Sunday, April 15, 2012

A question from a student

So I was talking to one of my students after class and she asked an interesting question, “ how do you fund raise?” It was interesting coming from a student and interesting because there has been so little discussion of fund raising at an institution whose students’ greatest challenge is financial. I told her that essentially it was the responsibility of the development office to generate leads, soften up donors and prepare the field for the closer who is usually the university president. Because the chief executive is involved there should be many ‘big check’ photo opportunities. There should be lots of pictures and short blurbs in the papers about the campaign. Even during economic down times a place like Stanford University was able to engage 10,360 volunteers to solicit support from more than 166,000 donors over five years of the Stanford Challenge to raise $6.23 billion. That is a remarkable achievement and I would never expect such an achievement from a small state university like Chicago State University. However, I would expect some vision around some major fund raising goal. It could be the investment of all the political and social capital of the institution in the construction of a new science building, one that the plans for have already been drawn up. But the university is investing scarce state resources in a West Side campus, an undertaking with a dubious beginning and uncertain progress to this point. The university could set a programmatic goal, (not a brick and mortar campaign that many presidents are fond of) for its fund raising efforts. For example, what if the university dedicated itself to raising enough money every year to eliminate the need for its students to take out any student loans for the period of their attendance. What if financial responsibility were a core value that was extended to protecting our students’ economic futures? How would an effort like that raise the stature of the institution and mitigate against the continued negative press the university experiences? Might it make the recruitment efforts of the university easier? Might it change the culture of the institution? Might it just be the right thing to do? So along with the academic accomplishments of NCATE accreditation, the College of Pharmacy’s expected stellar performance in its accreditation and the institution’s anticipated HLC re-accreditation, a visionary undertaking like this could transform the university. Of course support from financial institutions in this campaign would be unlikely as they would not be able to prey upon our students and help create financial hardship for an already vulnerable demographic. The curious thing about all of this is why hasn’t this idea been discussed already by those at Chicago State University with so much more experience in higher education  than your humble narrator.

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