“The Symbiotic Path to Mutual Value: How Small, Private Liberal Arts Institutions Understand and Manage Donor Influence”
A dissertation in Higher Education Management presented to the faculties of the University of Pennsylvania by Matthew vandenBerg, Vice President for Advancement and External Relations, Alma College
Individual donors are progressively viewing themselves as partners with the institutions they fund, rather than as passive benefactors. Today’s donors commonly desire control over the use of their gifts, expect to see the impacts of their support, and expect to provide counsel and expertise as well as financial support. The degree to which productive donor investment shades into undue control or influence on institutions is unclear, but growing public concern about donor influence renders the question of how institutions manage their relationships with major donors more compelling than ever. This study, drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews with presidents and other campus leaders at numerous small, private liberal arts colleges, provides valuable insights into how donors shape institutional behaviors, priorities, and choices and how campus leaders manage their relationships with highly engaged donors, identifying strategies employed to mitigate or redirect unwanted influence and forge productive and mutually satisfying relationships with philanthropists who seek to exert significant influence.