My main experience with fundraising has come through working with community-based nonprofits rather than in my roles as an administrator. Although I often worked closely with the staff in our development offices, both as a provost at Menlo College and vice provost at UT Austin, my most successful moments in fundraising were raising funds for nonprofit organizations.
These included my local PBS station in Austin, as well as connecting the leaders of the nine (!) other organizations I have worked with to friends in the community who had high capacity to give. I even ran and raised funds for my own social welfare organization, Take Back the Trail, which provided fitness and nutrition programs for women in East Austin.
The main lesson I have learned over the years is that fundraising is all about relationships. It is important to get out into the community and meet the people who can be potential donors. It is important to keep in mind that current students are future donors. Many campuses incorporate development as part of their student affairs initiatives. Happy students become appreciative alumni and eventually supportive donors.
Governing boards play a very important role, both in higher ed and the nonprofit world. Board members may play different functional roles in a nonprofit, but the most important role is that of fundraiser. In this era of tightening budgets, it is critical that administrators and governing boards develop clear strategies and defined roles to build the kinds of programs that will attract students, and to raise the funds to carry out the vision of the college.
Many colleges are facing a stark reality that costs are increasing while pressure to control tuition grows. For public institutions, state support has declined dramatically. Many private institutions are tuition-dependent and struggling to maintain enrollment. Successful fundraising will be critical to the success of all types of institutions for the foreseeable future. We hope that the articles in this newsletter provide support for your efforts.
About the author
Terri E. Givens is the former Provost at Menlo College in the San Francisco Bay Area; Professor of Government and European studies at The University of Texas at Austin; Vice Provost overseeing undergraduate curriculum and spearheading global initiatives as its chief international officer. She formed The Center for Higher Education Leadership (CHEL) to provide academic leaders with information and a supportive community for improving management and leadership skills in an environment of changing demographics, financial challenges, and advances in educational technology. CHEL was born of Terri’s experiences navigating these fields and learning along her journey through academe, from professor to vice-provost and provost at universities in Texas and California.