Leadership in Development Management – days 3-5

Day 3
We relocate to Orlando, basing ourselves in a hotel complex designed to look like an Italian village – a impressive example of the hyperreal copy-world charted by Baudrillard et al. The hotel may have be inauthentic, but there is nothing fake about the development professionals we meet, who show deep commitment based on a profound understanding of their institutions’ aims. Which makes me think – people working in alumni and development talk a lot about building affinity – a good starting point is the affinity between alumni staff themselves and the institutions they work for.
Lunch at Rollins College gives us a snapshot of campus life, as we pass students with laptops and lunchboxes in the sun. I felt at home in a university founded in 1885, with a strong focus on applied learning in an attractive campus – just like Edge Hill! Among many enviably successful projects, we learned of a parents’ programme which brings in support from people already paying $40-$50k per annum in fees.

Later we visit the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, part of the University of Central Florida. Rosen is a four-year-old campus created by the gifts of one individual, so we are literally sitting in the concrete results of philanthropy. In parallel with the campus development, the hospitality discipline has become a college in its own right and grown both staff and students. Undoubtedly impressive, this raises some interesting questions about the influence of philanthropy on the pace and direction of change in academic structures.
Notes from today: setting up a development operation is hard work, like ‘pushing boulders uphill’, but the rewards can be significant. And it all comes back to relationships: gifts are made to people, not institutions.

Day 4
Our last visit takes us to Seminole Community College. SCC take a distinctive approach, ignoring alumni in favour of focusing on major gifts. The hi-tech campus to me exemplified a market-driven approach – labs named after client companies and offices rented by external organisations showing how the College and its stakeholders work together.

Fundraising here seems to be about finding partners with shared objectives and working to achieve mutual ends – making me think that what we would call ‘business development’ has a lot of similarities to fundraising.

Back at the fantasy hotel, the group shared yet another meal. Forming a network has been an objective of the programme, and there is plenty of mutual support and optimism in evidence over the ranch dressing and chipotle sauce.

Final day
Our last morning, and time to meet two Presidents. Not the shiny new President Elect, whose presence has infused the places we have been with a palpable sense of optimism; and not the other fellow currently shuffling greyly away from offfice. Instead we meet Ann McGee, President of Seminole Community College, and Rita Bornstein, President Emeritus of Rollins College; living embodiments of two of the institutions we have visited. Their electrifying presentations cover the role of institutional leaders, with ‘understanding of how to ask for money and who should do the asking’ being one of the key qualities. I suspect that few UK Vice-Chancellors’ job descriptions identify this quite so explicitly, although this may change if philanthropy does indeed become part of the mainstream. The relationship between President and Chief Development Officer is explored: the CDO should ‘push’ the President and ‘make the trains run on time’, perhaps literally as US institutional leaders do seem to expect, and be expected, to act as road warriors, spending significant amounts of time meeting donors. The parting message, one that has been returned to relentlessly each day this week, is one that UK institutions will hear increasingly: before you leave , don’t forget to actually ask for the money.

Leadership in Development Management Day 2

Building fundraising teams is a challenge, especially in the UK where there is a dearth of ready-made talent waiting to be hired. So another day looking at leadership, this time in a broader organisational setting, has been useful. Change management emerged as strong theme. The (re)development of philanthropic culture in HE involves major cultural change, which takes place amidst many other changes in the sector and in society – so no wonder ‘tolerance of ambiguity’ was listed as a virtue to seek and cultivate in team members. As the day unfolded, key differences between UK and US employment practices became apparent – it seems that in America even public institutions have a more flexible approach to hiring and firing than we do. Language differences also cropped up now and again. I was familiar with the word ‘Faculty’ as the descriptor for academic staff rather than an organisational unit, but had not come across the usage of ‘staff’ as a verb, something you can do to a person, as in ‘how are we staffing the Vice-Chancellor’ – meaning not ‘providing the V-C with staff’, but ‘supporting the V-C in staff-like ways’.

Leadership in Development Management Day 1

We join the larger group of US delegates for the start of a two-day conference, filling a large windowless hall with our interpretations of business casual dress. Like ourselves, the Americans work at a range of institution-types: there are delegates from community colleges, large universities and, surprisingly, the National Rifle Association. Many of us are expanding our fundraising operations, launching them from scratch or rebooting them, so people management is important and that is the focus of today’s sessions. We explore communications and relationships, assess our ‘Management and Leadership IQ (c)’.

Later, while the US contingent head out to alluring-sounding restaurants, the Brits stay in the hotel discussing the intricacies of our matched funding scheme. One institution gets a round of applause for having already achieved their target for the three-year period. As we share the joy, I’m reminded of a slide from earlier in the day quoted a neurological study indicating that altruistic giving stimulates the same parts of the brain as sex. Arguably, then, we are working in a benign version of the sex industry, an insight worth a 4000-mile trip to unlock: ‘Know Thyself’ being a key precept of leadership.

Leadership in Development Management – Day 0

I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain a scholarship for a place on the Leadership in Development Management programme run by CASE. The programme is for people involved in fundraising and related activities, particularly those new to their roles. 20 of these folks have converged on Sarasota in Florida where we will participate in a 2-day conference with US colleagues and have a study tour of institutions of various kinds. The programme has been well planned so that we don’t only visit high fliers with billion-dollar campaigns – we will also meet people from more modest institutions who have had an uphill struggle setting up their development operations.

The context for the programme is the opportunities created by the Government’s £200m matched funding scheme, which for the next three years will provide additional funds matching philanthropic giving to HE from organisations and individuals, in our case adding 50p to every pound raised, up to £1.3m. That’s ten bob in the old money added on to every pound we raise, and well worth having. With that in mind, my question for the week is what kind of fundraising programme would work at EHU? What is the best model for us, specifically, with our distinctive mission, subject mix, and body of alumni?

Did I mention that it’s in Florida? The venue makes a nice change from a wet and prematurely wintry UK – although we’ll be working hard in a programme which, frankly, looks pretty challenging, feeling some sun though the window will be great and occasionally glimpsing some blue sky will be pleasant.

We arrived late on Saturday night and had some free time on Sunday morning, blogged about elsewhere. The afternoon was taken up with an orientation session where the differences between our 20 institutions, and the common themes we share, became apparent.

Physically I’m still on UK time so early nights and mornings are the order of the day – in my case seeking out the earliest possible coffee availability.

Hope to blog more as the opportunity arises.