University fundraisers are turning to role-play training sessions at American-led "masterclasses" to learn how to woo rich potential benefactors, writes Phil Baty.
Two top US professionals are being flown into Britain for a masterclass in London next week, where "intensive seminars" and role play will be employed to teach fundraisers how to seduce rich but reluctant donors.
"In Britain, fundraising suffers from something a bit like the awkwardness of a first date," said Young Dawkins, who will give next week's six-hour masterclass for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. "You are not familiar with doing it, but the more you go on dates the more you find you like it."
Mr Dawkins, president of the University of New Hampshire Foundation, has just completed a $100 million (£68 million) fundraising campaign two years early and raised $33 million in the past ten months in a very difficult economic climate. He says Britain is beginning to wake up to the fact that fundraising is a highly professionalised and skilful job.
"It's in its infancy in Britain, but they are increasingly asking people like me to fly in to talk about the actual business of the business."
Universities must survey their graduates, Mr Dawkins said. "You must discover who has wealth and try to initiate dialogue with them. If begging be thy profession, knock at the biggest gates."
British fundraisers must overcome their reserve and not worry about rejection, he said. Role play will cover every approach from cold-calling to more sophisticated social networking.
Then they must understand why donors give. "There are three compelling reasons," Mr Dawkins said. "They believe in the mission of the institution, and that has to be articulated to them. They believe in the leadership of the institution, so vice-chancellors have to play an active role, and they believe in the financial responsibility of the institution."
But a major obstacle is British meanness. Last year, Americans gave $203 billion (£137 billion) to charity, with 14 per cent - $28 billion - given to education.
"We have a different culture here, where we see education as a very central component of the American psyche," Mr Dawkins said.