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Catholic college and university presidents: Fundraising initiatives and identity maintenance

Derek M Wesley, Johnson & Wales University


The role of Catholic college and university presidents in the 21st century is multi-faceted and complex. This study characterized that role with particular emphasis on fund-raising techniques and maintenance of institutional Catholic identity by considering the following questions: (1) What is the evolving role of Catholic college/university presidents with regard to fundraising initiatives? (2) What are the characteristics of fundraising techniques used by Catholic colleges/universities and their presidents? (3) How do Catholic college/university presidents factor the Catholic identity into their fundraising strategies? (4) Which fundraising techniques are related to successful campaigns and, thus, can be judged to be best practices? This study incorporated a concurrent mixed methods approach. The quantitative phase obtained data by means of a questionnaire sent to Catholic college/university presidents of four-year institutions in the United States (N = 177). During the qualitative phase, individual interviews were conducted with a sample group of Catholic college presidents in New England and the Midwest (N = 6). Descriptive statistics and factor analysis were utilized to analyze the questionnaire data, while themes that developed from the interviews were coded and translated into narrative passages. This study was distinctive because it surveyed a variety of Catholic college leaders, who collectively represented varying degrees of experience and leadership styles and represented both the clergy and laity. The major finding was the positive link between promoting a strong Catholic identity for an institution and increased fundraising results (all interview participants and 81% of questionnaire respondents supported this finding). Secondary findings emphasized the overall importance of development in the duties of Catholic college/university presidents (Drozdowski, 2005), the advantage of forming strong and lasting relationships with key constituents (Weigel, 2005), and the necessity of promoting a prominent sense of Catholic identity on campus (Reilly, 2001). Additionally, the ability to connect donors with specific, tangible development initiatives was revealed to be an extremely advantageous fundraising practice. The findings of this study have ramifications for both current and future Catholic college/university presidents. As demands and responsibilities on these leaders continue to grow, possessing a sound strategy to deal with the various complexities will be advantageous to them and to their institutions.

Subject Area

School finance|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Wesley, Derek M, "Catholic college and university presidents: Fundraising initiatives and identity maintenance" (2007). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3315136.