Everyone has been there – perhaps as a student or recent graduate or new employee – your college or university asks you for a donation. You might ask yourself “Don’t they know you are a poor student/young graduate/working parent/etc.?” Heck, even the NASPA Foundation wants you to give back to the profession. 😉
So why do colleges and universities spend so much time and energy on fundraising?
Philanthropy has a long history in America. In the latest figures from Giving USA, Americans gave $358.38 billion (yes, billion) to charity in 2014. Of that, 15% was given to educational causes, second only to gifts to religious organizations.
Elite schools have been successfully fundraising for a very long time. Without tax revenues or other public funds, the need to offset the cost of education (and give donors the opportunity to invest in young people) encouraged private schools to seek charitable gifts from alumni and friends. With a long-standing culture of philanthropy, built over centuries, a school like Harvard has an endowment in excess of $36 billion (yes, billion.)
For countless small colleges and public universities, fundraising has become more and more important in recent decades. Many small, private colleges have long been tuition dependent, with private donations making up the shortfall. Between fluctuating enrollments and the 2008 recession, smaller schools have increasingly sought private donations to stabilize their funding. At public institutions, states have significantly reduced appropriations that traditionally offset tuition. As campus budgets are squeezed, schools are turning to other resources to make up for lost funding. Tuition increases can only go so far in covering the gap, so more and more campuses are looking to engage alumni, friends and corporations as donors.
All of this goes to say that, if you are working in higher education, you should know and understand the role philanthropy plays on your campus. Much like student affairs, the work of university advancement is often under appreciated. People think of fundraising as begging or embarrassing or annoying. But the truth is, when you invite someone to invest on campus, you are giving them an opportunity to change lives… to have a real impact on students and student success. And your colleagues in university advancement are skilled professionals with valuable expertise.
As you consider Careers in Student Affairs Month, take time to learn about philanthropy on your campus. All higher education professionals should have an understanding of fundraising and anyone who seeks a leadership role will have to become good at it.
This post is part of our #CSAM15 series, in partnership with NASPA. Through these posts, we hope to highlight what it means to have a career in Student Affairs with a diverse group of contributors. With a focus on the students, defining Student Affairs, hot topics, and Striving Towards Betterment, there will be a lot to learn about this month! For more information, check out the intro post by John Weng at NASPA. Be sure to read the other posts in this series too!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Brittany Duron on Geeks & Nerds on Campus