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The Role of the University President in Fund Raising

The university president is key to every institution’s effort to raise funds.  Cook (1997) observes that, in the past, presidents of universities did not engage much in fund-raising activities if they had no interest; they were able to spend very little time fund raising and without penalty (p. 58).   The situation is different today; the president sets the fund-raising agenda.  As Cook (1997) explains:

Fund raising requires team effort, and an institution’s president is typically the central player on the fund-raising team.  Using football as an analogy, ideally the chief development officer is the coach or player-coach, the president is the quarterback-athletic director, the offensive line is made up of the “heavy hitters” (trustees and other influential volunteers) who can open holes (doors), the running backs are the front-line fund-raising staff, and the ends are the deans or department heads of the various academic units. (p. 73)

   Cook suggests that presidents focus their fund-raising activities on two major areas-major gifts and administrative leadership.  Major gifts refers to gifts of more than $100,000, while administrative leadership has to do with policies and decision-making procedures that involve the management of all of the various departments of the university.  Cook (1997) suggests six duties that presidents should carry out in raising funds.  These are:

·        Creating assertive board leadership in fund raising

·        Enunciating the master plan of the institution and obtaining a consensus on mission and goals

·        Using their time and appearances wisely

·        Meeting regularly with senior development staff to assess campaign strategy and analyze strengths and weaknesses

·        Spending considerable time in cultivating prospects for major gifts

·        Insisting on continuity in development strategy rather than zigzagging from one approach to another. (p. 75)

The president is not a spectator in raising funds for the institution.  The first five duties Cook outlines are administrative, while the last two specifically delineate presidents’ roles in raising funds.  They play the central role as the institution’s leader, inspiring the trustees to participate in fund-raising activities and also in making contributions toward the financial aspect of the institution.  Trustees must give a substantial amount, and the president motivates them to set the example.  Cook (1997) observes that presidents cannot be “indifferent to development concerns or [be] distant from fund-raising activities” because, if they are, “board members are likely to place a lower value on their own participation” (p. 75).

Presidents must invest time to cultivate different publics.  Many scholars suggest that presidents should spend not less than 50% of their time in fund-raising activities during a campaign and about 20% or more during rest periods between campaigns (Colson, 1997;  Cook, 1997; Curtiss, 1994; Swatez, 1993).  The literature on the role of the president in fund raising is clear in outlining the specific roles in which the president should engage.  As listed at the beginning of this study, these roles are supported by studies done by Wolshon (1981), Green (1981), Dew (1983), Slinker (1988), Rodriguez (1991), Walter (1993), Janney (1994), and Gustavsson (2000).  Surprising to note is that even with these attempts to underscore the role of the president in fund raising, some presidents are still uncomfortable with the role (Epps, 1999).

Studies on the role of the university president in fund raising maintain that the president is key to effective institutional fund raising.  Fisher and Quehl (1989) contends that presidents literally should “spend themselves” in the process of cultivating individuals and, if possible, in one-to-one meetings.  Presidents should get involved in the cultivating process. They should accept and seek every opportunity to speak before important groups and attend appropriate functions (p. 89).  Thorpe’s (1988) study on comparisons of college presidencies--private and public--finds that private college presidents are challenged to produce external income and spend considerable effort in raising funds.  Regarding tenure decline among college presidents, Thorpe concludes that presidents experience tremendous pressure, either from constituents or fund raising, which makes it difficult for them to remain in office for more than 5 years.  Institutional development, according to Fisher and Quehl (1989), is an area with which newly appointed college and university presidents are least familiar, and yet, this area, more than any other, determines the extent to which their administrations are assessed positively or negatively (p. 4).

Cook (1994) states that institutions’ presidents typically are the central players on fund-raising teams as they focus their effort and attention on major gifts and administration leadership.  Colson’s (1997) study suggests that fund raising consumes 20 to 50% of presidents’ time--more than any other single responsibility they have.  In balancing intra-campus activities with fund raising, the results of his study reveal that presidents experience tension between raising necessary funds and managing campus affairs.  Those with strong fund-raising backgrounds, however, are better positioned to meet the requirements of their institutions, while those with broad academic backgrounds are more comfortable with intra-campus affairs (p. 103).   Govender (1998) notes that fund raising poses a problem to some university presidents and yet according to Clark’s (1999) study their effectiveness is measured by the creation of a vision, adoption of the role of an advocate, being role model for the institution, fostering good communication, and fund-raising skills.

In executing their role in fund raising, presidents work with various internal and external publics.  These include major corporations, friends of the institution, and foundations.  One additional public that plays a critical role as a financial resource for the institution is the alumni.  Rodriguez’s (1991) study on the relationship between alumni and the president explores presidential leadership behavior that affects alumni giving at small private liberal arts colleges.  This study reveals significant relationships between success in alumni donor-participation rates and college presidents who open their houses to alumni couples, speak to alumni on historical values of the college, and include on their cultivation list for top donor prospects alumni and their spouses.  Gustavsson (2000) goes so far as to state that a university has no greater resources than its alumni (p. 36), but 47% of colleges have no active alumni chapters and 75% have no alumni activities for graduates (p. 56). Colleges and university presidents need to engage the alumni more as they can be a major source of institutional resources.

