Relationship Management Protocols for fundraising across the collegiate University

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This document is intended to govern the coordination of fundraising across the collegiate University1 and is designed for internal use by everyone working in fundraising and alumni relations. It replaces all the fundraising protocols agreed by the University’s Council and the Conference of Colleges in and since 2006. It does not apply to the coordination of fundraising with other bodies independent of the University, such as the Rhodes Trust or the Recognised Independent Centres.

It is the responsibility of the University of Oxford Development Office (UODO) to monitor and control fundraising activity in all parts of the University except for colleges and Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). The equivalent responsibility in relation to colleges and PPHs lies with the Development Panel of the Conference of Colleges.

The document is based on the principles of reciprocity and clarity of intention. All involved in fundraising undertake to treat representatives of other parts of the collegiate University openly and courteously, and as they would wish to be treated themselves. It is hoped that all volunteers will also work according to the spirit of these rules; it is the duty of all involved in fundraising to educate volunteers as to their responsibilities in this regard.

The latest version of this document can be downloaded from the Advancing Oxford website https://www.advancingoxford.ox.ac.uk/ at any time.

UsefulInfo.jpg Note: 1 The collegiate University is here defined to include the colleges and Permanent Private Halls; the central administrative units and the international offices; the divisions and faculties, departments and schools; the recognised alumni societies (such as Oxford Business Alumni and Oxford Medical Alumni);and the University clubs and societies.

Fundraising Principles

  1. The University of Oxford aspires to be one of the leading Higher Education institutions in the world in terms of its fundraising performance, with highly supportive, engaged and well-informed alumni and friends.
    1. i) It is in the interests, both individual and collective, of all constituent parts of the collegiate University to collaborate to organise and manage fundraising and alumni relations with good sense, so as to maximise returns to the collegiate University, consistent with its long-term academic strategies and priorities. Potential donors should have the opportunity to participate in all projects that may be of interest to them, provided that the protocols stated in this document are observed.

      ii) Clear and open dialogue and a sense of common purpose should underpin fundraising across the collegiate University. It is envisaged that relationships with those capable of making a major gift should be coordinated most closely, while observing the protocols stated in this document.

      iii) It is recognised that there will be occasions on which the differing priorities of each of the University’s constituent parts will lead to gentle competition for the attention and generosity of donors. This competition is regulated by the protocols in this document.
  2. Donors and prospects should enjoy their interactions with the collegiate University and should not be irritated or confused by the messages they receive; cooperation, courtesy, and communication between fundraisers are essential, as is a commitment to avoiding excessive or unwanted communication with donors and potential donors.
  3. The collegiate University should aim to create a broad and inclusive giving culture, in order to increase the proportion of alumni making gifts and legacies.
  4. It is expected that colleges and PPHs will focus most fundraising on alumni, and therefore other parts of the University will focus most of their fundraising on other constituencies, though each has the right to work with any constituency, subject to the protocols below. Colleges and student-led societies are the only parts of the collegiate University that may fundraise from current students, and then only if such fundraising can in no way be interpreted as affecting a student’s academic prospects or treatment by the college.
  5. The University’s Committee to Review Donations is available to scrutinise potential donors to the collegiate University, recognising that the reputation of colleges and Permanent Private Halls 2 is closely aligned with that of the University. Colleges may choose to take advantage of it; all others involved in University fundraising must use it.
    1. i) All those involved in fundraising and alumni relations should maintain up-to-date, relevant and accurate records of engagement and fundraising activity with alumni and friends, including details of each constituent’s contact preferences and giving history. All personal data must be protected securely. Those working with volunteers should ensure that they understand this principle; personal data should be shared only with external volunteers where appropriate to do so and after a confidentiality agreement has been signed.
      ii) The Development and Alumni Relations System (DARS) is available as a database of all alumni, donors, prospects and friends, enabling appropriate data to be shared securely. Colleges and PPHs may choose to participate in DARS; all others involved in University fundraising must use it 3.
  6. The University Development and Alumni Offices will offer: training programmes (e.g. through Inspire and DARS); opportunities for those involved in fundraising and alumni relations to meet each other (e.g. through Advancing Oxford); regular benchmarking and sharing of best practice.
  7. The University Development Office will develop and maintain stewardship groups that are open to donors giving appropriate sums to any part of the collegiate University.
  8. UsefulInfo.jpg Note:

    2 Although they possess special status as Societies of the University, St Cross College and Kellogg College are included within the definition of the 44 colleges and Permanent Private Halls for the purposes of this document.

