Bad Press Can be Good for Donor Relationships

Bad press is never fun and it is always a distraction. Despite the many challenges it presents, however, bad press creates a great opportunity to deepen your relationship with current donors and engage community and business leaders.

It goes like this:

Imagine you are a business leader who is familiar with the local community college, but you’re not really connected to it in any way. As you scan the local newspaper (or website) one morning, the headline reads “Local College Facing Big, BIG Challenge.” You read it with great interest because you are a committed community leader and you’re curious to see what happens next.

The next day – seemingly out of nowhere – you receive a voice message from the college’s VP of Advancement requesting the opportunity to meet. Normally, you might allow yourself to forget to return the call because, let’s face it, you are incredibly busy and this is not your first rodeo. You have interacted with numerous professional fundraisers, you’re already on the board of several prominent organizations and you simply do not have the bandwidth or interest (yet) to invest your time.

Suddenly, though, you are intrigued and eager to learn more about how they plan to deal with their Big, BIG Challenge. You return the call, agree to the meeting and are glad you did. It turns out, you received a great deal of information about what lead up to challenge at hand and, more importantly, you learned they are being proactive about implementing a sound strategy for addressing it. The result will not only be a stronger community college, but improvements and growth that will benefit your community and your business. You also learned about the work force development initiatives and see potential for a mutually beneficial partnership. Who knew?


The point is this: bad press is not a silver bullet for opening the door of every prospect you ever hoped to engage. It is, however, a unique opportunity to catch the interest of current and prospective supporters and turn that interest into an opportunity to engage with them.

It goes without saying that your “messaging” should reflect that of your communications team and college leadership. People want to be in the know and, if no reason other than curiosity, they will be more likely to meet with you. If handled appropriately, bad press creates a unique and valuable opportunity to sit face to face with donors and business leaders and have a candid conversation about your college’s successes, challenges and plans for the future.

Regardless of the immediate result, they will be more engaged and that is what development is all about.

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Each week, our team of experts will put share their experiences, tips and viewpoints in all areas of higher education consulting, leadership, and fundraising. We're a team that consists of tenured individuals who have made it their life’s work to help solve some of the issues surrounding community colleges today. Some of our topics include:

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