At a time when more and more colleges and universities are relying on donations from alums to help avoid dramatic tuition increases, the role of the higher education fundraising professional has become increasingly important. However, the field of development within higher education faces some significant challenges.
According to an estimate by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, only 11 percent of those who work in development are people of color. This is a growing problem because an increasing number of alums and prospective donors are from underrepresented groups. Fundraising experts widely agree that these individuals are more likely to give of their time and money when approached by development professionals who share their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.
Another challenge facing higher education fundraising is the fact that many of these senior professionals — up to 20 percent — are expected to retire in the next few years, according to Liz Rothenberg, managing director of EAB Strategic Research.
To address these challenges, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has partnered with 14 host institutions across the U.S. and Canada to offer a yearlong residency program for recent college graduates. Selected individuals who have expressed an interest in entering the education fundraising profession spend a year working in the advancement office of a CASE partner institution developing skills as they help manage fundraising campaigns, build lasting relationships with donors, and solicit major gifts. They are paid an entry-level salary in addition to receiving health benefits.
Residents also participate in professional development opportunities offered by CASE, including online courses and the association’s weeklong flagship conference, the Summer Institute in Educational Fundraising. Furthermore, each person is paired with a mentor and is invited to attend CASE networking events.
This year, 18 people are participating in the program. The cohort includes women and men of color, children of immigrants, and first-generation college graduates.