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President's Perspective: The More Things Change

A look back at the last decade

By John Lippincott

As we come to the end of the first decade of this new millennium (according to the Gregorian calendar), it is worth reflecting on what has occurred within the profession of educational advancement and within our professional association over the past 10 years.

All of the advancement disciplines—advancement services, alumni relations, communications, fundraising, government relations, marketing, and related fields—have been radically altered by three powerful forces since the start of the decade.

The tangled Web

First among these has been the Internet. In 2000, google was a word rarely heard off the cricket field, and Facemash would not enter our vocabulary for another three years. Today, Google is processing one petabyte of data every hour, and Facebook has more than 300 million users worldwide—numbers that will be outdated by the time this column is published.

Google and Facebook are only two examples of the impact that the Web, new media, and social networks have had on our efforts to advance schools, colleges, and universities. The value proposition between an institution and its graduates has undergone a tectonic shift as alumni have taken control of their own information, connections to other graduates, and engagement with the campus.

The online world has inundated donors and volunteers with information and with requests for their time, treasure, and talent. Standard practice in communications and marketing offices has become obsolete as the dominance of traditional print and broadcast media has come to an end. Additionally, the tools for disseminating information have become ubiquitous; unfiltered; and unbounded by time, place, or convention.

For all its challenges, the online environment has also given advancement professionals powerful new tools for the conduct of those activities that remain fundamental to our work: research, outreach, information sharing, engagement, and stewardship.

Global dorm-ing

The second powerful force shaping our profession at the outset of the 21st century has been the internationalization of the educational marketplace. The Bologna Process in Europe, the rapid buildup of educational institutions in India and China, the partnerships between American and Middle Eastern universities, the growth of online courses: These are all examples of intensified global competition for reputation and resources.

Because I devoted an earlier column to this topic, I will not dwell on it here. Suffice it to say, an international perspective is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity in planning any successful advancement operation.


The third driver of change has been the global economic crisis at the close of the decade. While the financial skies appear to be brightening and the green shoots of recovery seem to be taking root, the impact of this unprecedented downturn will be felt for years, if not decades.

Even as the fundraising climate appears to be improving, donor confidence in many parts of the world remains shaken, personal wealth eroded, corporate and foundation resources constrained, institutional endowments decimated, and historical giving patterns scrambled. Under financial duress, schools, colleges, and universities are reviewing their investments in all areas of advancement and challenging us to demonstrate our return on those investments.

And yet, for all the challenges and disruption brought about by these three forces—the Internet, internationalization, and the economic crisis—the fundamentals of our shared profession remain constant. Successful advancement programs are driven by institutional mission, focused on strengthening relationships with key constituents, integrated across the advancement disciplines, supported by the institutional leadership, and staffed by dedicated professionals.

CASE in point

The same forces that have buffeted the profession over the last decade have also had a major impact on CASE. We are a very different organization today than we were when I joined the staff a decade ago—relying far more heavily on technology to serve and engage our members, rapidly expanding our international operations, and significantly adjusting our business model to fit new financial realities.

And like the profession, CASE has adapted to the changing environment but also has found renewed strength by focusing on the fundamentals. In addition to the professional constants noted above, two others have been critical to our organizational success. The first has been an unwavering commitment to member service; the second, an abiding respect and appreciation for the contributions of our volunteers.

And so, as we celebrate the passing of a decade in which so much has changed and so much has stayed the same, I want to offer a new year's toast to the tens of thousands of CASE members around the world who have spoken at and planned conferences, judged awards, written articles, edited books, contributed Web content, and served on our advisory and governing bodies—all with a remarkable spirit of collegiality and a selfless desire to make ours a better profession, a better association, and a better world.

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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