Many Student Affairs professionals are surprised when they find that their roles have a development/fundraising component. The idea of asking for money from alumni, parents, and others can be intimidating—and it certainly is not what most had in mind when they began their work in Student Affairs. But the opportunity to improve resources, facilities, and experiences for students is tremendous—and involvement in meaningful philanthropy can be incredibly rewarding for all involved.
Here are four important opportunities that Student Affairs professionals may be missing:
1. The Opportunity To Share Your Enthusiasm
Donors (and potential donors) are eager to be inspired. In your role as a Student Affairs professional, you are passionate about the well-being of students. This enthusiasm, when shared, can ignite a similar passion in potential donors. It’s exciting for anyone to join the vision of an inspiring leader. When you, as that leader, talk about your work, do you share your enthusiasm for the positive impact your work makes in the lives of students? One donor explains what he expects from Student Affairs leaders:
As a donor, I want to know what it is you do. Tell me three things that make me excited about your organization. Then tell me three things that bother you; what are you doing to change those? This takes a person with extraordinary vision, passion, energy, and the ability to get people to go do [the vision] with them.
2. The Opportunity To Expand Your Vision
If you plan your vision based on the budget you receive from student fees or university allotments, you are thinking too small. Philanthropy opens the door to possibilities that go beyond what is possible within your current funding model. One Student Affairs leader describes how this revelation has changed her vision:
I began to see the possibilities of what could happen if people donated to these programs. I’d never thought that way before; it was always state funds or local funds. I had the opportunity to say, “Oh! I can have ideas! We can do things as a center that we can’t do right now, and how wonderful would that be?”
3. The Opportunity To Involve Alumni of All Ages
Recent graduates are likely to feel connected to the student organizations that were meaningful to them, and alumni from previous generations also are likely to have fond memories of their involvement. Both are excellent potential donors for Student Affairs. By helping students see how philanthropy impacts their programs, Student Affairs leaders can plant the seeds for future, ongoing engagement. One student leader explains why she plans to continue to support the programs she currently enjoys:
I’ve seen the financial pressure firsthand as a student leader, so when I graduate, I think I’ll approach my own Student Affairs philanthropy just as I’ve seen other donors approach giving: I’ll look for a need and then imagine how my contribution can fulfill that need. Because we are currently student leaders, we know where those needs are, so as we start making money and being productive citizens in the world, we can give back to those identified needs.
4. The Opportunity To Provide Joy and Meaning
Donors do not make major gifts merely for the tax deductions; when they make meaningful contributions, it is because they are passionate about a cause. The joy donors experience when they contribute to something that is meaningful to them is something they cannot find in any other way—and when we help facilitate these contributions, we make joy possible. This donor describes her view of supporting Student Affairs:
Folks always talk about not wanting to ask for money—but when your work is in an area where a potential donor is interested, it’s really not a sell. As you become more engaged, you meet our students, you see the programs, you see the needs—it spurs you on to want to help in those areas. I don’t see it as them coming to me asking me for money. I see it as them asking me to be involved in areas that they know I would get some degree of satisfaction out of supporting our students. To be able to contribute meaningfully is something I’m interested in doing without a sell, really.
Consider your own program. Do you see fundraising as a way to provide opportunities for potential donors who care about students to discover additional meaning through their contributions? Are you envisioning what would be possible for you to accomplish if your budget was not a concern? Are you sharing your enthusiasm for student programs with alumni, parents, community members, and others?