    3 Participant entities are required to sign the DARS Participation Agreement prior to receiving access and users must be employees rather than volunteers. Staff members are required to attend training in advance of using the System and to sign an Individual User Agreement, which includes agreeing to adhere to the DARS Rules for Participation and abiding by these Relationship Management Protocols for Fundraising and the DARS Data Protection Statement (www.alumni.ox.ac.uk/data_protection).

    Protocols (further operational details are included in the appendices)

    Relationship managers

  9. All people and entities of interest to fundraisers in the collegiate University will have assigned to them a Relationship Manager, which shall be the entity in the collegiate University which is best placed to work with the prospect and coordinate the various approaches of others involved in University fundraising. The identity of Relationship Managers will be noted on DARS and shared as appropriate. For any constituent, it is expected that couples will be treated as a unit, and the spouse (or spousal equivalent) will be handled via the same Relationship Manager as the prospect.
  10. In the first instance, Relationship Managers will be allocated automatically according to the following principles:
    1. i) All alumni 4 will each have their first college or Permanent Private Hall initially assigned as Relationship Manager. Colleges with shared alumni will discuss the treatment of those alumni between themselves.

      ii) Parents (or equivalent) of new students who have had no prior connection to the collegiate University will have their student’s first college or Permanent Private Hall initially assigned as Relationship Manager. Colleges should notify the University Development Office of the relationship (at which time it can be checked whether the parent has a prior connection) and provide periodic updates, on request, on the status of the relationship. 5

      iii) All other individuals and organisations (including corporations, trusts 6 and foundations) will each have the Central University 7 initially assigned as Relationship Manager. For those individuals or organisations whose relationship originates exclusively in one of the colleges, it is expected that the college may request to be assigned as the Relationship Manager and that in unexceptional cases this request will normally be granted; where granted, the college shall undertake to provide periodic updates, on request, on the status of the relationship.
  11. If it is felt that a reassignment of the Relationship Manager for a particular constituent would better advance the relationship with that constituent, all interested parties should discuss this. Any resulting change in the identity of the Relationship Manager must be agreed with the existing Relationship Manager before it takes place. Any impasse may be referred to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Development and External Affairs) and the relevant Head of House jointly for resolution. In the event that a constituent expresses a desire to have a certain entity as their Relationship Manager, then the constituent’s wishes will override these principles.
  12. High-quality stewardship of donors is a responsibility of the beneficiary, in collaboration with the donor’s Relationship Manager. All parts of the collegiate University may have a role to play with their benefactors, including recognition through the Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors (CCB) and Vice-Chancellor’s Circle (VCC) for the highest-level donors.
  13. UsefulInfo.jpg Note:

    4 An alumnus is an ordinary member or Convocation member of the University, as those expressions are defined in the Statutes of the University.

    5 It is expected that both colleges and departments may have the opportunity to fund-raise from parents, facilitated by the relevant Relationship Managers.

    6 ‘Trusts’ do not include personal trusts that exist only to hold the wealth of an individual or couple who would otherwise be treated as alumni or where the individual donors are the sole trustees of such a trust.

    7 The Central University is here defined to include those parts of the University other than the Colleges and Permanent Private Halls; in no way does it refer to peripherality. It includes the central administrative units and the international offices; the divisions and faculties, departments and schools; and University-staffed recognised alumni societies. A single University Relationship Lead individual will be assigned for each prospect that has one or more points of engagement across the Central University.