High on the list of the president’s role in fund raising is a president’s ability to articulate a vision for the institution. In marketing terms, the president sells the vision to those who can make it a reality.  Harris suggests that colleges and universities suffer to some degree from a lack of clear identity with their publics (cited in Murphy, 1997, p. 38).  An effective college president can help articulate the college’s vision to its various publics.  Muller contends:

Nothing is more important today than a president’s capacity to paint a vision for the future that will cause respected colleagues, alumni supporters, trustees, public officials, and others to buy into the worthiness of an institution’s cause. . . .The vision must be articulated in a way that not only makes sense, but also appeals to the excitement level and emotional needs of those who can help the vision become a reality. . . .  The effective college president must be able, at a moment’s notice, to articulate a vision, an effective and meaningful future, for the institution that he or she represents. (cited in Murphy 1997, p. 64)

Studies of Theodore Hesburgh

Hesburgh’s uniqueness as an individual is seen through books, articles, and dissertations that have been written about him.  These works present his life and professional expertise both in education and social affairs.  An Act to Authorize the President of the United States of America to Award a Gold Medal on Behalf of the Congress to Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, in Recognition of His Outstanding and Enduring Contributions to Civil Rights, Higher Education, the Catholic Church, the Nation, and the Global Community (United States Congress, 1999) was published in 1999 and distributed by the U.S. Government Printing Office.  The book outlines Hesburgh’s contributions for which he was awarded a Gold Medal by the United States government.  The Catholic University of America Press published Hesburgh:  A Biography by Michael O’Brien in 1998.  This is an account of Father Hesburgh’s life story, education, civil service, and accomplishments as both educator and administrator.  Theodore M. Hesburgh:  A Bio-bibliography, written by Charlotte Ames published in 1989, is a description of Hesburgh’s personality and the qualities that allowed him to accomplish what he did for the University of Notre Dame and the global community.  Ames (1989) states that “practically all the Hesburgh accomplishments involve skill with words, and Hesburgh can be very good at that.  He writes with uncommon ability, perhaps a heritage from his religious order, which has a long tradition of good English prose” (pp. 21, 22).

Ames etal. (1980) published the Hesburgh Bibliography.  Joel Connelly and others made a sound recording entitled Discussion of Joel Connelly and Howard Dooley’s Book, Hesburgh’s Notre Dame in 1972. Richard Quay (1984) compiled a bibliography entitled On the American College Presidency: A Bibliography of Theodore M. Hesburgh, which listed Hesburgh’s books and essays on civil rights and social and economic issues.  Different journals and magazines such as Christian Century, Scholastic, Time, and Notre Dame Magazine have published several articles about Hesburgh that focused on his personableness. 

To date, only one thesis and one dissertation have been written about Hesburgh, but they focused on philosophy and general leadership.  In 1979, Joseph Karam completed a master’s thesis entitled A Rhetorical Analysis of Selected Speeches on Higher Education by Rev. Theodore Hesburgh that analyzed Hesburgh’s educational philosophy based on two speeches delivered on October 7, 1971, in Washington, D.C., and April 5, 1978, in Philadelphia.  Karam’s study used a neo-Aristotelian approach in analyzing and evaluating the speeches.  He found Hesburgh’s speeches on higher education to “appeal to frequent use of parallelism, repetition, personification, alliteration, quotations and rhetorical questions” (p. 77). 

Jeffcoat’s 1994 study, University Presidents, As Autobiographers (Self Constructions, Leadership), presents interviews of five university presidents to determine how their images of themselves and their autobiographies construct their roles as leaders in American higher education.  Hesburgh was one of the presidents interviewed.

Rhetorical Studies of Fund Raising

The only study in which rhetorical analysis is a method of analysis in a fund-raising context is Flick’s (1985) Jerry Falwell’s Television Fund Raising.  His study concludes that Falwell assumed that his television ministry and financial appeals would be accepted because his programs were entertaining and had personal relevance.

            Onward to Victory: A Chronicle of the Alumni of the University of Notre Dame Du Lac 1842-1973 was published in 1974 by the University of Notre Dame (Armstrong, 1974).  This book is very informative on the inception and activities of the alumni under different Notre Dame University presidents up to 1973. It also focuses on administration issues of each of the presidents regarding the alumni.  Armstrong does not discuss the presentations Hesburgh gave in fund raising, nor does he discuss his strategies in inviting the alumni to identify with the University of Notre Dame. 

Rhetorical criticism has been used as a method of analysis across disciplines.  The Burkean dramatistic approach in particular has been used in many dissertation studies.  Fallon (1981) studied the rhetoric of Margaret Thatcher to discover the symbolic acts that Margaret Thatcher used to induce political and social change in the United Kingdom in 1979.  Bury (1986) used the rhetorical approach in a study, A Rhetorical Analysis of Selected Speeches of The Reverend Jerry Farwell.  Bury’s study reveals that Falwell’s rhetoric emphasizes three elements of the pentad--the act, agency, and agent, with the act dominant.  She concludes that Falwell uses a hierarchical structure that promotes rejection of the opposition and promotes redemption of those who follow him. 

Hee Sul Park (1988) conducted A Rhetorical Analysis of Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu Through the Burkeian Pentad.  The study uses the dramatistic pentad as the method to analyze Tutu’s speeches to investigate his philosophy, leadership, and rhetorical strategies in South Africa.  Winegarden’s (1989) study of the 1982 and 1986 Tylenol poisoning tragedies uses the pentad to analyze the persuasive strategies implemented by Johnson & Johnson during and after the reports of the Tylenol-related deaths.

Although much literature exists on the importance of fund raising for university presidents, very few studies have been done on the rhetorical or communicative strategies that facilitate their effectiveness as fund-raisers.  This study is designed to contribute to knowledge in this area.