Moving Forward in Times of Crisis - Supporting Students (Part 3)
Join us for this 1-hour webinar where we speak with Ruth Carpenter, Participation Giving Officer at the University of Brighton and Jemma Gurr, Head of Regular Giving at the University of Manchester.
In this webinar, we'll discuss how Brighton and Manchester made the decision to move forward with their appeals, the steps they took to ensure a successful launch and what next steps they'll be taking to engage donors.
To watch the recording of this webinar, please click on the video (above) and register when prompted. All webinar recordings are free to view.
If you would prefer to read a transcript of the webinar recording, please find this below.
Ruth Carpenter - Participation Giving Officer, University of Brighton
Jemma Gurr - Head of Regular Giving, University of Manchester
Kat Carter - Head of Marketing and Digital Giving Specialist, Hubbub
Hi everyone, I'm Kat Carter head of marketing and a digital giving specialist here at Hubbub. Thank you so much for joining myself and our speakers for today's webinar. This is the second in a three part series where we will be hearing from educational institutions both here in the UK as well as in the US who are currently running appeals to support students during these very challenging times. While there is a tremendous amount of vitally important work happening right now to support our frontline workers as well as funding to aid research into finding a vaccine, there is also a need to ensure that our current and future students who attend our educational institutions have the ability to remain at these institutions in the months and years that follow the pandemic.
There are many institutions out there who are currently running student-related appeals and we hope that the experiences shared with you today will be helpful as you too consider the ways in which you may move forward with conducting your own student-focused appeals.
A worrying time for many
For many students and their families this will be a worrying time. Students who work to afford their education may find themselves worrying about how they will pay for their living costs while they are currently unable to work. Care for international students who are unable to travel home will become important for those institutions who still have students on campus at this time. Finally there may be a worry from parents who are concerned over being able to still afford the tuition for their children when they themselves are unable to work as a result of the current climate
As we've seen over the last few weeks. The generosity of our supportive communities has never been stronger. Alumni and others are coming forward in their droves to support these initiatives. From those Hubbub customers who are running COVID-19 related appeals we've seen a truly tremendous amount of support for a wide variety of projects that have brought our communities closer together in a united message of hope.Today, we'll hear from Jemma Gurr, Head of Regular Giving at the University of Manchester and Ruth Carpenter, Participation Giving Officer at the University of Brighton.
Both Jemma and Ruth will share with us the experiences their institutions have had through running their Emergency Student Support appeals, how those appeals were facilitated, the results they've seen and what's next for each.
The Univeristy of Brighton
Ruth Carpenter, Participation Giving Officer at the University of Brighton.
My job at the University of Brighton is pretty much anything that involves participation and regular giving. That can also include crowdfunding, community and event fundraising, digital fundraising and Giving Days. I'll start by launching into the appeal itself. The Student Fund is a small fund for awarding grants of up to £200. It's open to all students studying at the University of Brighton at any level. Students can apply for these funds to help with practical solutions to continue their learning. It's primary aim is to help students whose education has been significantly affected by COVID-19 and the university campus being closed.
The Fund is predominately to aid students who are vulnerable at this time, with specific importance on lack of technology, data and access to online learning. The Fund is also providing grants for healthcare professionals, teaching, and social care students who are working on the front line support communities during the pandemic. It's aim is to fund practical solutions to any barriers that are preventing study or engagement in the Government's response. For example these students can apply for funding up to £200 to help them travel where they need to go, be equipped for work and to cover any other critical costs. The theme of our giving is really trying to make it personal.
Going full circle
Our aim is to respond to real people and real students with what they really need. And, to build real relationships with donors, new and old, in the process of this. We wanted to help our students and do what we can to try and make our student community lives a little easier at this time. Currently we've had approximately 10 rounds of applications to the Student Fund and each round has varied a lot, from around 20 to 200 applications. As we're such a small team it's important for me to note that we've actually been doing a full circle. As fundraisers we've never really done this whole full circle before and just to go over again, this includes: digital application process, responding to students, awarding funds and the financial logistics as well. Although this is very time consuming, it has allowed us to be much more involved, to see what students and donors really want on a whole new level. We are careful to be directing and informing students who clearly fit the usual hardship fund to still run through the Student Advice team at the University of Brighton. With this fund it's not capped at £200 and it's more complex with means testing as well.
Why did we feel that running an appeal in response to COVID-19 was needed? And other key things that helped make our decisions...
