Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Symbiotic Path to Mutual Value: How Small, Private Liberal Arts Institutions Understand and Manage Donor Influence
by vandenBerg, Matthew P., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2019, 215; 13897912
Abstract (Summary)

The education of postsecondary students has become an increasingly cost-intensive enterprise, and many higher education institutions are now reliant on philanthropic support to meet their financial needs. Higher education advancement offices face mounting pressure to perform at extraordinary levels. Magnifying the urgency of the work, colleges and universities are contending with intensifying competition for limited philanthropic support, unpredictable endowment returns, and declining government support, among other headwinds. Meanwhile, advancement practitioners observe that individual donors, the largest source of charitable support, are progressively viewing themselves as partners with the institutions they fund, rather than as passive benefactors. Today’s donors commonly desire control over the use of their gifts, anticipate being asked to provide counsel and lend expertise, and expect to see the results and impacts of their support. Scholars disagree on the extent to which donors exert control or influence on institutions, and there is little empirical evidence to provide clarity on the matter. Drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews with presidents and other campus leaders at numerous small, private liberal arts colleges, this study discerned how donors shape institutional behaviors, priorities, and choices. Interviews also revealed how leaders managed their relationships with highly engaged donors and identified the most common strategies employed to mitigate or redirect unwanted influence. Moreover, this study ascertained how institutional leaders attempt to build productive and mutually satisfying relationships with philanthropists who seek to exert significant influence. Small, private liberal arts colleges provide a useful lens through which to study donor influence, especially considering that pronounced, escalating financial pressures have created doubts about their survival as a sector. Ultimately, this study aspires to add meaningfully to the existing literature on donor influence, to facilitate better-informed fundraising and management by campus leaders, and to promote greater accord between philanthropists and the institutions they support.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gasman, Marybeth
Commitee: Finney, Joni E., Drezner, Noah
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Higher Education Administration, Educational leadership, Higher education
Keywords: Advancement, Development, Donor, Fundraising, Influence, Philanthropy
Publication Number: 13897912
ISBN: 9781085647359
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