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Pursuing excellence through outreach and fundraising: the Council for Advancement and Support of Education

| March 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Amir Pasic

As in many other parts of the world, educational leaders in Africa are working to build an infrastructure for raising funds to cope with increasing costs and declining government support.

Despite these challenges, many African leaders who attended a November 2012 Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) conference in Cape Town expressed optimism about becoming more self-sustaining, thanks to growing opportunities for professional development.

CASE is an international association of educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf. Advancement is a strategic, integrated method of managing relationships to increase understanding and support among an educational institution’s key constituents, including alumni and friends, government policymakers, the media, members of the community and philanthropic entities of all types. The primary core disciplines of educational advancement are alumni relations, communications, marketing and fundraising. CASE’s membership includes more than 3 600 colleges and universities, primary and secondary independent and international schools, and non-profit organisations in 82 countries.

The 2012 Educational Advancement in Africa conference – which CASE co-hosted with the University of Cape Town and which was attended by 100 representatives from 28 institutions in nine African countries – mainly focused on how to build stronger relationships with alumni and raise funds for campus projects. Gathering together highly respected international and African presenters, this conference is representative of the myriad CASE resources and training in fundraising and alumni development available to educational institutions – whether new to advancement or with more experienced operations.

Work supporting higher education

Since 2003, CASE has received grant funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York as part of an initiative by the foundation to strengthen higher education in Africa. Carnegie support has enabled CASE to also hold conferences in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda for advancement professionals, vice chancellors, bursars, finance directors and other senior university officials, as their institutions established and developed advancement programmes. In the decade of its involvement in Africa, CASE has helped indigenous advancement professionals progress in their careers and establish their reputations as leaders in their institutions.

CASE is currently focusing on a network of universities, training them to secure philanthropic support to fund postgraduate scholarships and upgrades to their research infrastructure. Many postgraduate and doctoral students face financial challenges in completing their studies, and African universities often lack the necessary resources, including up-to-date research equipment and facilities, to attract and keep the next generation of academics.

Independent schools also feeling the benefit of spotlighting advancement

As CASE works to strengthen advancement programmes at higher education institutions in Africa, primary and secondary independent and international schools on the continent are also benefiting from the rising profile of advancement. Growing awareness of advancement helps build understanding and support for the important role of all educational institutions, and of the alumni relations, communications, fundraising and marketing professionals who work on their behalf.

Independent schools, in particular, must communicate to their constituents the way in which philanthropy improves access to education. As private giving to education increases in many places around the world, people often worry that access to educational institutions will be restricted to only wealthy individuals. It is important for schools and their advancement professionals to dispel this mistaken assumption. What ties schools together across the globe is a commitment to scholarships, fellowships and the kind of philanthropy that expands access to education.

The promise of Africa’s bright future hinges on continued investment in the talented individuals who run its educational institutions, and the communities that nurture them. Positive change as a result of educational philanthropy can only happen when advancement practitioners in higher education as well as those at independent schools unite with a certain code of ethics, shared knowledge of proven techniques and professional camaraderie. CASE members in communities in North America and Europe have achieved success at their institutions and revolutionised the profession by governing themselves and identifying their own best practices.

This volunteer-driven approach is a hallmark of CASE. More than 4 500 advancement professionals serve as board members, speakers, authors, conference planners and more with the association. As CASE expands into new regions around the world, it works with volunteers in these areas to develop resources and training so that locals can adapt advancement practices to their own unique circumstances.

CASE has an Africa advisory board, with United States and United Kingdom-based professionals working alongside African leaders to guide its operations on the continent. There is significant interest in growing participation from independent schools representatives in such future planning.

Opportunities for independent schools

As part of the Carnegie grant, CASE is also providing online training courses, in-person conferences and various tools and resources for vice chancellors, deans and professionals who work in fundraising and alumni relations at African universities. The training is being tailored to meet the varying advancement needs of these operations, many of which are nascent. The online training and in-person conferences are also available for a modest fee to advancement professionals at any African institution, including independent schools.

Advancement professionals from independent schools will find that a lot of the material covered in upcoming online training sessions,1 although developed with higher education institutions in mind, is relevant to their work. For example, the theme of many sessions is how small advancement operations – such as those with a handful of employees – can do more with their limited resources. Some of the diverse topics of upcoming sessions include the role of academics in the fundraising process, strategic planning for advancement and getting the most out of social media.

In addition, CASE has launched an online tool for educational institutions with new and emerging development programmes that provides basic, start-up information on fundraising as well as guidance from advancement experts for building a strong programme. Funded by the Higher Education Fundraising Council for England, Fundraising Fundamentals2 is a multimedia resource that provides documents, templates and video interviews with institutional leaders and advancement professionals from around the world. Topics include how to set reasonable fundraising expectations; how to cultivate a culture of asking and how to adapt programmes and practices to meet the needs of individual institutions.

The resource, which is free and available to all, features two sections – one tailored specifically for institutional leaders, and another section for development directors. Each section also includes various resources and action items. Fundraising Fundamentals provides a look into the variety of advancement products and services that CASE provides to its members around the world.

Perhaps most interesting to many in South Africa’s wellestablished independent schools is CASE’s largest annual conference, the CASE-NAIS Independent Schools Conference,3 which brings together more than 1 000 advancement professionals and school heads to learn how to enhance their fundraising and alumni outreach, as well as communications and marketing. At CASE-NAIS, as at other conferences in Europe and Asia, educational leaders ask how they can make wise investments in their advancement operations to prepare their institutions and their students for a brighter future.

Vision for the future

As CASE has expanded around the globe and the population of advancement professionals in those regions has grown to a critical mass, school-specific programming has grown alongside higher education programming. CASE looks forward to exploring the creation of a special track of programming especially for independent schools in Africa. Such opportunities, however, are dependent upon volunteers in the region raising their hands and embracing the project of adapting CASE resources and the CASE network to support their profession.

CASE Asia-Pacific, which was launched in Singapore in 2007, now has about 180 institutional members – about a quarter of which are independent schools. The proportion of school members to higher education members is even higher in CASE Europe, which was launched in London in 1994. And for CASE worldwide, schools make up 32% of all membership. Amazing changes have taken place in the advancement profession in the UK, in particular. More than two decades ago, very few institutions outside of Oxford and Cambridge universities did any fundraising at all. Today, there’s a formal survey that tracks all private giving to higher education across the nation, and the annual CASE Europe conference, which includes a special track for schools, draws almost 1 000 participants.

CASE welcomes the opportunity to become more involved with the growth of educational advancement in Africa. Whether a member or not, if your work or your passion involves the advancement of education, CASE is a home for you.


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Category: Autumn 2014

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