“Now is the time for girls’ schools to engage with their communities and share the story of what their young women can become with donations from parents and their local community.”

Fearlessness Starts in School

I was delighted to present at the recent AGSA conference on the state of fundraising in Australian girls’ schools. Our research uncovered insights into the capacity and inclination of girls’ schools to fundraise including their commitment to resourcing and planning for their future.

While attending the conference, which had the topical theme of ‘fearless girls, strong women’ I had the opportunity to attend a number of the lectures and was struck by the recurring call for girls – and women – to behave with more bravery and engage with the workplace to carve out a place for themselves in increasingly challenging and competitive world.

Given the results of our survey showed than only just over half of girls’ schools are actively asking their constituency for an annual donation to support the worthy projects at their school, I would argue that this bravery should start within the school itself. Now is the time for girls’ schools to engage with their communities and share the story of what their young women can become with the donations from parents and their local community.

“You cannot be what you cannot see”

This quote comes from The White House Project and caught my attention when it was mentioned in the conference opening address. The White House Project was created to encourage girls to start to think that they could become the President of the United States. The idea was that you need to present an image of what girls can become. The same is true for our communities.
Girls’ schools have unique opportunities to share the vision of what their community can do to support its school, particularly if it’s a girl’s school. Now is the time to be brave and decide that your school – and your girls – deserve to have new facilities, better buildings and more resources just like any other school. This only happens if school leaders take action to share their vision with their constituency.

Tragically, the White House Project closed down due to lack of fundraising capacity leading to a lack of sufficient revenue to support the program. This serves as a reminder that decisions to embark on valuable projects must be backed up by a commitment to increasing your fundraising capacity and developing a strong willingness to ask for funds? Why not take the time to share your vision with a few key supporters and see what their thoughts would be on your projects having the chance to flourish.

Not aggression: proactivity and committed resources

Some feedback from conference participants was that they were worried that actively asking for donations would be seen as ‘aggressive’ and that parents already ‘give enough’ in fees. However, research shared at the conference by UQ Business School showed that Queensland boys’ schools had 15 times the footprint of girls’ schools and received ten times the level of bequests and donations from parents and alumni compared with girls’ schools. These boys’ schools are asking for this support from their parents who pay fees and because they ask, they receive donations – are these schools more deserving than your school?

All schools will benefit from improved resources and girls’ schools leaders could do worse than aiming to be braver about what they want for the future of their schools and the girls that attend them. Best practice fundraising is all about building good quality relationships with the right person eventually asking the right donor, at the right time for the right amount. Good fundraising practice can only happen if sufficient resources are allocated to it. Interestingly, none of the girls’ schools who answered the recent survey had more than two full-time dedicated fundraising resources, and most had one or less.

Consider if your school could commit more dedicated resources to your fundraising efforts. The fundraising journey is exciting, challenging, a little bit scary and ultimately, with persistence, rewarding. And as we know, that’s true of everything that’s worth doing.