Studying Philanthropy and Fundraising in the Field of Higher Education: A Proposed Conceptual Model

Studying Philanthropy and Fundraising in the Field of Higher Education: A Proposed Conceptual Model

Roy Y. Chan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9664-8.ch001
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Colleges and universities are historic institutions in the U.S. that have sprung up since the founding of Harvard College in 1636. Though their evolution and development is quite simple, the involvement of numerous organizations and groups with philanthropy and higher education is quite complex. Utilizing resource dependency theory and institutional theory, this chapter reviews the historical, sociological, and organizational overview of the practices of philanthropy as it relates to American higher education. Two conceptual frameworks are developed and proposed by the author for teacher-scholars and advanced practitioners seeking to conduct formal research on institutional advancement in higher education. The paper argues that the fundraising professionals (e.g., board of trustees, the president, development officers) role on securing major resources and private gifts within the organization and field level is the result of coercion, imitation, and conformity to institutional rule, institutional isomorphism, and normatively based decision making in higher education.
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In the last 10 years, expectations about the role of philanthropy and fundraising in higher education have increased. Notably, these expectations are based on assumptions and actual behavior that philanthropic organizations can enhance the capacity and performance of postsecondary institutions (Institute for Higher Education Policy, 2011). Today, no institutions of higher education have survived without some form of fundraising or gifts for the institution (Bernstein, 2013). Every public and private institution is grappling with a philanthropic agenda in the 21st century. As financial aid support declines and tuition rates continue to rise, colleges and universities have grown much more dependent on the increased philanthropic involvements of the wealthy to fund academic and professional programs, to raise college participation and completion rates, and to build state-of-the-art facilities for high quality teaching and research in higher education.

Generally, the role of philanthropy and fundraising has played an enormous role in fulfilling individuals’ career goals and promises, and the vitality of American society. Payton (1988) once defined philanthropy as the “voluntary action for the public good.” These voluntary actions performed by philanthropists and the wealthy are often viewed as heroes of the 21st century, whose gifts have fueled the advancement of lifelong learning in higher education. While the term philanthropy is seen as a broad concept that encompasses the wide range of private giving for larger public purposes, philanthropy research today has not been widely accepted as part of higher education research for very long. As philanthropy research has moved from once being increasingly atheoretical to now university-based scholarship (Drezner & Huehls, 2014), bridging new ideas and theories into university practice is vastly needed to help teacher-scholars and advanced practitioners conceptualize organizational behavior and their effectiveness to organizational performance in higher education (Bastedo, 2012; Dee, 2014; Kelly, 2002).

To clarify, institutions of higher education are under intense pressure to conform to new fundraising policies and procedures (e.g., gift acceptance policy, donor-privacy policy) worldwide against the changing demographics, increased competition, and reduced state and federal funding for postsecondary education (Hendrickson, Lane, Harris, & Dorman, 2012). Specifically, colleges and universities have to compete for students and resources (e.g., financial, physical, natural, human, information, labor) by adopting market-like ideologies or market-oriented mechanisms to stay competitive in the global marketplace (Edwards, 2004). Statistically speaking, state spending on higher education has significantly increased to $10.5 billion from 1990 to 2010 (Quinterno & Orozco, 2012). Although state funding in higher education budgets continues to drop across the United States, private gifts to support the needs of colleges and universities is vastly growing nationwide as a result to globalization and the increasing adoption of neoliberal policies moving away from funding postsecondary education (Giroux, 2014).

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