Understanding higher education fundraisers in the United States This link opens in a new window
Since their earliest days, the U.S. higher education institutions have relied on philanthropic support to achieve their missions. What began as incidental is now a highly organized process of fundraising that accounts for tens of billions of dollars annually. As institutions' desire for private support grows, so too does the demand for successful fundraising professionals. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative analysis, this survey-based study ( n = 508) of U.S. higher education fundraising personnel provides new knowledge and grounds fundraisers' position in historical and contemporary literature about fundraisers and professionalism. The findings highlight notable generational, income, and gender differences within the higher education sector and between higher education and the greater profession. The analysis shows an established knowledge-base and set of learnable skills for higher education fundraisers-which are best applied when combined with particular personal attributes. Although the latter are critically important, without full and fair attention to the former, the occupation is unlikely to garner full professional status. This study highlights, the path forward highlights the complexity of contemporary fundraising, is a reminder that fundraising is relationship- and information-driven, and indicates that select, strategic efforts can further professionalize the field. In particular, fundraisers in the education sector may have special opportunities to advance the professionalization of their occupation.