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Best Practice

Tips for Donor-Student Meetings

Stewarding Donors
Last Updated: 08-24-2021


As we continue to increase stewardship efforts with donors, one item that has been receiving more interest is connecting donors with their student recipients, particularly for donors of scholarships to departments that do not have an established awards ceremony or anything else in place to make a donor-student connection. This outlines some best practices for facilitating those meetings.

The following are helpful tips for connecting donors with their student recipients.

  • When a donor expresses interest in meeting a student recipient, please contact your department chair and administrator with the specifics of the requested meeting, donor expectation, etc. They will be responsible for getting permission from the student for a meeting. This includes permission for contact from a UW Foundation representative or the donor.
  • Once consent has been granted, discussions can start about the details of the meeting, availability of the student(s), expectations of the donor, etc. It can be helpful to chat with the student(s) in advance just to put them at ease, let them know about questions you anticipate the donor asking, and let them know they might get unsolicited advice from the donor.
  • In some cases, the donor likes to contact the student(s) directly. Development directors must use their best discretion to determine whether this is appropriate.
  • In all cases, the development director or other unit representative must be available to attend the meeting. It is very important the donor’s development director, Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA) representative, or unit representative be part of these interactions. It helps to ease the interaction between the student(s) and donor. Typically, students are slightly nervous, so it is helpful to have a liaison to facilitate the donor-student connection and guide the conversation. This is also critical for any follow-up or details that will be added to constituent plans.
  • Please make certain there is lead time of at least two to four weeks to coordinate any donor-student interaction. Students can be difficult to reach, and their schedules are very structured, so advanced notice is key to creating a positive donor-student meeting.
  • Consider taking photos of the donor with the student recipient(s). These provide a meaningful stewardship touch with the thank-you to the donor and student(s).
  • Depending on the meeting, think about asking the donor and student(s) to agree to be featured on WFAA’s website or in the unit’s publication. Reading about why a donor gave and how the award impacted the student recipient(s) can have a positive impact on an external audience.
  • The development director should work with their development program manager and specialist to coordinate all logistics of these interactions and follow-up. The team should check in with the student(s) and donor to thank them for meeting and to see if they have any feedback about their experience that could inform future meetings between donors and students.