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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

Education, Finance|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

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