The Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors: Oxford University’s way of saying ‘Thank you’

The Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors: Oxford University’s way of saying ‘Thank you’

Kathryn Worthington Profile square for web
In the last week, I have been lucky enough to steward the University of Oxford’s most prestigious way of saying thank you – The Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors.

An extravaganza of pomp and circumstance which rings true to Oxford’s long history, the Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors is an event for those who have made the most significant donations to the university and its various departments – including the Ashmolean Museum, the host organisation for my Fellowship.

On the face of things, my role wasn’t the most exciting part of such a glitzy occasion (I was looking after the coats). However, it did allow me to catch a glimpse into the event for major donors of a charity which raises on average £200million a year.

The day started early with a private guided tour of Oxford’s beautiful Botanic Gardens, given by the new director, Professor Simon Hiscock. This was followed by a business meeting at the award winning Mathematical Institute (completed in 2013).

Photo courtesy of Oxford University

The Divinity School, Oxford University

Whilst newcomers of the court were being fitted for their robes at the Sheldonian, the other members finished their champagne. Having dressed in their own robes, they formed a procession and made their way from the school to meet their peers… accompanied by a trumpet fanfare.

Dressed in black and gold robes, the Chancellor of Oxford University then got up from his throne and welcomed each of the new Benefactors by inviting them on stage and giving them a scroll. Speeches were given. A Dame sung a song. And thus the ceremonial admission to the court was concluded.

Although I haven’t been involved in fundraising very long, I have quickly learned that a guiding principle is that there is simply no point in doing it at all if you are not saying the magic words – thank you obtenir cialis.

And whilst this is by no means a typical way of saying thank you for any charity anywhere, it exemplified another key principle of fundraising, “It’s not about us, It’s about them,” a mantra well known to anyone who has attended Arts Fundraising training and The National Arts Fundraising School.

As much as this is true for encouraging people to make their donations, it is also true for how we thank people.

Members of the Court process towards the Clarendon Arch. Photo by John Cairns

Members of the Court process towards the Clarendon Arch. Photo by John Cairns

The Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors offers its members exclusivity and status. It is a very public way of saying thank you to its biggest donors. Its sheer grandeur sets it apart from the vast majority of stewardship events offered by any institution or charity. Through their involvement, the Benefactors become part of Oxford’s long and illustrious history, joining a list of donors that includes Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and our own current monarch HRH Queen Elizabeth.

The day’s programme of events took the members across the city to institutions new and ancient. It showcased both Oxford’s historical past and its prolific present.

Whilst all the ceremonial pomp is unrealistic for most of us, it did what all acts of stewardship are supposed to do and did it brilliantly. It made those major donors feel special and emphasised the prestige of the cause that they were giving to.

I am certainly not suggesting that we should all start integrating robes and parades into our own stewardship events. However, we do need to highlight what makes our organisation unique and take every opportunity to remind our donors why they give to us, and never ever forget to say thank you!

All images courtesy of Oxford University website.