Department chairs increasingly expected to fundraise

Dive Brief:

  • Though deans frequently assist in fundraising for their colleges and universities, fundraising consulting firms say they are seeing increased interest in learning how to fundraise from the chairs of departments, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Department chairs may have interest in learning because they believe fundraising experience will improve their chances of being promoted to dean, according to one consultant, though chairs report that it is difficult to find the time to fundraise.
  • Department chairs can often relate to alumni in a way that other administrators cannot, especially if the chair was at the school when the alumnus attended, and a former student and current chair could bond over a shared discipline, with the chair likely having a closer understanding of student life that a dean or president may lack.

Dive Insight:

A recent report indicated that college presidents have come to view their roles as being primarily operational and financial as opposed to academic in nature. Many presidents reported that much of their time is spent building relationships with potential donors and fundraising. As the president’s role transitions and fundraising becomes even more paramount, it is possible that this pressure to raise money is causing the skill’s value to be increased in deans, which is therefore increasing it in department chairs. The article raises the possibility that these groups are pursuing fundraising experience in order to pursue future promotions, but they may also be pursuing fundraising because the increasing costs of maintaining a college demand it and everyone is expected to take part.

In 10 years, it may be possible that a college or university department chair’s role is viewed less as the academic head of the department and more as a generator for additional revenue, though schools would need to ensure that an increased emphasis on fundraising among department chairs does not sully a department’s academic quality.

However, it could be beneficial for department chairs to extend their reach beyond the campus, as developing relationships can help build relationships that boost an institution's resources. Indranil Gupta, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said in a recent Education Dive interview that relationships with cloud storage service providers can help schools gain access to free or reduced-price cloud storage for student use. “Universities have to get a conversation going with these places to get bulk resources,” he said, noting that departments would need to be more proactive in order to see such results.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed
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