President's Perspective: Celebrating What Counts
Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Einstein’s point is well made. We know that data have become increasingly important to our work in advancing education. In my recently published book, Global Exchange, the chapter “The Art and Science: Understanding the When and the Why for Data and Analysis” considers this very issue. When I talk with CASE members about our benchmarking surveys an important question often arises: as we track and use more information about engagement, when is the work of capturing data valuable, and when is it not?
In this issue of Currents, we celebrate our Circle of Excellence Awards. As you seek inspiration from these initiatives, I invite you to consider what underlies so many successes at our institutions. Often, the insights come from data. Data not only informs decisions we make as professionals, it also should influence strategic decision-making at the highest levels for our institutions. From demographics about the students we recruit for our academic programs to the giving trends that inform our fundraising, hundreds of decisions we make each day are data-driven. When we are functioning at our most strategic, we use the significant data at our disposal to make informed decisions that will improve our institutional advancement outcomes. We bring these outcomes to life with the stories of impact we tell.
This month, we mark five years of the CASE-Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education research partnership in which we collect advancement data from Canadian colleges and universities. The results will be published in February. What is remarkable about this survey, which aligns closely with similar CASE fundraising benchmarking surveys in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K., is how quickly institutions have become adept at both data collection and learning from it. We are now able to produce better insights into advancement trends within institutions across Canada and comparatively with other parts of the world.
Early in 2023, we will begin to derive the first insights from our new advancement data partnership with the National Association of Independent Schools. Now for the first time, the Data Analysis for School Leadership, a long-standing data set, includes comprehensive data on engagement and giving in the schools sector, providing broader understanding of alumni, trustee, parent, and donor engagement. When the survey closed in October 2022, nearly 500 CASE member institutions had completed all of the new DASL advancement questions.
These important research collaborations with longtime CASE partners are just two sources of advancement benchmarks, metrics, and analytics provided to you as a CASE member. And this year, we are rebranding CASE AMAtlas as CASE Insights to better reflect what we do to support your work. We invite you to learn more about this exciting effort.
I encourage you to stay abreast of the coming research reports, even if they are not from your region or about your institution type. Sometimes we can gain new insights by casting our gaze elsewhere and then bringing that perspective home. I also invite you to participate in any and all surveys specific to your institution type and region, so we can continue to learn together.
The more information we have, the more informed our work will be with a holistic view of trends in the profession. Some of the 2022 Circle of Excellence awardees have already embraced the use of data in their advancement efforts resulting in greater ingenuity, more effective teamwork, and outstanding results for their work in advancing education. Whilst all that can be counted cannot be measured, much can—and we invite you to join the teams around the globe making data count.
Global Exchange: Dialogues to Advance Education captures state-of-the-art thinking from institutional and foundation leaders, advancement professionals, and professionals from around the globe. Sue Cunningham leads 10 conversations on topics of critical interest to the education sector.
About the author(s)
Sue Cunningham is president and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), which supports more than 3,100 schools, colleges, and universities worldwide in developing their alumni relations, communications, fundraising, and marketing operations in order to advance their institutions. As CASE president and CEO, she provides strategic and operational leadership for one of the largest associations of education-related institutions in the world with members in more than 80 countries. She became president of CASE in March 2015.
Cunningham engaged CASE and thousands of its volunteers in a comprehensive strategic planning process resulting in Reimagining CASE: 2017 - 2021, an ambitious and comprehensive framework for serving CASE’s members and championing education worldwide. This volunteer and member engagement extends into a comprehensive effort to refine CASE’s governance structure to more effectively support CASE’s global reach and service to members.
Under her leadership, CASE acquired the Voluntary Support of Education survey and created AMAtlas. CASE has reinvigorated its global advocacy agenda and is engaged in reviews of the curriculum across all advancement disciplines and an update of CASE’s management and reporting standards and guidelines, which operate as the industry-leading set of standards. She is most proud of CASE’s efforts to diversify the advancement professions and CASE’s commitment to talent management, within the organization and across CASE’s membership.
Cunningham serves on the steering committee of the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, is a member of the Council of Higher Education Management Associations, and the International Women’s Forum, and serves on the fundraising committee for the Aurora Foundation.
Prior to CASE, she served as vice principal for advancement at the University of Melbourne and as the director of development for the University of Oxford. She served as director of development at Christ Church, Oxford, and as director of external relations at St. Andrews University.
She is an honorary fellow of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a recipient of the CASE Europe Distinguished Service Award, and a CASE Crystal Apple Award recipient. She holds a master’s degree from Oxford University and a bachelor’s degree in performing arts from Middlesex University.
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Engaging donors, alumni, and campus communities: that’s what the 2022 Circle of Excellence Awards winners did exceptionally well. In this issue of Currents, explore award-winning projects that connected with audiences in novel, compelling, meaningful ways.