From various relationships and networks around the institution, we were hearing students were struggling to access remote learning accross all of our schools. As well, there was a huge strain on students who were left without part-time jobs, equipment and use of the University's facilities. Students still needed to be able to complete their degrees with the correct equipment and resources to do it. We knew some of our major donors, along with regular donors, would have had the equivalent motivations to give to a fund like this and would love to be involved with supporting students this way.
It's added to the fact that our final year School of Health Sciences course will most likely be sitting their exams early and being called to the front line to help with the pandemic. These nurses, midwives, paramedics and other health care workers working on the front line needed relief to help with travel and further equipment costs before their loans and paychecks came in. The Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement team (PAE) team were in a process of launching our new student Potential Fund, ideally in September 2020. From this new fund, we propelled the hardship strand forward and launched with a specific COVID-19 assistance to students who were in need.
Our director contacted the Director of Education, who works with our Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Experience, to find out what challenges students were experiencing. Also linked into this conversation was our Student Advice Manager to find out the increasing demands they were getting from hardship funds and how these weren't succeeding at meeting the means test criteria. The result was to set up a more rapid response fund at a lower level to help in the short term to get students online and learning or out in the front line.
The Hardship fund is slightly different as it provides grants of £500 and £1,000 to students. We decided to launch an evergreen project on our crowdfunding site to house the majority of our incoming traffic. Our Springboard site was all ready to use for student fundraising and other ongoing appeals, so it had internal and external support to trust already.
A team effort
So next are the steps that we took to successfully launch, both internally and externally. Our Student Advice team was key to involve early on in this process and to help with assessing students who needed help. The Department managed the usual Hardship Fund as I mentioned previously, so they're aware of students who maybe were receiving larger funding and other assets that PAE aren't involved with. Heads of Schools were key to filtering down to academics, who can assist in steering students towards our fund. They may be students that were expected to struggle with learning in the current climate. The Brighton Student Union (SU) were also enlisted to assist our team in understanding the need of the students. The CEO of the SU is actually on the application panel to ensure the involvement of the student voice as well.
We encouraged our senior management team and key individuals across the University to act as ambassadors, to spread the word digitally and share their stories as well. These key individuals were crucial to getting the Fund up and running effectively and quickly. We spoke to donors by sending out personal emails and having video calls prior to launching the Student Fund to ensure initial interest in response to what we were doing. We felt this was crucial to involve some key context as well. We spoke very nicely to our Comms Officer who was quick at getting content out for mass emails, social media and also internally to spread the message as well.
What response have we seen so far?
We've been calling on major and leadership giving donors, not necessarily doing a typical ask but just checking in and making that connection, especially at this time of uncertainty. Having a slightly different conversation has actually improved our relationship and resulted in around 26% of our income result for the Student Fund coming from major giving support.
For our regular giving, we've seen our asks on social media, mass emails, emails and telephones resulting in around 74% of our income for this fund coming through on our evergreen project on the crowdfunding platform. Because of predicted disruptions and delays in awarding course results, many of our student prize gifts are still currently under review. Therefore developing on this, due to our personalised and detailed communications with donors, many have actually upscaled their gifts and donated extra funding to the Emergency Student Fund.
As you can see from the chart, 45% of all funding actually comes from university staff. We don't normally see this type of support, so this is a really positive outcome for us and just creates a really good sense of community. Many of our other colleagues are supporting in different ways. They're working on the frontline and working in our labs towards COVID-19 research. You can also see from the chart the remaining income was from 44% alumni, 7% honorary grads and 4% friends of the university.
Interestingly 62% of those who gave to the Student Fund were new donors. Compared to previous campaigns, we think this may be because of the pandemic and obviously it's a global emergency. And also, because many people can relate to when they were at university. Alumni and University staff would remember their time and they're connected with this and the urgent action needed that this Fund provides. We've currently had over 400 students apply across all of our schools in the past 3-4 weeks and we've awarded £46,000 to students again in the past 3-4 weeks as you can see from the chart below. We have awarded over 72% of applications that have come through to us and over half of those applicants were awarded the full grant amount as well.
Within segments, while mailing we've seen a 15% increase in alumni actually wanting to volunteer as well on our Ask Alumni platform. This offers student advice and career sharing. We found that although alumni may not have been able to give financially, they still want to share kindness and generosity digitally and be involved in helping in some way.
