Why Should a President Worry About Fundraising?

The tenure of presidencies and upper-level management positions appeared, at least from anecdotal evidence, to be shortening. The causes were many: greater geographic mobility; a shifting in roles (for example, the increased emphasis on fundraising…)

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Really? Fundraising as an essential leadership skill and core competency?

Yes, and it’s been a long time since four-year colleges incorporated this expectation into the job descriptions for college presidents. Yet, the community college sector has been slow to uniformly adopt the notion that community college presidents must “learn” philanthropy.  I talk to community college presidents about seeing themselves as “CPOs.”  That is, Chief Philanthropy Officer: managing the process internally, by way of supporting (and funding) a professional advancement staff and using the bully pulpit of the presidency to build meaningful constituencies for advancement within the college.  Even more important is for the president to be active  cultivating  and closing major gifts and launching the campaigns to secure those gifts.

Too often, we talk to ourselves too much, rather than reaching out the to community that supports us.  In some two-year colleges, the term advancement doesn’t even entail development or philanthropy.  This is certainly a departure from the dominant usage of the term in higher education.

Legendary Yankees Manager Billy Martin once said that preparation always shows itself in the spontaneity of the moment.  The magic of college presidents encouraging prospective donors to make major gifts begins with embracing advancement and philanthropy as a core competency of the president. In the case of philanthropy, preparation means learning how these executive-level skills fit into the presidential suite. The relationship development, the actual relationships, and even friendships, that arise from active donor engagement lead to the seemingly spontaneous magic moments when a donor makes the decision to give. The ease of those interactions begins with a sea change in how presidents view their jobs and their personal relationship to the mission of their colleges.

So yes, fundraising is a core competency for every college president, and if the idea has been a long time coming to the two-year college sector, it is here to stay.

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