- As future student bodies become more diverse, "organizations that are not serving students well are going to have a hard time telling their stories to potential donors and funders," explained Marilyn Sanders Mobley, vice president for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity at Case Western Reserve University, at a panel discussion during the 2018 National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education conference last week, adding that as tuition goes up at public institutions and state spend less on higher education budgets, diversity offices will have to take extra steps to secure funding.
- Mobley said in her first month as a diversity officer, she connected with the point person handling corporate relations, which helped the office gain significant grants. The position "require[s] that you know who to talk to, how to get money, and what amount you want to get," she said, especially when the institution has already, "carved out who the key donors are."
- Capitalizing on such relationships is key, said Mobley, who explained everyone in development and advancement — marketing, corporate relations, major gifts, alumni affairs, and others — is aware of her office's main goals and the business case for diversity, because "we have to help decision-makers and grant writers care specifically about diversity and inclusion at the university."
Incoming generations of students are going to be increasingly more diverse in socioeconomic background, race and age, and institutions that fail to keep ahead of the trends, adjusting outreach efforts and retention efforts accordingly, are going to fall behind. In fact, chancellor Emeritus of the University System of Maryland, Brit Kirwan, echoed these sentiments at the annual American Council on Education meeting last year, noting that any president who doesn’t buy into the imperative for diversity in enrollment and hiring ought to be removed from his or her post.
Offices of diversity and inclusion thus play a key role in shaping the campus for new students to create a sustainable business model, but it often gets overlooked, said Mobley. Subsequently, it's critical that executives leading such offices take proactive steps to secure funding from their own relations, rather than just relying on the university to keep their pockets filled — particularly as state budgets dwindle and such offices might be the first to get cut.
Concrete steps to being strategic, she said, include sharing the narrative around what the office is doing with everyone at the decision-making table, shaping it so that it aligns with institutional goals, rather than just aligning with some simplistic "boiler plate language." At the same time, officers have to go out and make connections with potential donors themselves to really secure the types of grants that are going to be most impactful.