The main part of our campaign began with an internal communication at the start of lockdown. We wanted to show University staff the impact that they could have on the education and success of students simply by donating the cost of their day commute or their coffee fix. To do this, we launched an internal communication campaign with a news article on our staff Intranet, which gets sent to just under 3000 staff members. This initial promotion was to raise awareness of the campaign, the issue students were facing financially and provide a call-to-action to get involved by donating a really achievable amount. All of our messaging directed people to the Student Fund Springboard website.
Student applications to this fund then gave us a little bit more of a direction for honing in our promotional materials to our wider University. We were able to offer specific examples of the needs that students are facing. For example, this included needing laptops where they previously relied on the University computers, travel costs, healthcare payments and so on. These students offered really tangible examples of what they needed funding for, helping build the empathy for the situation and really strengthening the fundraising ask. We promoted the campaign widely on social media mainly using Twitter as the means for spreading the word about the campaign and building the context from quotes from students and donors, particularly highlighting the need of students entering the NHS frontline early. We have used a variety of visuals to support this campaign, including a fundraising video highlighting the impact of student prizes on their education and experience as well as some photographs of our students studying healthcare.
Several tweets generated direct responses and donations which our following shared on social media, building the hype and enthusiasm for the Fund within our community. This included followers such as Kath Morgen, who tweeted an example of a powerful message in response to the fund. The conversation kept building and we worked with some of our internal stakeholders to help spread the word about the fund and encourage personal audiences to get involved on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
We also used our team to keep the ball rolling by sharing some video content on Instagram. One of my colleagues did a video explaining how he will be donating his savings from his usual coffee and in my video I'm donating my car parking charges to students who need support. My video turned out 900 views but David's knocked it out of the park with approximately 1,400 views and counting. These helped to boost visibility of the campaign on different social platforms, bringing in our team to show how easy it is to donate just a small amount and making a really impressionable difference to our university students in most need. It's a great way to increase the visibility of the campaign and encourage more supporters.
We sent several messages to our alumni and donor audience to spread the word about the Fund. We began with communication to our audience on 20th March and updating them on the measures that the university was taking to protect students and staff from the beginning of the lockdown. This was sent to roughly 51,000 recipients. This message included promotion of the Student Fund, a thank you message and a link to the Student's Springboard Fund page. The same audience received a follow up message a week later, which was written and signed from our VC and again directed them to the Springboard link. With a bespoke ‘thank you’ after everyone who had donated going to each donor, we felt this really encouraged a feel of personal giving, no matter what donation size.
What we learned and may have done differently
As a team we were really surprised at how much of a lack of data and laptops students actually had, and how much they were actually relying on the University of Brighton's campuses and equipment. You can see from the chart that 63.9% of funding has actually gone towards laptops and equipment. One major thing we've reflected on, and continue to, is what students actually, really need. This seems to be technology. We are definitely working on this and keeping this in mind for future funds, especially the one launching in September. Because we've invested time in sharing our lives with donors, we feel like we can talk about the whole student lifecycle and deliver a better experience for our donors. As a result, this is something we're definitely taking forward and implementing in future campaigns.
When collecting testimonials and stories to share with our supporters, it became really clear that we hadn't set enough consent preferences. In retrospect, having around 11 would have allowed students to opt into more of the details that we would be sharing on this Fund. This meant the process was quite difficult and time consuming, as the funds were active within a week of lockdown beginning. This would have been avoided if we had had more time to prepare, and is definitely something that we will be learning from in future.
When the Student Fund was in its first week, we were receiving about 100+ applications each time. The quality of these would really vary and we were going through each one. As a result, part way through, the Student Advice team were brought in to help and examine initially to make sense of them. The PAE team would then counter these down to those which fitted the criteria a bit more. From this, we've learned to adapt the online form where students apply. It definitely needed to be a bit more concise, have a word minimum and maximum and clearly outline the reason that the fund actually exists. Internally this made the application process simpler, more informative and actually a better use of time for students who were going through a stressful time.
The Fund will continue to support students where needed during the pandemic and eventually develop into the hardship strand of the new Student Potential Fund. We will be doing a specific donor impact direct mail for the Emergency Student Fund along with our normal Annual Donor Report. This will be a chance to tell the fantastic and impactful stories that we are doing civically as a University and also what has been possible with this Fund.
