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Student Affairs Development and External Relations

by on May 16, 2012

Our latest KC Wednesday Post comes from the Student Affairs Development and External Relations KC and is written by Dr. Kimberly Field, Director of Development, Student Affairs at Penn State University.

When you hear the word Development what is your go to reaction as a Student Affairs Professional. Most everyone thinks about student development, maybe you start dredging up memories of identity development theory from class or think about the personal development you have experiences as a professional or para-professional. I would guess that for many of us our first reaction isn’t to think about our colleagues across campus engaged in professional fundraising, or in their lexicon, development work. As someone who has been a student of student affairs and college student personnel and consistently worked to raise money for student affairs shops, I can say confidently that our work in fundraising is not the different.

Professionals in both student affairs and fundraising use the same skill sets but to different ends. Student affairs aim is to enrich student experiences and promote personal development, whereas fundraisers end is to support opportunities for alumni and donors to enrich not only the campus, but also their own experiences, through philanthropy. In student affairs, we develop relationships with students that are built on mutual respect and trust. We challenge them and support them. We ask tough questions that they have to contemplate seriously in order to develop and grow personally. When we are doing our work well, it is hard, but incredibly gratifying. It may take time and effort with our advisees, but in the end, we all benefit from seeing them mature into fine young adults. Occasionally we encounter those students that, despite our best efforts and attention, aren’t prepared or interested in developing.

Having been in the realm of fundraising now for the past 10 years, I can assure you that much of my time is spent developing relationships between the donor and the University that are also based on mutual respect and trust. I often challenge donors to think critically about the impact they want to have through their philanthropy, and I have to support them as they explore those options. It is an intensive process, which demands donors to consider their capacity and inclination to make a profound difference in the work of the University. When you ask a donor to consider what they would like to do with their money to make a difference in this world, it takes patience and comfort to let them figure out the answer. It takes time and commitment to the relationship to get to a gift, but when donors make that contribution and you see the impact of their philanthropy personified in the work we do in Student Affairs, it is incredibly gratifying. And occasionally, despite the time and energy spent working with a donor, they decide against making an investment in the University.

As student affairs professionals we can be an invaluable asset to fundraisers. We use the same skill sets and most importantly, we have established relationships with our University’s future donors.  In a recent CASE Currents article the relationship between Student Affairs and Alumni Relations was highlighted. In so many respects, this ties all of it together – it show cases the ways in which our work can bring synergy to our efforts to be lifelong educators. Now some will say, alumni relations and fundraising are different things, but in the way you know a student who is not engaged will be less likely to persist and succeed, we in development know that alumni and prospective donors who are not effectively engaged, will be far less likely to make contributions to the institution. The Student Affairs Development and External Relations Knowledge Community explores this relationship between Student Affairs and our colleagues who are involved in that other kind of Development on our campuses. To learn more or for additional literature feel free to contact me via email at kmf20@psu.edu.

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