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Preparing for the Philanthropic Future of Higher Education

By Tom Watson on May 22, 2008No Comment

For example, the growing globalization of education, indeed the rapid increase in crossnational partnerships between U.S. institutions and foreign higher education systems, promises to fundamentally alter fundraising strategies and open new, but complex, philanthropic opportunities.

Similarly, changes in the American population and the rapid growth of community colleges, which are now just beginning to develop fundraising strategies, will call for whole new approaches to philanthropy. Here are some of the highlights from our newly released report, Enabling the Progress of the Mind: The Future of Philanthropy in Higher Education in America:

  • Significant growth in the number and size of degree-granting higher education institutions will represent a continuing opportunity for philanthropic growth as the ranks of alumni(ae) swell. The propensity for BA graduates to continue on for master’s and professional education, however, may increasingly change the locus of alma mater loyalty, placing a challenge before undergraduate institutions.
  • Increasing ethnic diversity will require more nuanced fundraising. Similarly, the increasing religious diversity on all campuses will require that institutional development offices display equal sensitivity to the role of philanthropy within a variety of religions and cultures.
  • The continued failure to close minority gaps in higher education represents an opportunity for renewed philanthropic attention, but it also implies that the renewed attention must be more creative to be more effective.
  • The rising prominence of women in the ranks of college, graduate program, and professional degree program alumni is at least several decades old, and more effective ways to understand and respond to their perceptions and priorities will be critical for all institutions.
  • Women donors will need to be solicited and stewarded differently than men, with attention to the detail of programs and their impacts.  This may be particularly true of those women who complete their college educations later in life.

All of the growth and evolution in higher education has left America’s degree-granting institutions larger, more robust, and financially healthier than at any point in the past.  But the past is not necessarily a harbinger of the future.  In parallel with changes in higher education, the global economy has also changed.  The educational bar is being constantly raised.  Competitiveness in the global economy requires higher and higher levels of education among greater and greater portions of the population.  The future will not look like the past. For those who prepare now to meet it, much is possible.

This summary is excerpted from Enabling the Progress of the Mind: The Future of Philanthropy in Higher Education in America. The full report is available for purchase from

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