A stewardship program for the donors will be created and threaded up with our Giving Day hopefully. This will be focused around the School of Health Sciences. As donors who have responded to this appeal have reacted to an emergency fund, we'll be developing stewardship programs specifically with this in mind.
We'll be using what we have learned from this fund, regarding students, donors and our whole community. We will carefully be applying this to the Giving Day that we hope to have in December this year. When we have had emergency fundraising appeals before, they have been successful, but we know we need to keep reinventing the funds. It may be that in two weeks time when student loans have come in we'll need to fundraise for something that's with a slightly different focus. For example, this could be for materials and PPE in our labs. The University of Brighton's colleagues are creating these for the frontline NHS, but also we need to remember where we need to keep it fresh. We want to ensure we keep it live with student videos and communications throughout. In terms of keeping it fresh, looking at intensive research and turning to a research focus for our fundraising. We're investigating areas that the University of Brighton specialises in. Particularly with the long term impact of isolation on well-being and also in a genomics lab analysing the DNA of the virus.
Digital campaigns and positively influencing responses
Honestly, we actually haven't done a total digital campaign before. However, we have a successful crowdfunding site (Springboard) for students and University projects, which we used for this campaign as well. Obviously, it was a simple decision to channel all of our online giving through that. It's also beneficial to receive more traffic to Springboard and we'll be using this for our future digital asks and potentially Giving Day as well. Our team has already used this opportunity to get our faces out there and upload videos to create content about ourselves as individuals and as a team. We found this to be a really easy way to build relationships and to add that personal touch as you are in your home. This is mainly what we have been lacking due to COVID-19 and no face-to-face meetings. To build on our current relationships, we're doing video calls to donors as well as sharing our personal lives a little bit more. It has been really beneficial for building relationships and having conversations with our donors.
Please reach out to Ruth here if you have any questions or would like to chat further about this webinar: email@example.com
The University of Manchester
Jemma Gurr, Head of Regular Giving at the University of Manchester
Today I'm going to be speaking about how our Regular Giving team at Manchester is responding to the coronavirus and specifically I'm going to tell you about the work that we've been doing over the past few weeks to support students who are facing real financial hardship. Unlike Ruth over at Brighton, our public hardship appeal hasn't yet launched at the time of recording, so I won't be able to share any results with you yet unfortunately. However, I will tell you all about how we came to the decision to launch a student hardship appeal, the process we've been through so far and some of the key considerations and learning points that we've picked up along the way too.
As a brief introduction for those of you who don't know much about Manchester. We are a big old university - we are nearly two hundred years old. We're a member of the Russell Group. We have more students than any other single site university in the UK - we are pipped to the post by the Open University but we are the largest traditional university in the UK. We have more than 400,000 alumni on our database and Regular Giving sits within the Division of Development and Alumni Relations. I have 3 members of staff in the Regular Giving team and then there are around 80 members of staff in the division overall.
Why a hardship Appeal?
We started thinking about launching a student hardship appeal almost as soon as our campus and the businesses around it started to close. Those first conversations we had were really driven by the fact that we knew that there would be students in need. At Manchester, we have a very large and diverse student population: 1 in 4 of our undergrads comes from a low income background. These are students who are disproportionately likely to rely on part-time work, and whose families just won't be able to support them with extra money if they lose their part-time jobs. Therefore we knew that this was going to be a problem for those students in particular and we knew that it was an area where we would be able to add real value at a time that's really critical for our students. It’s also a time when all of our institutions will be thinking carefully about their spend as well.
We opened up a conversation with our Student Services team, and this of course was something that was on their radar already. They were already looking at what they would be able to do to support students in need. That's a key learning point and something I'd say to anyone who's considering launching something like this. There will be people in your institution who are already thinking about how they can support students and they might not be thinking about the Development team and the value that you can add.
For that reason, it's definitely worth getting involved in that conversation now and seeing what projects are on their shopping list. Thinking about it through more of a regular giving lens, I also saw this as a really critical way to engage our donors. Like many of you, I'm sure, this time of year is scholarship appeal time at Manchester. We actually had to make an extremely difficult decision to pull a sponsorship mailing that we'd been planning for a long time - that happened right before we went into lockdown. It was 100% the right decision to make, but what it did do was leave us with a whole cohort of our most loyal and amazing donors who were at risk of not receiving an ask this year at all. Not receiving that opportunity to support current students. Responding in this way really felt like the right thing to do to give those donors something very current to support that's still in line with the priorities that we know that they like to give to. That way, we are still supporting current students whilst also engaging with our known donor audiences too and giving them something that is new yet genuinely urgent to respond to.
