Aligning Your Priorities for Greater Philanthropic Impact
You have a life-changing idea—one that you feel would advance both Georgia College and your work. You are excited about it and feel that the funding required to elevate your idea to reality should pour into your hands. Or maybe you have a great idea niggling in the back of your brain. Right now, it’s still unformed. If only you could articulate it clearly, you know that securing funding would lead to break-through thinking. In both cases—and indeed, all cases that require funding—your idea will be strengthened and more powerfully articulated by taking the time to align it with the values of the college, your department, and your unit.
Values Drive Strategy
At the very least, your idea should reflect the vision and mission of Georgia College. The time you spend becoming familiar with strategic planning will pay dividends. Knowing the direction your college, department, or unit is heading could spark ideas that you could implement to help reach that goal. If you already have an idea, perusing the strategic plan can act as a compass in helping you clarify which direction the idea should go, as well as providing language you can use to transform that idea into a compelling Opportunity Story.
“When looking at funding priorities for the department…I certainly want to make sure our efforts and vision align with the university’s. I refer to our strategic plan, which very specifically highlights what we want to accomplish at Georgia College. Our president right now has a catch phrase of becoming a ‘preeminent institution.’ Over time, he has defined what preeminence looks like for Georgia College, so I’m able to define that for our department and then communicate that with potential donors.”
—Dr. Chavonda Mills, Chair, Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy
For example, one of the strategic goals on the path to preeminence is making sure Georgia College recruits and retains a talented faculty. One way to do that is by tapping into philanthropy to provide generous support for research opportunities for faculty. Potential donors may be attracted to this idea because of the area of research, but they could also be moved to act philanthropically because they feel strongly about retaining top faculty at Georgia College.
Lean on Your Colleagues for Help
Your department chair and other subject area mentors will provide great insight into ways you can align your idea with the overall mission and vision. But don’t forget another valuable resource in aligning and articulating funding priorities: your development colleague. As the fundraising experts, they can not only help you align your idea with the university’s, they can also help you refine it in a way that is compelling to potential donors.
“I hope that the academic partners on our campus understand that our role is entirely to assist the students, faculty, and staff of the university in meeting their goals. We really want our academic partners to be the big idea bringers, to be the individuals who bring to life the exciting ideas that can save or change lives.”
—Vice President of Development
Your development colleague can also provide valuable input regarding the fundability of your idea. Perhaps with a few tweaks, your idea will not only be more closely aligned with the university’s mission, but also more attractive to potential donors.
“I would be willing to work with my academic partners to think about ways in which they can engage donor passion that might not be with a traditional scholarship, a graduate assistantship, a professorship, a chair. Rather to think in new and unique ways in which we might help them meet their goals within the university system, but maybe outside of some of those normal boundaries that we work within.”
—Vice President of Development
Remember, “no” doesn’t mean “no forever.” Maybe your idea will blossom under a future strategic plan. If your development colleagues are aware of your idea, they will assist you by helping you refine and align the idea and by scouting for an appropriate potential donor.
Inspiration for great ideas come from all types of sources. Scouring your university’s mission and vision statement and its strategic plan might be the fertilizer your seed of an idea needs. Further tending of this idea through collaborating with your colleagues—both academic and development—to further align and refine your idea may lead to beautiful blossoms.