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Overcoming the College President’s Achilles’ Heel: Fundraising

Today’s college president must be more than a visionary leader, motivational manager and innovative administrator. He or she must also be an excellent fundraiser and fund development manager. The institution must have the leadership, capacity, infrastructure and brand recognition required to compete for and secure large grants, corporate or government partnerships and sponsorships, and major gifts or bequests from individuals and families. This article provides 10 points for current and aspiring college presidents to consider as they strengthen and grow the institutions they lead.

Fund development and fundraising start with the president. While a vice president for advancement can be the key architect for the institution‚Äôs fundraising, at the end of the day the full responsibility lies with you, the president. The president is the face and voice of the college and in many cases, she will be the one person to make the case for giving to top prospective donors. College presidents are increasingly evaluated on their ability to grow endowments, increase alumni giving rates, secure scholarship funds and manage capital campaigns. Take the time to make the right hire. Learn to value the role of the vice president of advancement at the same level as the provost or your top athletic coaches. Think outside the box ‚ÄĒ a doctoral degree does not necessarily mean an individual has the skills and experience required to develop revenue-producing strategies and relationships. Your success is dependent upon your ability to identify top talent, to allocate resources required for success, to evaluate their efforts and to know when to search for new staff leadership. Take the time to partner. After securing a vice president you can believe in, you must dedicate time to building a strong partnership with this individual so that he can best support the implementation of your vision. Together you, the board chair and advancement officer will engage countless others in believing in your vision, communicating your vision and funding your vision. All parties need to work together, demonstrating high levels of accountability and transparency. Ensure allocation of adequate funds and resources required for successful fund development and fundraising. It is up to you as the president to ensure that college trustees know the level of resources required for successful fund development and fundraising. The board chair and president need to set realistic expectations for the return on investment and to report regularly to the board on progress and challenges in this area. Secure total buy-in from trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, students and community stakeholders. Your vision for the college‚Äôs future depends on the people, resources and money that support the manifestation of that vision. Your vision needs to become ‚Äúour vision.‚ÄĚ This buy-in is the cornerstone to creating a culture of fundraising on and off campus; if people don‚Äôt believe in your vision, it is hard to engage them in giving to support it. Create a case for support that ties back to the college‚Äôs strategic plan. The case for support must show the impact implementation of the institution‚Äôs strategic plan will have on students, the institution, the economy and/or the nation. The president has to articulate the college‚Äôs niche in the educational marketplace, and that niche needs to build on the institution‚Äôs strengths while meeting local, regional and/or national needs. Making policies for accountability and transparency. Donors and funders expect reports on fundraising activities, and they expect fundraising costs to be reported and within acceptable ranges. Set the standard for giving by making a personal leadership-level gift. Your gift matters. Your gift sets the tone for the level of giving you expect of your administration and of faculty, staff and alumni. The combined giving of these constituencies serves as a positive signal to outside donors and funders that those in leadership believe in the institution and are willing to provide financial support. If you don‚Äôt give, why should anyone else? Cultivate, solicit and acknowledge top-tier donors. In addition to being a fund development manager, you are a fundraiser. That means participating in the process of identifying, researching, cultivating and soliciting prospective donors and funders. Get out from behind the desk. You should be out and about developing relationships, providing leadership, securing resources, developing partnerships and looking for how your institution can best meet the needs of a specific community or region and even the nation. This top 10 list is offered as a guide to help college presidents bring their visions and aspirations to fruition. Fundraising and fund development management are both arts and sciences. It takes time to master these. Increase your mastery as a fundraising president ‚ÄĒ you will leave a legacy for years to come. ‚ÄĒ Mel and Pearl Shaw are the principals of Saad & Shaw ‚ÄĒ Comprehensive Fund Development Services and the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors.

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