If you are thinking at the moment about launching a hardship appeal, something that I'd really recommend doing is taking the time to think about your program in that way. This means thinking about who your priority audiences are. Thinking about how you would be meeting their needs and making sure that they get their asks in more normal times. Then thinking about how, in this current situation, you can still meet those needs and still give them the opportunity to make a difference to causes that they care about. It was clear to us really from the beginning of this project that there would be a big role for our Major Gifts team to play. Much like in Regular Giving, we know that this kind of urgency ask can work really well for our direct debit donors. In major gifts it's the same really. We knew that there would be donors who perhaps would normally be excluded from additional asks, who were in the middle of paying down pledges, who would want to hear about this and who would want to contribute.
Integrating major gifts
They looked through their pools and each identified a number of prospects who they thought would be suitable for this kind of ask. Our senior team also identified a small number of prospects who could be approached with a matched giving ask too. We were therefore asking major donors to match the gifts that we received from other members of our community further down the line. Everyone in our team then worked so quickly and so amazingly to get things ready to go - getting key messages signed off, getting a tool kit together for fundraisers, preparing proposal templates and just really getting our Major Gifts team to a stage where they've been able to start approaching prospects and having conversations. That's the stage that we are currently in. We have a window of about a week and a half to two weeks for our Development Officers to make approaches, before we go out to the public and start asking at a regular giving level. So far, the response has been really really positive.
The reason that we chose to take that staggered approach is firstly to increase our chances of securing a match gift. Secondly, we did it to give us a head start so that when we do come round to asking our regular giving donors for support, they'll be able to see that the project has already got some success behind it. To be honest, that two stage approach has also been a blessing because it's given us time in Regular Giving to prepare emails, to get video content together and to work with our Social Media team. I think at the moment it can be extremely tempting to feel like you need to rush into things. And that's been a challenge - that balance between urgency and the need to be thorough and get things right. Throughout we've just tried as much as we can to take a longer view to think about ultimately what's going to be most successful in the long run and how do we raise as much money as possible to help our students. Something that we've had to adapt to and accept is that we just don't have all of the answers right now.
In preparation for the conversations our Major Gifts Team are now having, we got together a list of all of the questions that we thought might come up from donors. We had to accept the fact that right now we're not able to answer all of them because this situation is changing so fast. And that's okay. There are some areas we're really confident will be huge areas of need amongst our student community and things like our Hardship Fund. But, we also know that many more areas will emerge and we need to be ready for them. We need to be ready to support our students if and when they need us. We're being quite honest with our donors about all of that and that honesty has been very well received. People do seem to understand that right now these are crazy times, things are different, and we do need to have that flexibility in how we disburse their gifts.
We are going to be launching our appeal next week using a Hubbub Causes page.
We have a series of E-appeals scheduled, so we'll be sending an E-appeal out to our donors first. We then have a mass appeal going out to most of our alumni shortly after. We're then going to be looking at how we can use different voices over the following weeks to update people and to remind people who haven't given yet. The first E-appeal is going out with quite an institutional voice from a member of our senior leadership team. We are then going to follow that up with the voice of a donor and the voice of a student as well to give those different angles on why support is important. We are planning to promote the appeal through social media. We are linking in with our Central Comms and Marketing team as much as we can and our Major Gifts team will continue asking their prospects once the mass appeal has launched as well.
We are really excited to see what our results will be for our E-appeal because this is the first piece of email fundraising that we will have done at Manchester in a quite long time. That's partly because we have traditionally been quite cautious in our approach to risk. We have a crowdfunding platform but something that we've known that we needed to look at is the way that digital fundraising interacts with the rest of our program.
Over the past few years we've been growing our digital fundraising but it's actually sat outside the rest of the program and been treated as something quite separate. What this whole experience has forced us into doing is seeing digital where it should be, which is as a core part of our program. I would also say that the urgency of needing to get this done has enabled us to make some quick decisions that otherwise would have taken much longer and been much more difficult to make. Therefore, if you are in a position where you're thinking you'd like to do something like this, but perhaps there are institutional things that would be blocking you from going ahead in a timely way, I'd say it's worth starting that conversation anyway and your institution might surprise you.
