By Amanda Cose, Principal Consultant
For students and their families, the beginning of each semester brings the promise of new opportunities. The same can also be said for the school’s development team. With each pool of new students, a school gains a wealth of information, including valuable knowledge about their parents.
Parents are a great prospective donor pool for higher education. Most have a built-in affinity for a school simply by having children there. However, because the cultivation window for parents is shorter than for alum prospects, it is important to maximize your time and start engaging with them early during their student’s first year. To do this successfully, you first need to collect parent information in partnership with your Admissions office and develop a plan to import and utilize the data in your fundraising database.
Chances are, you won’t have to start from scratch in capturing parent information through the enrollment process. Your Admissions office is likely collecting some parent data. Think through what information is most meaningful in your work. While this will vary by organization, contact information (addresses, phones, emails) and current employment are a great place to start and will go a long way in your development work. Both pieces of information are helpful in screening for capacity and identifying the best parent prospects. And remember: just because you CAN collect certain information, that doesn’t always mean you should. Make sure you evaluate your business needs and prioritize what is most important for your organization.
If your school is not yet collecting parent information, learn why. Is there a lack of awareness around the importance of this data? Or is there a technology roadblock? This might mean gathering with colleagues from Admissions, Information Technology, and Development to communicate needs, dig into the platform used for admissions/enrollment management, and develop a solution.
Importing Parent Data
Once you have captured parent information, how will you store it in Blackbaud CRM™? For many schools, this is a tedious and time-consuming process, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The BrightVine Data Link (BVDL) allows users to import data sets from a variety of sources, including direct database connections, flat files, and APIs, into Blackbaud CRM™. Throughout the process, users interact with the imported data to review what was staged and correct any exceptions.
The BVDL will match to existing constituent records, ensuring you don’t end up with duplicate parent records. This can be especially helpful when importing parent data that matches an existing constituent record. A parent who is also an alumnus/alumnae of your institution and/or an existing donor may be a much warmer prospect than an incoming parent without that history.
Creating relationships between the parent and student can also be a laborious process. The BVDL allows you to create those relationships at the same time as the initial constituent import and will, again, match to existing constituent records if the parent or student already has a constituent record in your system.
Do you have an imperfect file and spend a lot of time cleaning up your incoming data? Don’t worry! With BVDL Orchestrations, you can perform data clean-up, transformations, translations, and more on staging field values without having to write code. Once you set up your orchestrations, you can use them each time you process a new file of parent information, saving you time and energy.
Once your new parent data is in Blackbaud CRM™, there are several things you can do to ensure your organization succeeds in engaging parents early and often. Many organizations utilize wealth screening services to identify capacity within a pool of parent prospects. (Note, model scores and ratings can also be imported using the BVDL.)
This first pass will help prioritize outreach for development officers before the semester begins. Pre-semester events like orientation and student/family weekends offer an opportunity to meet with parents while they are on campus. Some schools also have parent/family leadership councils, which allow parents to get involved and make connections within the school community.