As a development professional, you face pressures from all directions as you secure funding for your institution’s important work. Meeting the demands of academic leaders, promoting the overall vision and strategic plan, and accommodating the wishes of donors is a balancing act requiring your continual attention and skill. Where do the philanthropic opportunities in Student Affairs fall into the mix?
In a recent trend, development professionals are realizing that raising funds for Student Affairs can help them meet their other objectives. Here are three reasons why Student Affairs deserves your attention:
1. Alumni value Student Affairs.
Engaging alumni is becoming more of a challenge for colleges and universities in the United States in recent decades, with The Council for Aid to Education reporting a continual decline in alumni support since 1992—from 18% down to 8.1% last year. Young alumni in particular are difficult to reach. After spending so much money on their education—and continuing to pay off loans—this group has not responded to traditional calls for contributions, and much attention is spent strategizing how to keep this group engaged. Student Affairs is an area that touches the lives of many students in profound ways, so it is a natural entry point into the engagement pipeline. This student explains his perspective:
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a transgender student on this campus, but in my classes, I haven’t found a place to be myself one hundred percent. When I look back on school, I’m definitely going to think of my student groups, like the LGBTQ Center, because that’s what I poured myself into. I haven’t found the support in my major, and if I had just worked through it, I’m sure I would have found friends, but I don’t know that I would have the same connection to the university that I do now. It’s my family.
2. Any engagement is good engagement.
Student Affairs programs are a wonderful way to engage new donors, create positive giving experiences, and show fast, direct impact on students. Almost any passion related to student success can be met in the vast array of Student Affairs programs at most major colleges and universities. Once a good fit with a potential donor’s philanthropic passions is located, it can be incredibly gratifying to connect that donor with the opportunity to make a difference in Student Affairs—and this is a launching point for engagement in other areas, as well. This alumna and grateful parent explains how her engagement with the university began through Student Affairs:
We started with the Student Development council, and they kept giving us opportunities to learn about things that were going on—the expansion of the football field, everything. It was so exciting. When we were able, and there was an opportunity that fit, we jumped right in there. We wanted to be a part of it, because it’s a good cause. It’s doing good things for a lot of students.
3. Student Affairs attracts top students and facilitates success.
Attracting top students means producing successful alumni, leading to positive outcomes for colleges and universities. To the student selecting where to attend, the environment outside of classes can be just as important as academics, particularly when deciding between programs where academic standards are similar or equal. Support for Student Affairs can help optimize programs that could push your institution over the top. This development professional explains how Student Affairs programs improve student success in her institution:
If we have funding to implement programs to reach every student on campus, we can ensure that every student is given the opportunity to take what they are learning in the classroom and put it to use somewhere on campus. That might be through leading an organization, or visiting another country and learning about a different culture. It’s beneficial for the university as a whole; we’re producing a more well-rounded student.
Student Affairs, when done well, affects the experience of every student on campus. Programs like student counseling services, tutoring, on-campus housing, and new student orientation all make a critical difference to student success, and indeed the college experience as a whole. These important programs are funded by student fees and are limited by what can be accomplished within a very finite budget. Philanthropy is key to funding these programs optimally, and at the same time, involving alumni who are not currently engaged. In short, it is critical to the success of these programs, which are critical to student success. The opportunity is tremendous. What can you do to help your organization facilitate this inspiring work through philanthropy?