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KC Wednesday: Fundraising and External Relations, It’s Not Just for Development Officers!

by on February 6, 2013

Our latest KC Wednesday post comes to us from the Student Affairs Fundraising and External Relations Knowledge Community and is authored by Sara Hartley, Assistant to the VP for External Affairs at the University of Alabama and Incoming Chair of the KC.

How many times have you thought to yourself “I don’t do fundraising, I’ll leave that to the development or major gifts officer”?

The concept of fundraising itself can daunt student affairs professionals. After all, we went into the field to change student’s lives, give them experiences they may not find in a classroom and teach them skills they need in their careers—not to do a sales pitch! However, in today’s society fundraising in student affairs is becoming more and more prevalent and necessary to push our programs forward.  Whether you need some catering at an event or thousands of dollars to endow a program, there are potential funding opportunities everywhere. And as you become passionate about your programs and your students, the fundraising part of the job can become a natural part of the process.  When you believe in the program for which you are seeking funding, and you find a donor whose interest matches, both parties feel a great sense of accomplishment.

You have a great product to sell and you are your development officer’s best partner but you have to be aware of development opportunities and listen for clues.  You are on the front lines with students, parents and alumni and you are able to build strong relationships that can assist your development officer. As you talk with students, alumni and parents, listen for what their interests are. For example, do you have a parent constantly praising the work you are doing in the Community Service Center? Has their student grown as a result of the program? This is good information to know, especially if you need funding for Alternative Spring Break!

Fundraising and external relations is a growing area within student affairs and skills in these areas are necessary for professionals as they move into senior student affairs officer roles.  The Student Affairs Fundraising and External Relations Knowledge Community brings professionals from all over student affairs together to talk about strategies, strengthen relationships and collaboration, and share creative ideas.  If you know nothing about fundraising, you can begin to learn here. If you know everything about fundraising, you can continue to learn here.

I remember attending my first Student Affairs Fundraising conference as a brand new professional in student affairs.  I knew nothing about the area but thought it may relate to my work with parent orientation and parent programs.  By the end of the conference I found several ways to connect my work to our area of advancement and since then have been asked to lead the development efforts on my campus.  Developing my knowledge in this area has “paid” off in so many different ways. I encourage anyone and everyone to think beyond their position and see how they can partner to bring additional funding and external resources to their campus.

Opportunities to get involved with the KC include:

  • Attend the Student Affairs Fundraising Conference
  • Volunteer on the Conference Planning Committee
  • Serve as a KC Regional Representative
  • Assist with publications on fundraising and external relations topics

If you are interested in learning more about the Student Affairs Fundraising and External Relations Knowledge Community, contact Sara Hartley, KC Chair-Elect at

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