President's Perspective: A Vital Partnership
Educational institutions can be very complex. Advancement professionals must have the capacity to navigate this complexity. As we interact with key external stakeholders, we must be able to convey the breadth of our institutional activity, and that means partnering with internal colleagues who can communicate the vision for and impact of their teaching and research at a deeper level.
Some of my most treasured moments as an advancement professional occurred when connecting generous and interested donors to the inspiring work of my academic colleagues. It was wonderful to play a part in nurturing key relationships, within and beyond the institution, that resulted in meaningful, strategic outcomes.
Academics at our institutions have a common denominator: the energy of those who live a life of scholarship and, in some contexts, research, and who pass that passion on through generations. As the daughter of an academic dean and professor and the wife of a schoolteacher, I have personally experienced the exuberance that a life of scholarship creates and how that exuberance generates such goodwill.
Advancement professionals need to be curious, spend time deepening our understanding of our institutions’ teaching and research, and get to know our colleagues leading this work. We would not exist without our academic colleagues, and without our teams, they would not benefit from the extra investment, connections, resources, and publicity. We are in this together.
CASE has long provided resources and service to support advancement professionals in their work with academic leaders. We’ve also offered various opportunities for academic leaders to learn about advancement—from our highly successful Development for Deans conferences to our international study tours for deans, presidents, and vice chancellors.
When I speak at convenings of academic and institutional leaders, I share the tenets of our work, our Global Reporting Standards, and our Strategic Intent of defining the competencies for the profession. Academic leaders understand, viscerally, the standards at the root of professions. They have their own discipline-based principles of practice and ethical codes. This is a source of shared experience for advancement professionals and academicians.
There are other ways we understand each other as well, like through data and research. We hear from members who use CASE’s research and benchmarking to help their academic counterparts better understand how advancement supports their work beyond philanthropy. These insights (especially ones from our Alumni Engagement Metrics research) can help advancement and academic leaders have a more holistic view of how to engage alumni, measure engagement, and build out success strategies. It’s a win-win.
As we continue championing our institutions through engagement with our communities, building a deeper understanding of the impact provided by integrated advancement is as vital with our internal constituents as it is with our external ones. I encourage you to have these conversations!
About the author(s)
Sue Cunningham is president and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), which supports more than 3,600 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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