Development can be a bad word if isn't implemented properly. Some people cringe at the thought of a development person calling them on the phone because it means that someone wants you for your money. While others are happy to take a meeting with a development person because they care about the organization and are fully aware of why they are meeting. Some people just write a check and say we don't need to meet, I know what you want and here it is. But at the end of the day, development is a fine line between love and hate and it has to be done right for everyone to fall on the love side.
This past weekend we were at Wesleyan for Jessica's parent weekend. The weather was perfect and seeing Jessica is always great and she is so happy that we are still feeling the after affects of pure joy. She has embraced the academics, is enjoying the social life and all and all just seems incredibly happy, independent and thrilled. We really couldn't ask for more.
The 3 of us were invited to a cocktail party at the President's home on Saturday evening. Probably about 20 maybe 25 families. Interesting enough, Wesleyan's endowment compared to their peer schools, is less per student. The event was only about an hour or so. Gave us an opportunity to meet the President, the Chairman of the Board and other families at the school. There is no doubt that this particular event was the first opportunity for the Development office to begin a relationship with us. Believe me, I get it, I've been on the Development side and I have been pitched by many organizations while sitting on the other side of the fence. You got to do what you have to do and I am fully aware of what they are doing.
Here are some key points in development. Do your research and thanks to Google, research has gotten a helluva lot easier over the years. You should know everyone in the room and their history. It is all out there somewhere if you really spend some time investigating. When someone is asked for money, if the Development office is good, they know exactly what range is suitable after all that is their job. So here are some finer points besides knowing who you are speaking to.
If someone is partners with a Wesleyan graduate who is an involved alumni, don't feign surprise. I know as well as you know that you knew the information before we walked into the room. Don't suck up to the husband and ignore the wife or the student. The saying is a way to a man's heart is through his stomach, well the way to a parents heart is through their kid. Most important, in today's world, and probably forever, the wife or the partner might have a different role than a full time money maker, show them respect vs fawning over their husband/partner. There isn't anybody who is called upon from the Development office that doesn't know why they were called. Focusing on the money and ignoring the rest of the group will get you nowhere. Just because that person presently brings in the cash doesn't mean they are the person making the decisions about how the cash gets spent. After all, there is a thing called partnership. Also, at everyone of these events, the President should say something to the group even it is for a few minutes…like hello, thanks for coming, we are thrilled to have your kids, something. Don't just attempt to make conversation with random families and then sneak out the back door for your next event. Embrace the moment. That is a lost opportunity.
Ok, that's my Development class today. Needless to say, we love Wesleyan because Jessica is so thrilled to be there and we know so many people who graduated from Wesleyan that are still involved and just love the place but the Development end needs some serious fine tuning.