Buying In To Student Affairs
We need to stop looking at ‘sales’ as a dirty word. It’s no secret that budgets are always being cut, so either you reduce your program offerings, or get creative and find new sources of revenue on your own. And how do we ensure that we still maintain the integrity to develop an exceptional student experience outside of the classroom, while being cognizant of not appearing as ‘selling out’.
In May 2014, Ryerson University Student Affairs introduced a new role dedicated to sponsorship and fundraising within the division. We knew we had to navigate this landscape with caution, as the word sales is far from synonymous withstudent affairs. Therefore we had to change the way our staff looked at sales, as our success was contingent on their buy-in.
With a year under our belts, it’s safe to say our staff has bought in. We started off strong with the launch of the#RoadToRyerson campaign sponsored by LG at last year’s Orientation Week, and RBC’s RU Money Smart financial literacy series. We quickly realized that sponsorship could not only help the bottom line, but it could also enhance a program or campaign’s overall reach and prestige by leveraging the sponsors’ brand reputation. We don’t just look at our sponsors as transactions, we treat them as strategic partners that can help transform student experience, and give us the freedom to dream big.
The same is true for our #RoadToCACUSS supporters. They’ve helped our dreams become reality and have legitimized our journey. It’s safe to say that with their support our amazing journey was actually more cost effective than if the six of us were to simply fly from Toronto to Vancouver and back.
Our partners have supported us with a variety of different resources. From something as essential as food, which was generously donated by our our food services provider, RU Eats, to something a little less obvious like actively engaging with us on social media. And we can’t forget the encouragement from our individual departments who allowed us to work and play on the road (huge thanks to John Austin, Stephanie White, and Heather Lane-Vetere). Our external partners; Go RVing, Roam Mobility, CACUSS, and The Banff Centre, have helped us to offset the unavoidable costs associated with travel. Without them, this journey would not have been possible.
Sponsorship and fundraising within Student Affairs is new to Canadian Higher-Ed, as we’ve been reluctant to look at our portfolios as marketable. However, I would argue that they are the most attractive to sponsors, as we have the most compelling stories to tell and the most high impact touch points for students. An intentionally crafted sponsorship can exponentially increase the value of a program, service or event to a student. I encourage you to take a hard look at your budgets to identify what initiatives and costs can be offset by cash or in-kind gifts. Don’t look at sponsorship as selling out, look at it as buying in.
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