Putting First Things First in the Development of a Comprehensive Institutional Advancement Program

Written by: L. Pendleton Armistead, Ed.D.

Clearly, the landscape for American higher education is changing. There are new rules that will greatly impact the scope and functioning of educational institutions to satisfy the demands of their constituencies and local communities. At the same time, never has there been a greater reliance on educational institutions that are dedicated to open access, instructional excellence and relevant curricula that meet changing occupational and workforce demands. These elements are the long-standing cornerstones of the community college.

However, community and technical colleges are experiencing many obstacles impacting their abilities to advance quality programs and services. A significant number of these challenges are directly related to public funding.

To offset this funding dilemma, greater reliance upon the private sector as a legitimate funding partner should be sought. However, in doing so, a systematic or “building-block” approach that will maximize opportunities is required, beginning with a comprehensive evaluation process called a “Resource Development Review (RDR).”

The “RDR” process is designed to gauge the present effectiveness and productivity of a college’s institutional advancement function and provide a “blueprint” for the building of a comprehensive fund-raising program. Further, the process is used to enhance alignment and engagement between a college’s and its affiliated foundation board. Specifically, the RDR is designed to assess the strengths, challenges, and priorities of the college and its foundation and offer recommendations for strategic and deliberate improvement by:

  • Assessing the depth and effectiveness of all institutional advancement functions and foundation programs and services
  • Determining adequacy, skills, and priorities of staffing and the effectiveness of the organizational structure
  • Discerning opportunities in the major gifts, annual campaigns, planned giving programs, targeted campaigns, alumni giving, special events arenas
  • Assessing the infrastructure of the college’s foundation and propose recommendations for growth and engagement
  • Assessing how various internal and external groups view the foundation leadership and its degrees of influence and affluence
  • Developing timelines and benchmarks as a means of measuring success and maintaining accountability
  • Assessing the strategic needs of an organization in relationship with potential private support and corresponding financial levels
  • Providing a comprehensive implementation plan for the college’s resource development program and affiliated foundation

The resulting recommendations form the basis of a prescribed “plan of action” to strengthen the private-sector resource development function for the next five-year period.

In today’s world of economic uncertainty, major adjustments in levels of public support compounded with governing boards’ frequent calls for retrenchment, community and technical colleges must begin to look beyond the public sector to fund their educational missions and visions. College presidents are increasingly becoming reliant on their affiliated foundations to “fill in” the financial gap to support critical needs. These foundations should immediately begin efforts to critically evaluate their readiness and commit to working toward their ultimate goals.  Proactive planning and a review of advancement functions via an in-depth “Resource Development Review” can serve as the initial pathway for many years of growth for the college and, in turn, the community it serves.

L. Pendleton Armistead, Ed.D., as president of the Armistead Group, has over 30 years of consulting experience in a wide array of institutional advancement arenas within the two-year college setting.   As a consultant, he has directed over 50 campaigns, conducted approximately 75 feasibility studies, strategic planning initiatives and development assessments and raised over $650 million in support of community colleges growth and development.

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