7th July 2021 | Education
Fundraising really only works for research-intensive, prestigious universities with global brands… right?
The data from the annual CASE Ross Survey, might suggest that there is something in this. About half of all the money given to universities in the UK, year on year, has been raised by only two institutions. Guess which ones? Today, a handful of other large universities, including those in the Russell Group of leading research establishments, have begun to catch up on the elites and now raise very large sums indeed from large numbers of supporters. These institutions have been investing in building these programmes for decades now, and have started to benefit.
However, more than half of all the universities in the UK raise modest, if any, philanthropic support. Why? Well very few see it as a strategic priority and very few invest in the effort required.
So, if I am the Vice Chancellor of a large and complex modern university, why should I bother?
It is evident that fundraising has not been viewed as a cultural characteristic of many UK educational establishments. The experience needed may not be the most significant issues focused on in the recruitment of institutional leaders and there may be a view among many leaders that fundraising is really only for the big players. Success breeds success after all.
Yet in the modern world we recognise that success comes in many shapes and sizes. We also know that the impact of philanthropy is about so much more than money. Even relatively small amounts of donated income can have a huge impact in a university with a limited income portfolio and a modest history of philanthropy.
To start, however, we need to understand a few facts and bust some myths:
Don’t get me wrong a small number of modern universities have invested in this area in recent years and are raising money that makes a difference to the lives of their students as well as makes a difference to the university. There are a growing number of examples of success in a broad swath of institutions across the UK. There are modern universities that have begun to secure six and seven figure donations to support strategic priorities and special initiatives. Some have developed lasting partnerships with supporters as a result. For others, it seems too hard, too expensive, and simply takes too long, or perhaps it makes some leaders feel uncomfortable.
It takes time to build a fundraising programme, and for some this creates a barrier. Investment is needed, but then any business plan that a leader will look at will do just the same. Invest in the right stuff for, say, three years and then returns should begin to be evident. Fundraising and alumni engagement are no different. Get on with it Vice Chancellors everywhere, you are missing a trick!
Colin McCallum is a Strategic Partner at Cairney & Company, a global company of innovative and creative fundraisers, strategists, communicators, researchers, trainers and coaches, based in the UK, USA, Canada and Hong Kong.
The UK is recognised as being a global leader in research and innovation. In March 2020, the Chancellor committed to a record increase in public investment in R&D of £22bn per year by 2024/25, reaching 2.4% of GDP by 2027 in the Research and Development Roadmap. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of higher education institutions has never been more crucial in building back better.
Advancing Research and Innovation in Higher Education 2021 takes place virtually on 10th November 2021. This timely event will deliver a comprehensive overview of the most current issues surrounding higher education research and innovation.
Join us to examine how higher education institutions can take maximise their potential, gain access to funding and work collaboratively with multiple partners to deliver the government’s vision for ‘building back better in the post-pandemic recovery.
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