Fundraise to add value to universities

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Universities must embrace fundraising and approach it in a more professional manner if they are to attract donors who are ready and willing to give, according to a senior university leader.

In an address today to the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Conference of Executive Heads, being held at the University of Adelaide, Professor Eric Thomas, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol in the UK, said fundraising had become a vital and legitimate activity for universities, but it had to be approached in the right way.

"The culture problem in universities is not lack of giving," he said. "It is lack of asking."

Professor Thomas last year chaired a four-member taskforce established to advise the British Government on ways to increase and sustain giving to higher education through changing the culture within institutions and among the wider public.

Speaking in an ACU Conference session entitled Responses to funding dilemmas, Professor Thomas reminded delegates that many universities had been founded on philanthropy, adding that some donors viewed universities in much the same way as charities because, like charities, they pursued honourable and noble aims.

He stressed the importance of university leaders taking a prominent role in fundraising activities, but also highlighted the value of involving "lay leaders" who would add credibility and stature, assist in building strategic relationships, and provide perspective and feedback.

"Through personal advocacy and giving, they create and reinforce philanthropic cultures," he said. "They build and strengthen relationships with potential donors. They set an example. They 'raise' the other prospective donors' 'sights'. And they virtually always become your best donors".

Professor Thomas, who is a director of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in the UK and Chairman of the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), said experience in the UK and the US was that fundraising could be successful in many different types of institutions.

Donations received through fundraising did not displace state funding and ideally were not used to support core activities; they were to "add value and increase excellence".

This, he said, was reflected in the mission of one US university's development office: "to provide the people of this state with a better university that they could otherwise afford".

Notes for Editors

More than 250 Vice-Chancellors from around 30 countries are attending the Adelaide conference, which is held under the auspices of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee and the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee. It is sponsored by Academic Search International, Deloitte, Oracle and The Times Higher Education Supplement.

The ACU, founded in 1913, is the world's oldest inter-university organisation. Its aim is to strengthen the universities in membership through the promotion of international co-operation and understanding. It works in practical ways to fulfil this aim by promoting the interests of member universities; by providing assistance with staff and student mobility and development programmes; and by researching and disseminating information about universities, management practices and policy issues. Over 500 universities in 35 countries and regions around the Commonwealth are members of the ACU, making it one of the most effective international networks in higher education in the world.

The University of Adelaide, established in 1874, is one of Australia's leading universities. It is associated with five Nobel Laureates (three of whom are graduates), and has produced nearly 100 Rhodes Scholars. Adelaide has a fine tradition of exemplary scholarship and ground-breaking research, and its unique relationship with industry and other organisations ensures that research expertise is translated into tangible benefits for the global community.


Contact Details

Michael Benson
Communications Director
Association of Commonwealth Universities
Mobile: +44 7973 553939

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
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