Friday, February 20, 2009

College president as chief fundraiser

On Thursday, I wrote a piece in my personal blog that, among other things, noted that the former president of Deep Springs College, Louis Fantasia, was apparently fired from his position for spending too much time on fund-raising.

If true, then this is another reason why Deep Springs College is an anomaly among private colleges and universities, since most private institutions are moving toward a different focus for their presidents. In 2004, a publication with the name University Business said as much:

Gone are the days when the hire of a university president was based primarily on a lifetime of scholarship and academic credentials that resonated with faculty. Gone, too, are the days when the president was expected to focus on internal governance and maintaining the institution's status quo. Increasingly, university leaders are under relentless pressure to raise private funds to protect and grow colleges and universities.

If you doubt this, take a look at the criteria being used in Oberlin College's presidential search. Seven points are listed, but even the first point ("Enhancing the Value of an Oberlin Education") has financial implications:

Strengthening professional development and salary support for faculty, while enhancing their recruitment, retention, and diversity...

And, of course, you get to the second point, which concludes as follows:

The president’s role is crucial in communicating Oberlin’s distinctive strengths and raising the College’s profile among friends, donors, prospective students, colleges and universities, and other influential constituencies.

Notice that "donors" is listed before "prospective students." But the real meat of the president-as-fundraiser role comes through in the fifth point, which I am reproducing in its entirety:

Enhancing Oberlin’s Philanthropic Culture – There is consensus within the Oberlin community about the need to improve the College’s resource base. In no other area will the president’s ability to build awareness of Oberlin’s excellence and to enhance the perceived value of an Oberlin education be more crucial. Whether focusing on the annual Oberlin Fund, nurturing the prospects of major and planned gifts, or initiating the next capital campaign, the Oberlin president will be asked to have a direct impact on fundraising and on improving the College’s overall philanthropic culture. Oberlin’s trustee and alumni leadership understand the importance of this activity and have pledged their full support and involvement to presidential activity in this area. Engaging external constituencies, setting development expectations, and establishing priorities on which future fundraising will be based are all opportunities awaiting the next president.

But it's not just the private institutions.

True story - back when I was in college, several of the people in my dorm had attended private schools in their high school years, and, as expected, they all received solicitation letters from their schools. One of my dormmates had attended public school, but he received a solicitation letter also - asking for his vote on a local school bond measure.

And that was then. This is now, and even public school executives need fundraising skills. ERIC references an article with the title "A New Role for Community College Presidents: Private Fund Raiser and Development Team Leader."

I'm sure that some educational professionals are decrying this trend toward college as a business. But others recognize that without these fund-raising efforts, there won't be a college.
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