Transformational Gifts: Attaining the Gift of a Lifetime

Transformational Gifts: Attaining the Gift of a Lifetime


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Navigating a transformational gift can be one of the most important and impactful events for your institution. How are you engaging your top donors?

Our Speakers Bring a Wealth of Experience

Dexter Bailey

Dexter brings the leadership perspective, as well as his skills in establishing a cohesive internal vision to match with a donor’s intent. He gives expert advice pertaining to proposal development.

Mitchell Spearman

Mitchell brings frontline experience and top-tier cultivation and solicitation skills. His emphasis is on ensuring cross-campus collaboration to secure the success of a transformational gift.

Lynne Wester

Lynne brings the donor’s perspective in mind at every step of the way. Her priority is to maintain a donor-first mindset from proposal to agreement to post-gift stewardship.

Learn strategies for cultivating and soliciting one of your top donors in a way that can alter the future of your institution. Understanding what motivates and compels donors to make a transformational gift is a key aspect that is missing at many shops. This unique learning experience will help you successfully navigate the internal and external complexities of this significant undertaking in a way that advances the vision of your institution. You will learn how to:

  • Inspire donors to make a transformational gift
  • Develop a successful proposal
  • Cultivate and solicit donors with transformational capacity
  • Implement a stewardship plan for transformational donors

Included with your registration is a workbook with action-planning worksheets and stewardship tools that will be invaluable as you develop your transformational gift strategy.


Come with a Donor in Mind

This conference will be most valuable if you have a specific donor in mind whom you wish to cultivate, solicit, and steward. Principal, major, and planned gift officers, as well as vice presidents of advancement, directors of development, and stewardship/donor relations professionals, will leave with a comprehensive strategy for their institutions.


Post-Conference Workshop: Strategic Stewardship Plans for Top Prospects

Strategic stewardship is critical before, during, and after a transformational gift has been made. It will further the vision of a donor’s transformational gift, naturally leading to the next gift. In this post-conference workshop, you will design strategic stewardship plans for your top transformational gift prospects to ensure comprehensive engagement throughout the relationship.

Follow Through With Success Coaching

Have you ever gone to a training only to find that you came back with great ideas but don’t have the time, support, or skills needed to make the changes?

Academic Impressions has produced thousands of trainings and we have learned that utilizing a coach after attending a conference helps provide accountability and bridges the training with the on-the-ground work of getting the job done.

As a result, we are now offering success coaching on select conferences.

  • Purchase this training + 3 one hour follow up success coaching calls
  • Work with an assigned coach who has extensive experience in higher ed.
  • Get individualized support to help you follow through on what you’ve learned.
  • Workshop your plans, run your ideas by someone and get additional help/practice.

To learn more, contact Patricia Sandler at or purchase the Premium Pass with success coaching below.

“Academic Impressions consistently delivers on content and conference experience. This is my second AI conference and I'm going home prepared and better-equipped for innovation and implementation of ideas. Looking forward to another program!”

Terri Jackson, Senior Director of Development, School of Education, UNC Greensboro


attendees agreed that the conference enabled them to better cultivate transformational gifts.

“This was one of the best conferences I have attended, leaving me inspired and excited to get back to implement great new ideas and fix areas that are problematic.”

Annelisa Lucas, Associate Vice President for Development Services, The College Foundation of the University of Virginia

“This conference provided me with new information and perhaps more importantly, affirmation that I am on the right track. I am leaving feeling empowered and humbled!”

Paula MacNeil, Director of Development, Cape Breton University

“A treasure trove of information in a quick 1 ½ days. The instructors were very knowledgeable and engaging.”

Susan Fersner, Senior Associate Director of Gift Planning, University of Virginia


Your registration for the event includes full access to all conference sessions and materials, breakfast, lunch, and the networking reception on Thursday, breakfast on Friday, as well as refreshments and snacks throughout the conference.

Post-conference attendees will also be provided with lunch on Friday.

Day 1

8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


Opening Comments and Introductions



The Anatomy of a Transformational Gift

Our expert faculty will share their experiences in cultivating, soliciting, securing, and stewarding a transformational gift. Through these insights, you will gain a deeper understanding of the transformational donor cycle and the strategies associated with the process.



Building and Aligning the Vision

A transformational vision is one that combines a donor’s passion and ability with an institution’s mission and opportunity. This vision is complex, yet highly personalized, and is a process that needs collaboration from the start.         



Top Tier Cultivation and Solicitation

The cultivation and solicitation process requires strategy different from that of the more common major gifts. Our expert instructor will guide you as they outline the components to top-tier cultivation and solicitation.



Developing a Cultivation Strategy – Working Session

Building on the fundamentals presented in the last session, you will apply top tier cultivation and solicitation concepts by assessing your current donors, visions, and partnerships. With the support of your colleagues, peers, and faculty, you will identify the best strategy and timeline to guide your donor forward.



Internal Partnerships

Many internal partnerships must be utilized in order to execute a successful transformational gift proposal and to avoid conflict or insufficient follow-up. Additionally, each partner must have clearly defined roles throughout each stage of the process. We will outline the roles of university leadership, development, and academic administration, to better understand how to uncover a transformational vision for your institution.



Navigating Power Dynamics

This session will explore how donor power dynamics can affect your cultivation and solicitation strategy, and ultimately a decision on whether or not to accept a gift. We will talk through how to help guide conversations, defining boundaries in gift agreements, and how to navigate these dynamics with the institution, with their family, and with their work.


Networking Reception


Day 2

Main Conference: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Post-Conference Workshop: 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.


Developing the Proposal

Transformational gift proposals take craft, precision, and significant detail to demonstrate the future return on investment. We will detail the expectations of high-level wealth donors and the critical components of successful proposals.



Donor Relations for Top Tier Donors

Our expert instructor will outline the style and level of stewardship that is most effective with transformational gift donors. The lessons included will provide an understanding of how this level of stewardship is critical for securing a transformational gift and cultivating the next gift.



Faculty Q&A and Evaluation



Post-Conference Workshop: Strategic Stewardship Plans for Top Prospects

Strategic support and transformational stewardship must be planned with an overall vision and goal in mind. In this post-conference workshop, you will put together a strategic stewardship plan—a process that will allow you to better understand the donor experience and the comprehensive engagement needed for transformational giving. After workshopping the plan with peers and our expert speakers, you will leave with a comprehensive engagement strategy unique to your donor and institution.



Dexter Bailey

Senior Vice President for Advancement; Executive Director of the Stony Brook Foundation, Stony Brook University

Dexter's leadership perspective and ability to establish a cohesive internal vision that aligns with a donor’s passions will yield expert advice that you can apply to your own proposal development.

Read Dexter's full bio here.

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Mitchell Spearman

Director of Principal Gifts, The University of Texas at Austin

Mitchell has successfully brought transformational gifts to his institutions through a mix of his solicitation and cultivation strategies, and bringing the right people to the table.

Read Mitchell's full bio here.


Lynne Wester

Donor Relations Guru

Lynne keeps the donor’s perspective at the forefront at every step of the process - from proposal, to agreement, to post-gift stewardship so that the donor always comes first.

Read Lynne's full bio here.

Questions About the Event?

Gwen Doyle Herbert
Senior Program Manager, Academic Impressions

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