  14. Anyone who wishes to solicit funds from a constituent for whom his or her entity is not the Relationship Manager must contact that constituent’s Relationship Manager to request ‘clearance’, allowing adequate time for appropriate consultation. Clearance is required prior to the start of the fundraising relationship. The only approaches for which prior Clearance is not required are: annual fund (or equivalent) mailings, telethon appeals using student callers (subject to clause 15), newsletters, mass mailings (whether conducted by post, email, social media, or other technologies), and reunion/stewardship/alumni relations events where there is not a significant focus on fundraising projects.
  15. The University Development Office, together with the colleges, may run telethons on behalf of departments for specific objectives; both objectives and lists of potential donors having been jointly agreed by the UODO and the colleges involved, with donations going into hypothecated University funds. The UODO may also organise fundraising by telephone from those actively engaged with the Museums and Collections, those with a clear connection to University sport, and/or those who have already donated to the University within the last five years. The timing of any University telethons and the specific list of alumni to be called will be agreed with colleges in advance to minimise the potential for conflicts and to avoid causing confusion or irritation among alumni. (See Appendix IV)
  16. Requests for clearance should be made through the ‘clearance system’ (which will be operated by the University Development Office) and:
    • State clearly who it is desired to approach, explaining any current relationship with that person/entity;
    • Explain the reason for the approach and identify who will make the approach, in what manner, and over what period of time;
    • State whether the approach is to begin a fundraising relationship or to solicit funds.
  17. Clearance requests to or from a specific college, Permanent Private Hall or University department are limited to a maximum of ten per fortnight and should be based upon approaches planned within the next three months (rather than speculative contacts which are unlikely to be pursued).
  18. Responses to clearance requests should be made within three weeks and clearance not unreasonably withheld: Relationship Managers should bear in mind the wider philanthropic interests of both the University as a whole and the donor when assessing requests, and only withhold clearance if their own current activities would be directly disrupted by the proposed activity. It is expected that a request for clearance to approach any prospect, made in accordance with these protocols, will ordinarily be approved; the exception will be when a conflict with an existing approach is clearly identified. Clearance decisions should include a brief explanatory narrative.
  19. If clearance is granted, the Relationship Manager must be informed of meetings and other significant communications with the donor, including the outcome of solicitations, with a formal ‘contact report’ sent within seven days. 8 Unless stated otherwise, clearance is granted for a period of three months in which to initiate the fundraising relationship, and only to the specific team that submitted the request; changes to these variables require a new clearance request.
  20. If clearance is denied, three months must pass before a request is resubmitted.
  21. UsefulInfo.jpg Note: 8 Or the same period upon return to work if the trip was overseas.


  22. It is desirable, as far as possible, to coordinate the timing of all fundraising communications. A fundraising calendar for annual giving, legacies and planned giving activity will be maintained by the University Development Office and available for download on the Advancing Oxford website at any time. The colleges and PPHs will share the timing, and ideally the content, of their own fundraising communications with the UODO in advance. The University will share the timing, and ideally the content, of fundraising communications (including mailings which include a direct solicitation or a donation/legacy form) that originate in the Central University with the Conference of Colleges’ Development Panel, in advance.
  23. All entities in the Central University that wish to send a fundraising communication must inform the University Development Office at least three months prior to its intended distribution, so that details can be published with sufficient notice. In the interests of protecting the relationship with constituents, the UODO must approve the timing and content of any communication and will act to avoid multiple, and potentially conflicting, requests being made to the same constituent; it must also coordinate any telethon appeals by entities in the Central University.
  24. Fundraising communications from the Central University, including those from the University Development Office and faculties, departments and schools, should take place in January, June, October and November only.9 Partnership communications with colleges are excluded from these restrictions.
  25. Fundraising communications should include a reference to a Data Protection statement and this wording should also tell the recipient how to opt out if they no longer wish to receive a specific communication(s) in future, both to meet legal obligations and to ensure that individuals do not receive multiple fundraising communications against their wishes
  26. Where possible any text containing general fundraising information and requests for gifts should include reference to the collegiate-wide campaign. 10 Fundraising literature and donation forms produced by parts of the University other than the colleges should normally provide an option for donors to give to colleges; college donation forms should normally provide information on how to give to other parts of the University.
  27. UsefulInfo.jpg Note:

    9 This timing excludes telethon pre-call communications that may reasonably and necessarily be sent out a few weeks in advance of a telethon which is taking place within the stated periods above. It also excludes circumstances beyond that part of the collegiate University’s reasonable control, such as an unforeseeable delay by a printer or mailing house in preparing or sending the communication.

