could see giving results from last year with a more clear-cut ask. You can (easily!) curate the content that parents receive, and our  analytics help you understand which posts are resonating with different types of parents


I was really impressed with the level of expertise the conference presenters and attendees brought. There’s a real passion for parent fundraising and the positive impact it can have on colleges and universities.

PS- Big shout out for Bill Barry, Executive Director of Family and Parent Giving at Syracuse, for organizing a terrific conference. I’ll be sure to work on my trivia skills for next year!