About CASE
Kathleen Kelly

This profile from the May 2004 edition of the BriefCASE Newsletter highlights the career of longtime volunteer Kathleen Kelly

Kathleen KellyKathleen Kelly is professor and chair of the University of Florida's Department of Public Relations, one of the largest in the country, with courses on fundraising and philanthropy and plans to launch a center on fundraising education soon. Kathleen, an authority on public relations and fundraising, has published two award-winning books, Fundraising and Public Relations (1991) and Effective Fundraising Management (1998), and has authored numerous book chapters and journal articles on this subject. Kathleen, active in CASE since 1974, was a university administrator, development officer, and public relations practitioner for 17 years before completing her Ph.D. in public communication at the University of Maryland. She held until 2000 a CFRE from the National Society of Fundraising Executives (now the Association of Fundraising Professionals), has an APR accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America, and has received numerous awards and honors.

How did you get hooked on fundraising?
Where I am today is tied directly to CASE. My first job after earning a bachelor's degree in journalism was in the public information office of Bowie State University, a historically black college, and CASE provided my first training in public relations. A few years into the job I went to a CASE Assembly. This was the mid 1970s and [former CASE President and CURRENTS founder] Ginny Carter Smith organized a session just for women. That was so radical at the time. I remember hearing some of the guys saying, "What do women want to talk about that men can't talk about?" These were women from all over the country and we talked about our current jobs and career aspirations. And a light bulb went off for me. It was clear that as public universities moved into fundraising, public relations would become a part of fundraising. It was where the money and power would be, and I remember thinking "I like money and I like power. I'm going into fundraising."

What are some best practices for a fundraiser?
The best fundraisers have empathy for the donor and for the administrators of the university. They are good at being in others' shoes. You need to see the issues from both perspectives-the provost's and the prospective donor's. For instance with annual giving, think about it as a donor: How would you want to see your gift spent? How can you report about a donor's gift in a way that makes me, as a donor, feel good about my gift? For so many schools, much of annual giving is unrestricted and they never report back to donors about how it was spent. It's a relationship-not just a one-sided conversation-that you have with donors. So you stand in their shoes.

Which nonprofits set the standard for fundraising?
After I wrote my first book, which emphasized higher education fundraising because of my practitioner experience, I educated myself about all nonprofits, whether it was the Salvation Army or the local symphony. Now after writing a second book and conducting further research, I am convinced that college and university fund raising sets the standard. It is the role model for other nonprofits. When the Chronicle of Philanthropy publishes its "Philanthropy 400," [the annual ranking of nonprofit organizations by total private support raised], colleges and universities traditionally constitute the largest category of top fund raisers. They have several strengths in their fundraising programs. For example, they have diverse programs. The American Red Cross, just a decade ago, had no major gifts program and it looked at colleges and universities and said, "We should do that." Colleges and universities have been doing it for a longer time. They are more sophisticated, they have more programs, and this is key-they often have more staff. The one variable that will raise more money is putting resources into development staff.

Do women have skills that make them better than men at fundraising?
It hasn't been studied but it makes sense. Fundraising is about relationships. Relationships usually are more important to women than men, ergo if relationships are what fundraising is all about, it's logical that females would be more effective than men in this field. Nurturing, empathy, continuing contact to maintain communications-all these things make for good relationships. I remember in the 1980s when CASE first reported a female majority in fund raising, the number of women tipped to 51 percent, and the men were saying "This isn't good," but so many women have been successful in this field.

Should practitioners or scholars be teaching fundraising?
I learned fund raising on the job and from some fine professionals at workshops and seminars, like most development officers. I went on to earn a Ph.D. by incorporating my working knowledge into a dissertation on fundraising. But fundraising is a field that is evolving. In Clark Kerr's book The Uses of the University, he maintains that until an occupation uses a university as a "port of entry," it cannot be a profession. Like any profession, fundraising has its stages. In the first stage, you learn by apprenticeship; the second stage, professional associations are formed that provide group education and training; in the third stage, professionals go into the college classroom to teach as adjunct faculty and then go back to work; in the fourth stage, teachers are full-time academics and go back to their office to continue researching and writing about the profession. Until full-time academics are teaching fundraising there is no new knowledge, no real questioning of why things are done a certain way-this is why you need scholarship. It's hard to see now, but in about 20 years the sessions on planned giving being held at a local hotel will be in the classroom. Fundraising will also evolve into a profession that is researched and taught at universities.

Did you have any mentors?
Ginny Carter Smith. I miss her. I hope that one day I will do half as much for women as she did. She was a real mentor for me. In the 1980s, she started the forums for Women Institutional Advancement Officers. She brought in approximately 20 women-it was competitive, we were selected-who had the opportunity to be vice president of development and maybe president of a university. (I don't think she ever thought about someone like me who would become a tenured full professor.) She brought in males, senior professionals in their fields, for three intense days of mentoring and networking. It would be so interesting to trace those women. I remember sitting in a workshop with [CASE Board of Trustees Chair] Rita Bornstein, who had a Ph.D. in educational leadership and had studied English literature, and who was wondering where her career was headed. She eventually became president of Rollins College in Florida.

What inspires you?
I loved my career in public relations and fundraising, and to study and teach it is something I have truly enjoyed. As a woman it gave me a profession that allowed me to advance at an excellent rate, to meet these wonderful people-the donors are such wonderful people. With donors, the bigger they are, the nicer they are. So to take the love of what I did and be able to study it and bring this into the classroom and share it with students, it's inspiring.