Schools often ask us why donors potential do not give – or why they give more to other organisations

Schools also question how best to move from ‘friend-raising’ to asking these friends to consider donating to their school. Our advice? The best way to find out is to ask them.

Not for a financial gift, but through a series of research mechanisms which we describe as ‘engagement mapping’. Quite simply, it means asking old, current and even new friends of your school (typically alumni and parents), how they feel about your school, its vision, their relationship with it, and – hypothetically – whether they feel they might consider supporting your school at some point in the future through some kind of donation.

By understanding their values, experiences of giving and their philanthropic behaviour and attitudes you are much better placed to develop a strategy that will resonate with them. We offer a number of tools to help you understand your potential donors.

We offer both quantitative and qualitative research tools:

01.Qualitative research

Unlike a feasibility study, this kind of in-depth research can take place at any time: before, after or even during a fundraising campaign. Through our one-to-one research discussions we can give you great insight into the preferences and values of your potential, current and past supporters. Always bespoke, the questions covered might include:

  • What aspects of education do they care most about?
  • Does the school successfully communicate its future plans and ambitions?
  • Which areas of your school development plan excite their interest?
  • What other causes do they support and why?
  • Can they ever imagine giving as much to your school?
  • If not, can they describe why not?
  • How would they most like to be approached for a potential gift?
  • What would have to happen for your school to rise to the top of their giving, or legacy list?
  • Is gift recognition (naming a room etc) important to them?
  • Would they be interested in being a campaign volunteer or ambassador?

The resulting intelligence helps you to plan and optimise future fundraising activities and create the type of fundraising experience most likely to appeal.

02.Online stakeholder research

A tailored survey providing detailed and in-depth insights into the minds and hearts of alumni (and/or parent constituents) to inform direction and strategic planning. Going far beyond conventional approaches, this online research is designed to help you understand and develop your alumni community around the world.

Itself a highly effective engagement mechanism, it helps to shape your constituents’ perceptions and further develops their goodwill.

Bespoke, scalable, fast and affordable for most development budgets, the research covers such areas as:

  • Engagement with the school, and effectiveness of communications and events
  • Continuing involvement with the school
  • Aims of the alumni community
  • Attitudes to supporting fundraising

Our research team combine blue chip experience of research with in-depth sector knowledge and fundraising expertise to bring you objective, robust, thoughtful, personalised and expert insights.

03.Feasibility studies

If you thought you had a seam of gold somewhere deep under your school campus, would you drill holes randomly until you found it or would you commission a geological survey to find out the exact location?

A feasibility study is the fundraising equivalent of the geological survey to locate the gold. Best commissioned at the ‘gem of an idea’ stage, it is a piece of qualitative research through which individuals are asked for their views about a particular target project – or range of projects – and their likelihood of supporting these through donations.

A feasibility study will provide you with a series of diagnostics for your proposed campaign or project. It will evaluate the potency of your case for support, tell you how realistic your fundraising goals might be and it will help shape the narrative and the ‘route map’ of the campaign.

You will gain a clear understanding of how individual donors are likely to respond and what actions are required to influence their response.

04.Understanding potential donors

The magic lies in how we draw all the elements together.

As independent and objective development experts, our consultants are skilled in analysing and interpreting the research findings and insight.

We apply our sector knowledge and benchmarking to spot patterns and potential which others might miss.

The result is meaningful, sometimes game-changing advice, direction and strategy that is bespoke to your school and rooted in evidence.


"The survey and analysis enabled us to take an enhanced view of our strategic approach from differing standpoints. RSAcademics were able to read between the lines and understand the dynamics in play. We are delighted with new directions, possibilities and approaches that have been revealed."

Douglas Collins, CEO, Harrow Development Trust

Get in touch

Email Rachael Petrie, Head of Philanthropy, via

Call Rachael on +44 1858 467449