Publications & Products
Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 9.3


The Role of Academic Colleagues

Development efforts will only succeed with strong leadership and the co-operation of colleagues across the institution.

Engaging academic colleagues in development activities is vital. Their involvement is needed to ensure that fundraising projects not only appeal to prospects but also further the mission of the institution. They can also speak passionately and knowledgeably to prospects about their work.

Academics are busy, have limited knowledge of development activities and may retain some scepticism about their effectiveness. To work well with your academic colleagues, whether they are eminent professors or early stage career researchers, you will need to:

  • Educate them about the purpose and benefits of development. Talk to them, present at staff meetings, invite their input, share information about development activities and successes, listen to and address their concerns.
  • Respect the other demands upon their time – teaching, research, enterprise and administration.
  • Respect their expertise.
  • Make their involvement in development as easy as possible.
  • Engage them in the development of fundraising projects.
  • Engage them in the development of cultivation and solicitation strategies.
  • Value any information or contacts they share with you and keep them informed of how these contacts are managed.
  • Give them credit when they assist in a fundraising or alumni activity
  • Celebrate success!
How Can Academics Contribute?

Academics can contribute to development activities in a number of ways, depending on their comfort level. Typical ways for academics to be involved include:

  • Identifying potential supporters,
  • Providing information for proposals or alumni communications,
  • Attending a ‘meet and greet’ with prospects and senior alumni,
  • Acting as a host at events,
  • Serving as a ‘tour guide’ of research and campus facilities,
  • Presenting to trusts and foundations,
  • Explaining the technical aspects or impact of their research,
  • Providing support at solicitation meetings,
  • Providing information to support stewardship,
  • Helping to identify fundraising projects,
  • Gathering and sharing information about possible and known prospects and
  • Identifying suitable students to introduce to donors and prospects.
Easing the Way

The easier you can make getting involved for an academic, the more likely they will be to offer their co-operation. Guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Respect the academic timetable and avoid asking academics for their help around peak periods of activity, such as exam marking.
  • Give as much notice as you can about events, meetings and other calls on their time.
  • Be clear and concise about the extent and purpose of their involvement.
  • Provide them with detailed briefings in a format that is most useful to them – electronically, over the phone or in a printed folder.
  • Take responsibility for any travel, hospitality or other organisational details.
  • Act as a note taker at meetings involving the academic. Share the notes and actions from the meeting and support the academic in fulfilling any actions.
  • Ensure that you chose the right time to introduce your academic to a prospect (e.g., that your prospect has been researched and communicated with enough to spend the meeting focused on the academic’s work/project the donor is considering funding and not focused on basic information about the institution). Be confident that the ‘match’ between the two is right and that you are effectively using everyone’s time.
  • Consider whether it has to be the lead academic involved or whether he or she might be able to delegate the task to someone from his or her team.
  • Keep academics informed of the outcome of the activity they have been involved with, so they can gain an understanding of the whole development process rather than just the element they are involved in (and hopefully see the impact their contribution has made).
  • Say thank you!
  • If their work does benefit financially from their involvement in fundraising then make sure they receive this benefit promptly.

Action Items
  • As you develop your fundraising strategy, determine how academics can best contribute.
  • Engage, train and support a few key members that best align with your strategy and fundraising priorities. If these academics have a successful experience working with the development office, they will become your champions to help other academic colleagues become engaged as your prospects, strategies and priorities advance.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Common objections and their rebuttals
Key working relationships and links with other offices/departments
Leaders and academics as fundraisers
Championing the office internally
The role of leaders and academics in the cultivation process
The cultivation process
Contact reports
The case for support
Cultural sensitivities


CASE provides in-depth information on campus and external relations, including the role of president, deans, faculty and staff in fundraising, as well as ideas for faculty and staff giving.

Thomas talks about the vice-chancellor's role in fundraising and how the development office can help prepare for that role.
McCallum talks about how to involve academics in development as curators and leaders of institutions.
Silvennoinen addresses the challenges of fundraising outside the U.S. and the importance of having internal champions within your institution.
Peters describes how her institution involved academics in development efforts.
 Chris Cox talks about the role of academic colleagues in donor meetings.