The other day I was reflecting on my past work with the parent constituency within a university setting. Parents are sometimes grouped into the “friends” or “other” category of donor giving, but their needs, interests, and relationships to the school are often different from alumni and they should be stewarded appropriately.
I’ve outlined several key elements that should be considered when working with parents and a Parents Program.
Engagement and Giving Opportunities
Current parents can be your most engaged prospects and donors. They have a child who is currently attending the school and are interested in helping to make it a great experience for their own student as well as others. Create fundraising and volunteer opportunities to help them learn more about the school and engage them in meaningful ways. This can include securing internship experiences for students at their work, endowing scholarships, supporting study abroad, and other experiences that directly affect the student experience. Set up parent giving councils or advisory groups that have access to school leadership. This allows the parent constituency to voice their thoughts and advice on the school.
Parent Web Community
Parents are often some of the biggest advocates for the school. Create communication web pages for parents, separate from alumni pages that acknowledge their interests in the school and allows them to communicate with other parents.
Complete Data Records
Unlike alumni who automatically have records and data files created once they are students, new or current parents must have data files created. Like with any program, without good data including emails and contact information, you have a hard time engaging potential donors.
Good Internal Relationships
A successful Parent’s Program must often partner with other departments so they can share pertinent information with parents. It’s vital that development staff have a full understanding of what’s going on with other departments in the college, as this is top of mind to current parents.
Policy on appropriate communication
It is important for a college or university to lay out a framework of communication expectations, particularly with FERPA and other privacy issues. Parent’s Programs should help enforce the importance of these policies when working with both parent and student. Schools can help develop a student’s academic career while also embracing a parent into the community.
When the time is taken to plan the interactions and a strategy is developed to cultivate and steward this constituency, a Parent’s Program can be a great vehicle to deepen your institution’s relationship with future alumni and their families.