Expanding the Donor Base in Higher Education: Engaging Non-Traditional Donors


reviewed by Ray Franke - November 25, 2014

coverTitle: Expanding the Donor Base in Higher Education: Engaging Non-Traditional Donors
Author(s): Noah D. Drezner (Ed)
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 0415534003, Pages: 224, Year: 2013
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In Expanding the Donor Base in Higher Education: Engaging Non-Traditional Donors, Noah Drezner and his colleagues deliver an engaging call and a practitioner-oriented guide to broaden the target audiences of institutional advancement strategies. They rightfully argue that in times of continually declining state investment in public higher education, institutions must think beyond traditional groups of donors—i.e., wealthy white men—and develop culturally sensitive fundraising and engagement strategies that involve all populations, including those that have been historically excluded.  


This volume of essays provides an insightful mix of empirical studies and reviews of current research and practice across a broad range of topics, all bound together by Drezner’s overarching call for identity-based philanthropy. Going beyond already established principles of donor-centric fundraising ; Burnett, 1992), identity-based philanthropy traces back to a report by the Kellogg Foundation ) and is defined as


“[…] a growing movement to democratize philanthropy from the grassroots up by activating and organizing its practice in marginalized communities, particularly communities of color. Simply described, it is the practice of raising and leveraging resources by and from a community on its own behalf, where ‘community’ is defined not by geography but by race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.” (p. 4)


Given the demographic shifts in higher education over the past decades and the importance of equity and diversity, this is a novel and welcome perspective that may fundamentally alter institutional fundraising strategies.


The volume is divided into three sections. Substantiating the call for culturally sensitive and inclusive fundraising, the first two sections of the book focus on racial minorities and other alumni constituencies. The third section examines on-campus constituencies and future donors. Each section consists of empirical work as well as a comprehensive review of the literature. To foster implementation, each author discusses implications for practice and strategies for adaptation, and provides reference tables for discussed approaches.  


In the first section of the book, three essays focus on fundraising and engaging initiatives for African American, Latino/a, and Chinese American alumni. The first chapter highlights the historical and socio-cultural context for African Americans, explores gender and socio-economic status differences and current giving patterns, followed by a discussion of practical ways to engage these alumni. Although this section is focused on the African American context, Gasman & Bowman draw from practical experience and the literature to reflect on the status quo and main challenge in development offices regarding racial minorities in general, noting “college fundraisers tend to ignore these [African American/minority] students once they become alumni … Too often Blacks are seen as the recipients of philanthropy rather than givers” (p. 15).


This biased assumption is also addressed in the second chapter, in which Cabrales uses community cultural wealth theory to explore the interconnectedness of careers, community, and giving for Latino/a alumni. He contends that Latino/a alumni, like their African American peers, are often motivated by racial and community uplift, and prefer targeted and tangible causes for their contributions instead of unrestricted gifts. In the third chapter, Tsunoda takes a different approach and presents the results of a qualitative study examining Chinese American philanthropy and the cultural context behind major donations to higher education. Although it could have been highly informative to examine additional Asian and East-Asian ethnicities, the data gathered through in-depth interviews from Chinese American alumni donating between $50,000 and $90 million provides unique insights into the socio-cultural context and reveals donor motivations for this alumni group.


The second section of the book explores philanthropic efforts for other alumni constituencies. In Chapter Five, Kaiser and Wells Dolan provide a summary on women’s philanthropic contributions to higher education. They examine not only gender differences, but also giving philosophies and motivations for women’s philanthropic efforts. In Chapter Six, Garvey and Drezner present a study in which they explore how LGBTQ communities approach and think about giving to higher education. Their findings not only have implications for fundraising, but also efforts to improve campus climates for current students, or future donors in their perspective. Using data from the University of Pennsylvania, Mastroieni (Chapter Seven) explores doctoral alumni and finds unique differences from undergraduate students, which has important implications for colleges and universities. Chapter Eight, in which Billings examines factors contributing to young alumni giving to their respective alma mater, completes the student perspective.


The third section is devoted to on-campus constituencies and efforts to increase future giving. Subsequently, Shaker (Chapter Nine) investigates the potential of faculty and staff—groups that colleges have easy access to, but nonetheless are often ignored in campaign efforts. Chapters Ten (Hurvitz) and Eleven (Merkel) explore fundraising potential for future alumni and discuss how institutions must actively engage and cultivate their students to improve the potential for future giving, and how the unique relationships students form when engaged in sororities or fraternities can affect future alumni relationships. In the following chapter, Puma provides an institutional perspective and argues that colleges and universities need to improve collaborations and program coordination between development offices and student affairs administrators. The book concludes with Greeley’s chapter, in which he advances an engagement model to expand the donor base for institutions.


Overall, this book will be a valuable resource for institutional decision makers and administrators in development offices. It provides insights on understudied populations in regard to institutional giving and valuable, practitioner-oriented recommendations for implementation. The underlying call for a paradigm shift towards identity-based philanthropy—which would dramatically alter current practices in fundraising offices—is both timely and relevant.


The individual essays in this volume provide insights into various potential donor groups, towards which selective, targeted campaigns can be tailored. However, this volume and practitioners in development offices would have benefitted from a more comprehensive examination of linkages and crosscutting themes among the various groups explored. Given the similarities in underlying motivators and other aspects of giving, there is potential for strategic campaigns that could target multiple non-traditional donor groups at the same time.


Although not the primary focus of this work, the reader could have also benefitted from a more critical reflection on larger trends impacting higher education institutions. Drezner and his colleagues work under the assumption that state support for higher education will continue to decline. While the current evidence clearly supports their claim, there are indications that some states are attempting to restore funding for public education. It also would have been highly informative for many practitioners across various institutions to explore the effects of an apparently growing gap between rich and poor institutions when it comes to their capacity to raise money and create larger returns on their endowments. However, despite these (perhaps deliberately excluded) elements, Expanding the Donor Base in Higher Education makes a valuable contribution and will be highly useful for institutional administrators in and outside of fundraising offices.


References


Burk, P. (2003). Donor-centered Fundraising. Chicago, IL: Burk & Associates Ltd.

Burnett, K. (1992). Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-based Approach to the Business of Raising Money. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation. (2012). Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding Philanthropy by and for Communities of Color. Battle Creek, MI.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 25, 2014
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17768, Date Accessed: 10/21/2021 12:58:01 PM

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