The Role of Advancement in Private philanthropy in support of public higher education has become increasingly important in the last decade to fill the gap between the rising costs of higher education and limited state funding. One need look no further than the State of California to understand the severity of how the state budgets impact our institutions of higher learning and our students. California students are being “priced out” of CSU and UC schools, classes are being cut, it is virtually impossible to gain the credits needed for certain majors or graduation within four years, student loan debt is skyrocketing, financial aid and scholarships are limited, and the community college system is overenrolled and in some cities at the point of collapse.
The importance of the role of University Advancement in this current climate cannot be overstated, particularly for public institutions. The ability of a public college or university to position itself as worthy of both public and private support has never been more crucial – schools need to be able to respond to the needs of students, faculty and staff in order to remain competitive. The sound investment in best practices of advancement loosely defined as; marketing, public relations, alumni relations, fundraising and government relations is necessary for the very survival of many of these schools today.
To borrow an expression from our colleagues in academic medicine, the university advancement function within a college or university, public or private, is the ultimate example of trans-disciplinary collaboration. The disciplines within a complex and fully developed advancement office are diverse and to some degree operate independent of one another, but ultimately, they are each wholly dependent on one another to succeed within the grander vision. Advancement must be managed at the highest level and completely aligned with the strategic plan of the university and done in close collaboration with colleagues across the institution.
A successful advancement office is constantly working not only on the messages and marketing of today, but looking ahead to what the trends and future may bring. Advancement professionals are forever benchmarking, evaluating, making course corrections, branding, and writing policy. All of this constant work is happening while the equally important, yet very different, work of building very personal relationships with hundreds if not thousands of friends and donors is on-going with the hope that when the time is right, or the need is greatest, we will be able to count on them not only for their loyalty, but for their financial support.
The messages, marketing, communications and policy work must be constant, consistent and transparent to all constituencies in order for the dollars to be realized to offset the challenges faced by, particularly, public institutions of higher learning. The advancement function exists to support the school and its mission of educating young people. The coordinated leadership of an advancement office is so important in these competitive times.
A few final thoughts; the role and perceived success of a University Advancement office could be summarized with two words: access and opportunity.
A successful advancement program within public higher education provides ACCESS.
- Access to all students, regardless of socio-economic standing, the pursuit of a degree through affordable tuition, financial aid and scholarships.
- Access for the University President, government relations staff and Trustees the resources needed to enable them to advance the strategic vision of the campus, both locally, statewide and nationwide.
- Access for students to cutting-edge educational opportunities both while they are in the school and after, when they become alumni through a ‘valued alumni network.’
- Access to coursework, classes and degree programs.
A successful advancement program within public higher education provides OPPORTUNITY.
- Opportunity to respond to the changing economic climate without interruption of service to students, faculty and staff alike.
- Opportunity to take advantage of the latest technology both inside and out of the classroom.
- Opportunity to be nimble enough to provide the newest and most advanced teaching methods to faculty and staff through professional growth.
- Opportunity for the administration to recruit and retain the best and brightest faculty and staff for the students.
- Opportunity to dream big.