Why don’t schools and cultural institutions ask for money?


I have conducted an extensive mystery shopping study for more than three years. This study, independent of any company and self-funded, is a way for me to contribute back to the sector that has given me so much. One question frustrating me is why do schools and cultural institutions not ask for money?

During the study, I gave a gift to hundreds of organisations in Australia, New Zealand and in Asia. Most organisations were not shy about asking me for the second gift or asking me hundreds of times to give again. Yet, not a single independent school has asked for a contribution after I made the first gift. And, only one cultural institution has asked me to do anything – and that ask was not for a philanthropic gift. The cultural organisation (a museum in Sydney) asked me to become a member more than three dozen times and also has asked me to attend gallery openings, book signings and other events.

Don’t get me wrong. The schools and the cultural organisations all thanked me for giving. They simply have not continued to try to engage me in the same way as other types of organisations.

I had an interesting conversation with the head of fundraising for a private school the second year of my mystery shopping study. He told me that if a non-parent and non-alumnus gave a contribution to the school, the staff would find this to be suspicious and would not ask the person for another gift. What if I am a person in the community who really values education? What if I am the uncle of a student who is active at the school or an alumnus and want to give a contribution in recognition of the education received? There are so many potential scenarios here and staff may be making assumptions and cutting off potential funding sources when a non-parent and non-alumnus give.

Do you always ask first-time donors to give again? What are your thoughts about why schools and why cultural institutions are not asking? I’d like to hear your thoughts.