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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 6.1


The Value of Fundraising in an Educational Context

Universities are engines at the heart of national and international prosperity. Yet they are inherently costly to run, let alone expand.

With reduced levels of public funding and increased competition both at home and from overseas, universities must work harder than ever to find the resources to support world-leading research and teaching.

With intense pressure on funding, income diversification is an important strategic driver in helping universities become more financially sustainable. Diversification can take many forms:

  • Exploitation of intellectual property,
  • Research and teaching contracts (including student fees),
  • Revenue generation from estates and conferencing,
  • Consultancy and
  • Philanthropy.

Philanthropy in higher education is not new. Many great educational institutions were founded on the philanthropy of church leaders, royalty and farsighted patrons.

In recent history, although many governments have provided significant funding to educational institutions around the world, the income from private philanthropic sources (individuals, trusts or foundations, corporations, etc.) is an increasingly significant – and needed – component of the funding mix.

Philanthropic income is particularly useful in these ways:

  • It provides flexible income to support the projects and activities that shrinking core funding cannot finance,
  • It enables universities to build upon their strengths, enhance their student experience, extend their research programmes and create the best possible environments within which people can excel and;
  • It builds networks of friends and supporters who contribute to the long-term well-being of the university in many ways beyond their financial contribution, e.g., acting as ambassadors, providing links with industry and mentoring current students.

Fundraising in the context of the higher education sector can be challenging. The complex activities of universities can be difficult to communicate to a wide range of audiences, and some people do not perceive universities as ‘causes’ – especially in countries with a history of strong public funding for higher education.

Fundraising professionals need to break down misconceptions about how universities are funded. Fundraising is an opportunity not only to raise financial resources but also to communicate both the purpose and importance of universities in the world and the impact they have on all our lives – not just the people who study and research within them.

Action Item
  • It may be helpful for institution leaders and the development director to discuss (or even document) their viewpoint of why it is valuable to raise private, philanthropic funds for their institution. This conversation will help in creating a few key talking points when ‘making the case’ to prospects and others at the institution.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Common Objections and Their Rebuttals
Articulating the Vision and Setting Priorities
The Case for Support

Did You Know...

University of Cambridge Prof. Robert G. Edwards, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was unable to secure funding to push forward his pioneering research on in vitro fertilisation until a private donor stepped forward and offered to help.