    10 Oxford Thinking, for which all donations to the collegiate University from 1 August 2004 are counted.

    Oversight of these protocols

  28. It is the responsibility of the University Development Office to monitor and control fundraising activity in all parts of the University except for colleges and PPHs. The equivalent responsibility in relation to colleges and PPHs lies with the Development Panel of the Conference of Colleges.
  29. The University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Development and External Affairs) and the Chair of the Conference of Colleges’ Development Panel shall be available to help resolve matters if required.
  30. In addition to these protocols, the collegiate University endeavours to follow the Code of Fundraising Practice developed by the sector, through the Institute of Fundraising, and regulated by the Fundraising Standards Board.
  31. These protocols will be subject to a detailed joint review, organised by the University Development Office and the Conference Development Panel in Michaelmas term 2016.

  32. Appendix I: Further guidance on handling Clearance requests and responses

  33. Adherence to the formal system for requesting Clearance is vital to enabling effective management of fundraising relationships with all major potential donors. Its purpose is to complement, not replace, the benefits of regular direct engagement between those working in fundraising and alumni relations across the collegiate University.
  34. Clearance requests from the University to Colleges and Permanent Private Halls should be submitted via DARS according to the standard agreed process and distributed once a week.
  35. Clearance requests from Colleges and Permanent Private Halls to the University should be submitted via the Clearance Coordinator at prospectclearance@devoff.ox.ac.uk using the formal Request Form available and may be sent at any time. Upon receipt, the University will record the Clearance request on DARS.
  36. Clearance requests between Colleges (including Permanent Private Halls) may be submitted directly to the Relationship Manager at any time. These should also be forwarded to the Clearance Coordinator prospectclearance@devoff.ox.ac.uk in order to record the Clearance request on DARS.
  37. If a Clearance response is not received within three weeks, then the fundraiser should follow up directly with the Relationship Manager.
  38. Details of all responses to Clearance requests are to be recorded in DARS by the Clearance Coordinator to assist in avoiding future duplication of approaches across the collegiate University and to enable viewing and querying by all DARS users with appropriate access.
  39. After Clearance is granted, opportunities for collaboration between the University and college(s) should be sought wherever possible, and there should be a close and continuing coordination between the fundraiser given Clearance and the Relationship Manager, including the sharing of any proposals given to the prospective donor and updates on any subsequent stewardship steps.
  40. From time to time Clearance may be denied for a variety of reasons. In such instances, the fundraiser who made the request may contact the Relationship Manager if necessary to establish why Clearance was denied and to discuss a timeframe for resubmission (not sooner than three months).

  41. Appendix II: University development staff

  42. In addition to its own fundraising activity, the UODO and North America and Asia Development Offices are available to assist other parts of the collegiate University, for example providing:
    • An overview of current fundraising priorities across the collegiate University
    • External publicity supporting the fundraising efforts and case for support of the collegiate University
    • Regular publications and other relevant information for alumni and other donors 11
    • A system to enable requests for Clearance to be logged on DARS and answered
    • DARS, research, gift processing, donor relations, proposal writing and other development services
    • Assistance with the development of the fundraising case for approaches to prospective donors
    • Expertise and support to colleges in their provision of annual giving and legacy programmes, if colleges desire such support
    • Coordination of the Inspire Training Programme and Advancing Oxford Forum
    • Coordination of University-wide events (e.g. the North American Reunion, VCC Annual Meetings etc)
    • Specialist expertise as appropriate and as required.
    UsefulInfo.jpg Note: 11 Through the University Alumni Relations Office, an Alumni Card, an Oxford Alumni Online login and a lifetime college and/or faculty/department/school email forwarding address are also available to all alumni.
  43. The Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor are available to assist all fundraising initiatives at the determination of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Development and External Affairs) together with the Heads of House and the Heads of Division.
  44. The University Gift Registry will process all donations received by the Central University, including those for transfer to departments or colleges. Where giving forms are required, these should be selected from a set of templates provided by the UODO. Written gift agreements in a form approved by University Legal Services must be agreed prior to accepting any donation of £10,000 and above to the University.
  45. Donors in the United States and Hong Kong may give tax-effectively to the collegiate University through the North America (via Americans for Oxford, Inc) and Asia Development Offices respectively. In the US, Oxford Planned Giving exists to help donors to establish life-income or wealth-transfer gifts which benefit the collegiate University now or in the future.
  46. Where an alumnus/a wishes to make a major gift to a University activity, the Central University, working with the donor’s Relationship Manager, will endeavour to deliver benefits of the gift to the college(s) as well.
  47. In order to provide a clear picture of engagement and relationship management, all staff in University faculties, departments and schools undertaking fundraising and/or alumni relations activity will use DARS as their system for storing data rather than acquiring or developing separate databases or spreadsheets.