In addition to the digital appeal I am also currently looking at a hardcopy appeal, which I hope will go out as soon as possible once we're in a position to be able to send it. I am aware that we're not going to be reaching everyone with the activity that we're doing now, and some of our most loyal donors we won't be getting through to with the digital activity; it's really important that we give them the opportunity to give as well.
It's not feasible for us at the moment to run something in hardcopy. I'm sure that many of you will sympathise. The Post Office is closed. We can't receive any cheques. And also our donor community includes lots of amazing donors who are aged over 70 and we certainly don't want to put any pressure on them at all to leave their homes, go to the postbox and respond to our emergency appeals. For that reason, we're holding off for now, but this will still be relevant in a few months' time. Students are facing hardship now, but the ripple effects of the pandemic will mean that there's increased hardship in the coming months too. There will still be a real need for students after lockdown is lifted. It's just about us getting that message right when it comes to that time, and making those donors feel involved.
Longer term for the people who give to this appeal we are really looking at ways to integrate them into our wider program. Student Support is one of our core priorities and there's a lot of crossover in themes between the urgency hardship stuff that we're talking about in this appeal and our normal scholarship ask - the normal kind of hardship funding that we provide to students every year. We'll be thinking about how we can steward these donors with a blend of very specific impact material but also material that's showcasing the wider value that gifts have to our student community. This rings particularly true for students from widening participation backgrounds.
What we're looking to do is to try to blend messages between the hardship appeal that we're obviously running at the moment, which is being presented as an urgency appeal. Through stewardship, we'll be blending messages around that and also our normal Student Support program. Then looking forward into next year, the aim is to then do some cash-to-committed activity, which will be across channels. Obviously we have no idea at the moment when we're going to be able to start calling people again but using the other channels in our program to move people on to a more general student support ask, which includes supporting scholarships and our normal Hardship Fund as well.
Today we’ve seen another good comparison of an institution who has already started fundraising and is further down the road but also an institution who is just about to launch. There will be institutions out there who will be in those various different phases, especially in the yet-to-launch phase, and we want to help them feel confident. That if they haven't started something yet, or if they're in the later phases, there is no need to worry about launching too late. As Jemma said, the needs will continue and for a lot of potential donors, they will not necessarily have known that students needed support just in general outside of coronavirus. This is the way that they are now learning of that need. They could want to be a part of that.
A) for wanting to help and provide their own internal hope and to provide a solution to a problem, and
B) to become a long term lasting donor. They may have found a new passion in terms of helping students through this opportunity. As such, there are definitely still opportunities for institutions to launch these campaigns and for them to be successful.
Question: The ‘data needs’ that you talked about. Does this reference access to things like scientific journals and things to help students maintain their studies/conduct their research?
Ruth, University of Brighton
Yes, exactly that. £200 was set for the limit and it could be for scientific E-journals for example, but we found that by speaking to people across our institution it was more for specifics like Wi-Fi, laptops and data; things that were actually creating a proper barrier for learning and education. Looking at the finances, we estimated £200 for a laptop for example and £90 for Wi-Fi and data. We had £100 for travel, depending on where people were on the front line, and we had £60 for a printer and ink. We agreed on these figures at the start. If students needed these specific things or equipment we'd ask for a breakdown of these as well. This could be for E-journals that they can access online or through the library.
For example, some of our photography students needed darkroom chemicals, which obviously they usually would have access to in our campus. The students actually sent the links to us to reinforce their applications. In terms of applications for laptops, we would suggest a £199 Chromebook, and we would also send them helpful links as well because some students would be looking at more expensive laptops and it would just help in providing that link between that gap of actually learning in this climate. It’s worth noting that students can apply again for our student funds. Meaning that if £200 wasn't necessarily enough, we would listen to their needs and have a conversation with them.
That was one of the things from the webinar with York and Southampton where there were multiple funding rounds, so that if students felt that they needed additional funding or had additional needs they could apply again. If that's something that people are thinking about, for example is it one time or is it multiple times? And how long in between each can they apply? And also thinking about those costs upfront. If you have a go-to list for people to know this person is asking for money for X, we've already looked at that, so we can approve Y. It makes that decision making process around what you can approve and how much really really easy.
Ruth, University of Brighton Exactly. And just to give everyone a little bit of an idea of how often we meet: we meet three times a week in our application committee. We have had 10 rounds already. As it is really urgent, we try and get funds to students in 7 working days. If it was for something slightly different then we would recommend them to our Hardship Fund.
