When I talk to college presidents at colleges with dormant or underperforming advancement programs, they are quick to express their commitment to advancement and their good intentions for improved performance. Unless this stated interest is matched with institutional commitments to meet quantifiable metrics, however, the prognosis for improved performance is weak.
Fund raising is hard work. Most nonprofits excel at it only when their survival depends in some measure on their success in this arena. For those that don’t perceive fundraising to be an essential, core activity of the college, promoting culture change from the outside is extremely difficult. If a college tells you they are serious about fund raising but leaves the chief development officer position open for a year, the inertia speaks louder than words.
When a dysfunctional advancement program is an issue, what motivates a change in institutional behavior is real need, a commitment to change, the implementation of real metrics, and evaluation of outcomes. That, and the personal involvement of the president, who must invest time, cultivate prospects, and be prepared to make a few asks.
Visionary leadership on the part of the president can—and should—jump-start the whole process.