  48. Appendix III: Additional requirements for University clubs and societies

  49. To ensure long-term benefits to the collegiate University are duly considered, any University club or society undertaking fundraising should seek Clearance for all approaches of £2,000 or above, even when the channel is mail, email, telephone, SMS or social media.12
  50. In instances where Clearance is not required, the University club or society should still undertake to share their intended communication and contact list with the University Development Office in advance of making the fundraising approach and, where appropriate, the UODO will share these with Relationship Managers for information purposes.
  51. Donations to University clubs and societies should be processed by the University Gift Registry, so that the gifts are correctly administered and donors thanked and, where appropriate, the relevant Relationship Managers may be informed. The UODO is available to advise clubs and societies on appropriate donor stewardship activities.
  52. UsefulInfo.jpg Note: 12 University clubs and societies are here defined as those that are listed in the University Proctors’ List and/or that are membersof the University Sports Federation.

    Appendix IV: Additional requirements for University Development Office telethons

  53. It is envisaged that the University as a whole will make a concerted effort to increase annual alumni participation rates.13 The University Development Office is able to offer some support to colleges for running their own telethons. In addition, University telethons will be trialled for a period of two years from 2014/15, under the auspices of the UODO. The University Development Office and the Conference Development Panel will undertake a joint review of effectiveness in Michaelmas term 2016.
  54. The UODO may contact the following specific categories of alumni in a University telethon annually in June, but must provide a list of individuals whom it is proposed to call to colleges in advance and with reasonable notice:
    • Current/previous donors to the University within the past five years
    • Those with a clear connection to University sport
    • Those actively engaged with the Bodleian Libraries
    • Those actively engaged with the Ashmolean Museum
    It is not expected that colleges will remove individuals from being called except when an active significant solicitation is ongoing with that person or where a request not to be telephoned is known.
  55. It is recognised that there are further groups of alumni where opportunities exist to run University telethons that would jointly benefit departments and colleges. However, the principle of mutually agreed objectives with colleges shall apply for this category of UODO telethons.14 This must include:
    • A jointly agreed student caller team, caller training programme, and initial calling pool of alumni 15
    • A joint solicitation by the department(s) and one or more colleges towards a shared case for support, for hypothecated University funds
    • Coordination by the University Development Office on behalf of the department(s) involved.
  56. University Telethons may only be run where clear stewardship arrangements are in place. Lists of donors will be shared with Relationship Managers, so that colleges may provide appropriate stewardship. After a University telethon, information as to the outcome will be shared.
UsefulInfo.jpg Note:

13Annual alumni participation is here defined as the proportion of matriculated alumni of the collegiate University who have made a gift payment to at least one part of the collegiate University within the stated year, counted from 1 August to 31 July.

14An example in this category would be a department and several colleges that offer its courses fundraising together specifically for graduate scholarships and/or the funding of field trips, using students of the department from the particular colleges that are involved as its telethon callers. The number of telethons of this kind will be necessarily limited by the resources available.

15 It is undesirable that this becomes a burdensome administrative process and both colleges and the University will recall the objective of increasing overall donor participation, when agreeing on lists of both student callers and alumni to include.

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