Question: Did the Student Hardship Funds for both of your institutions already exist?
Jemma, University of Manchester
Yes. At Manchester we already had a Hardship Fund, which we in normal time allocated about £70K a year to. We knew that demand would increase and that we'd need to meet that demand. The fundraising appeal that we're running is talking about student hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. However we've been quite careful not to commit that all of the funds that we're raising will go directly to that Hardship Fund because we're really aware that in the coming months, there might be other needs that come up.It might be that we need to extend Bursary support or to do something like that in order to meet needs of students that we haven't really thought about yet or that haven't quite solidified yet. The fundraising ask that we're making is slightly wider than the existing fund.
That backs onto one of the points you made earlier, Jemma, that it's OK not to know all the answers and to try and get as many as you can but to be really transparent. Whether that's in a mass communication of saying, ‘these are uncertain times and we don't know all the answers but we will make sure that your donation is directed to the most appropriate place,’ and to have those conversations as well with major donors. It's funny because we've seen this move away from the unrestricted, catch all, 'provide us with your funding and we'll decide where it goes,' in the last couple of years of people being more specific about where they want their donations to go to for Giving Days and Crowdfunding. But, actually this brought it back and people are OK with that unrestricted giving because they trust the institution, that they know what would be best, that they're paying attention. That they're on the ground watching what's happening and that they will make the best and most appropriate decision as to where those funds can be directed. That's a really great thing for your donors to feel that trust with you.
Question: Has there been any negative feedback from students who hadn't been provided support? And how has that been handled?
Ruth, University of Brighton
We were quite aware that many students would have been applying on their phones for example to our Fund and then applications haven't always necessarily been to a steady standard. However, from our criteria we've just tried to be really consistent on the figures that we've offered and that's why we came up with the market research finances that we did before. Students have mainly been upset if they've not been awarded for things that they've mentioned, such as living costs, and it is something that we tried to outline quite clearly that this was not the reason for this fund. It is there to combat a barrier of learning. As a result, we've just been really careful to direct people and recommend them to the support that they do need. That's why it's been really important to note that your Student Advice team or whatever your equivalent are really important to have on hand and almost be having daily conversations with as well.
If anyone's worrying about negative responses coming back I think with things like this there's always a chance that will happen. There may be students who are upset. One of the things that we saw from South Dakota State University was that in their application they had a list of: These are the things we will say ‘yes’ to and these are the things we will say ‘no’ to. Meaning on the application website the students could really see firsthand what they would be provided assistance for and the things that they wouldn't.
Just one other comment from me on this: if anybody is thinking about the results and questions around "will our major donors still give?" "will staff give?" "will donors give?" and maybe "will they uplift their gifts?" "Will people who can't give still get involved and maybe take an ambassador role?". The results that Ruth showed in the presentation today along with the results that we're seeing across the board that the answers to all those questions are 'yes'. Your major gift donors will still get involved and if you haven't spoken to them already, they're probably wondering what's happening and maybe expecting a phone call. Staff giving for both Brighton and Southampton has been really great and really excellent, so if that's been a troubleshooting area for you in terms of staff engagement and giving, this is an opportunity for them to see what giving looks like at the institution and to learn about the role that they can play in it. There are lots of 'Yeses' in terms of the answer to those questions and it's great to see the enthusiasm that's coming from the unfortunate circumstance that we find ourselves in.
Question: We are just starting our fundraising across all areas of the institution. What is your view on kickstarting fundraising with an appeal of this kind? Do we take the opportunity?
Jemma, University of Manchester
I think yes, definitely. Take the opportunity. What a brilliant way to show real urgency. I think that's something that in educational fundraising sometimes we struggle with a bit. There are some causes that really lend themselves to urgency and we're not always one of those causes, although we do our best with it. I think right now our students need us and our institutions need us. It's a really good way to get a really clear urgency message across to your audiences.
Ruth, University of Brighton
I agree definitely with Jemma. It's a great way to show your support and be there for your students and your institution. I think you also mentioned how you'd necessarily do this. Definitely get these networks with other internal teams. That would be really helpful with this. For example, any Student Involvement teams, any Student Advice team or your SU again will be really useful. Then also set out your giving programs before so you can take it slow, knowing what you really want and get the aims out of it. Definitely go for it.
It's also about the language that you use as well - that'll be really important.