The past three months have been a journey for all of us with a passion for education and philanthropy.

At WASHBURN & McGOLDRICK we work with our clients to develop strategies that ensure successful fundraising results and effective engagement. We are also working daily to help these schools and their leaders assess the challenges presented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was clear early-on that we needed to re-imagine our signature Intensives fundraising training programs and adapt them for online delivery. The new online curriculum provides the full breadth of content as our in-person workshops. An added benefit of this re-tooling is that the entire curriculum has been updated and new content has been added to reflect the realities of working during times of social distancing.

Our new online workshops are based on the “absorb, do, connect” model of e-learning pioneered by William Horton. The key concepts of this tested and proven approach are absorbed via pre-recorded single-topic tutorials, interspersed with interactive video class sessions, which provide participants with opportunities to practice what has been learned through case studies, role plays, rapid response exercises and small group breakout sessions.

In addition, we have updated the content for the new work environment including:

  • how to qualify a donor or prospect via video or phone,
  • how to engage via video or phone, and
  • how to address questions and objections specific to institutional decisions related to equity and justice issues or brought on by COVID-19.

And, to replicate the personal interaction opportunities with the workshop leaders that are a hallmark of our in-person experiences, we have added two one-on-one coaching sessions during the workshop period, to reinforce the key points of the classroom sessions, and a third coaching session a few weeks after completion, to ensure that the lessons learned are being applied to each participant’s work.

We have also put effort into designing a seamless and problem-free virtual user experience, from the “welcome packet” that includes tips for getting the most out of virtual learning, to a visual “map” of the curriculum showing topics covered in recorded tutorials, Zoom class meeting agendas, coaching sessions and homework assignments. We will have a member of the Washburn & McGoldrick team on hand before and during the Zoom class sessions to handle any last-minute tech-related issues the participants may have.

Training Designed to Meet Your Team’s Need

In addition to our “Creating Major Gift Success” workshop, we can design a custom Intensives training workshop that can be delivered in-person or virtually.

To accomplish this, we first discuss with the client their needs for their team, the desired outcomes, and any specific issues to address. Client input informs the design of the curriculum and institution-specific elements. (For example, if the training is focused on asking for and closing gifts, we incorporate donor objections common to the institution.)

As the next step in creating a custom workshop, we develop and administer an online survey to each participant that provides important input on their attitudes, knowledge and self-assessment of skills. This helps us fine-tune the workshop content and avoid unnecessary duplication of earlier training. Depending on the workshop topic, we may be able to benchmark the team’s survey responses against benchmarks we’ve developed over the past five years from our work with 1,100 gift officers at 77 institutions and share those results.

Finally, we develop additional instructional materials in a “Toolkit” for participants to use during and after the workshop. After the final class meeting, we administer a post-workshop survey to measure the impact of the training and provide feedback to our client about specific ways to reinforce the lessons learned in Intensives and any ongoing concerns the participants might have.

Our Results

Even while 1,100 gift officers at 77 different institutions have experienced our Intensives, we recognize in today’s reality, we have to be more innovative, practice flexibility and translate sound fundraising principles no matter the interaction or situation. However, the best practices remain the same. No matter how we interact, online, by phone or in person, we must be good listeners to understand a prospect’s feelings about the institution, her or his passions and interests, the difference she or he wants to make with her or his philanthropy, and how we can match that to the leadership’s vision and the school’s priorities. In order to do this, we will have to be innovative in our outreach and engagement, flexible in our gift conversations and offerings, while always observing sound fundraising methods from face to face to virtual connections and even phone conversations. The results of our Intensives have always been overwhelmingly positive, and our goal is to adapt these exceptional fundraising principles to this virtual world.

Keeping Positive

Keep in mind, no matter how uncertain or challenging things may be, more than ever before, the work a development professional does on behalf of the institution is vital to the success of their institution and its students. Strategic focus, practicing the tried and true methods of fundraising, and sharpening our skills while adapting to a different work environment and current issues will ensure continued success. This is especially true if we keep a positive attitude. Always remember, helping someone realize their philanthropic dreams makes a difference.