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President's Perspective: A Is for Advocacy

The ABCs of advancing the profession

By John Lippincott

Among CASE's many activities, perhaps one of the least visible and yet most important is our work advocating for the advancement profession. In fact, the CASE Board has identified advocacy as one of five strategic initiatives driving our agenda (it is the "A" in GRAIL, the acronym for those initiatives).

I'd like to share with you some recent examples of our efforts to enhance understanding and support of educational advancement in the halls of government and academe. (Note that much will have transpired since the writing of this column and its publication. You can find up-to-date reports on our advocacy efforts on the new CASE Web site.)

Halls of government

In the United States, CASE has been working hard to address an increasing number of legislative proposals at both the state and federal levels that could prove harmful to our work, such as endowment payout mandates, challenges to donor privacy, and restrictions on alumni credit cards.

Most notable have been the various recommendations to change the favorable treatment of charitable gifts within the U.S. tax code. These proposals have been especially troubling because they would decouple the value of the deduction from the applicable income tax rate.

Not only would this erode the value of the deduction and, thereby, the incentive to give, it would also erode the foundation on which the United States has built a proud and generous tradition of giving. Indeed, it is a tradition that Alexis de Tocqueville observed nearly two centuries ago and other nations seek to emulate today. We are urging the U.S. Congress and the White House to preserve that tradition and resist the temptation to raise revenues at the expense of charitable organizations, including educational institutions.

Not all of our legislative efforts are oppositional, however; we often work to support or to inform legislation or regulation. For example, CASE provided input on the revisions to Form 990, which charitable organizations annually file with the Internal Revenue Service. We also continue to champion the reform (but not the repeal) of the estate tax, as well as the extension of the law allowing individuals to donate from their individual retirement accounts without tax penalties.

Nor have our advocacy efforts been confined to the United States. In Europe, we provided the initial research (hand delivered to No. 10 Downing Street) that helped shape a landmark program in which the U.K. government provides matching grants to stimulate donations to colleges and universities in England. (For more information on this program, see Talking Points on p. 11.)

With the program in place, CASE Europe won its own government grant to enhance training for fundraisers to help ensure the success of the "matched-funding scheme," as it is called there. Moreover, because good ideas know no borders, Wales, Finland, and other European countries are drawing on CASE's expertise as they contemplate similar programs.

Halls of academe

Advocacy for advancement is as important on campus as it is off. Indeed, advancement professionals cite lack of understanding of their work within their own institutions as one of the greatest barriers to their success.

That understanding needs to begin at the top, so we have been paying special attention to campus leadership. CASE is turning the spotlight on exemplary CEOs through our awards program, engaging them with their peers during study tours to institutions with effective advancement programs, providing them free registration at the Summit for Advancement Leaders, and offering advancement training programs to current and prospective campus heads, often in collaboration with other professional associations.

Increasingly, our research activities have also taken on an advocacy dimension. This is especially true of the Advancement Investment Metrics Study, which recently ended its pilot phase. This study will help advancement professionals demonstrate—and leaders understand—both the need for investing in the advancement operation and the potential return on that investment.

Mission critical

Our responsibility to advocate for advancement is fundamental to our mission. We plan to expand our efforts—out of the Washington, London, and Singapore offices—to work with media representatives, opinion leaders, and others to grow understanding of our vitally important work.

Just as advocacy is critical to our mission, you are critical to our success. We will be calling upon you to participate in grassroots legislative efforts, monitor emerging issues affecting our field, and provide ongoing feedback on the role CASE should play regarding those issues. We have only begun to tap the potential of CASE's worldwide network as an advocacy force, but already we can see the enormous potential to effect positive changes on behalf of educational institutions around the globe.

About the Author John Lippincott John Lippincott

John Lippincott served as president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education from 2004 through 2015.




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