University Mission Influences On Capital Campaign Strategy
by Bridget Bowers
Capital campaigns in higher education have become commonplace. "The reality at most major research institutions is that they are always planning or are in a campaign," according to the Vice President of University Resources at the University of Chicago (Soman, 2006). Stanford University recently announced a $4.3 billion campaign, just on the tails of Columbia University's announced $4 billion plan (Strout, 2006). As of October, 2006, twenty five U.S. institutions are in the midst of campaigns that are over $1 billion. Additionally, of those twenty-five, eleven are seeking total donations of over $2 billion. Duke University's $2 billion campaign ended in 2004 with a gift of $72 million, the largest in the history of the institution (Klein, 2004). University of California, Los Angeles, recently wrapped up a campaign totaling $3.05 billion, a new record (Strout, 2006). Even individual schools within institutions are beginning to launch their own fundraising initiatives. Harvard's business school is one example, raising $600 million in its first ever capital campaign (Knight, 2006).
University X (disguised throughout this essay) is entering a quiet phase of a $Z billion dollar campaign, surpassing an earlier campaign garnering just over $Y billion. At that time, it was the largest initiative ever in the Hometown area. University X faces some unique challenges, as it fights to maintain its rank among top U.S. institutions while its endowment stands at nth in the country, $Z million (source redacted). 84% of University X's endowment is restricted, whereas at peer institutions that number is closer to 69%, and 85% of need-blind undergraduate financial aid is paid for out of the operating budget, not the endowment . This figure is typically reversed at most universities, where 15% of financial aid is paid for from the operating budget .
With campaigns being fairly commonplace and the opportunities for philanthropic involvement abounding, how are Universities to make a compelling case for gifts of any size? How do Universities incorporate their mission and brand, making their case particularly unique in the competition for dollars? This paper will examine the integration of mission into the campaign planning process, and ultimately campaign themes, at University X. In order to do so, it is necessary to consider the influence of mission on strategic planning at universities in general, with the specific focus on University X's mission and upcoming capital campaign.
Institutional Mission Statement Language
The 1970s and 1980s brought about a "furor over mission statements" in corporate America, a buzz that "inevitably -- and belatedly -- reached the academy." (Morphew & Hartley, 2006). Interesting to note, however, is a 1997 study by Delucchi of liberal arts colleges and their missions that found mission statements to be a "neglected" aspect of higher education. Delucchi (1997) argued that studies have focused mainly on the "macrolevel" as opposed to mission development within institutions. The research and literature in the post 2000 years has seemingly dropped off in number with regards to this area of higher education in particular after a small flurry of interest in the 80's and 90's. With reference to incorporating mission into capital campaigns, the topic of this paper, the research is quite limited. With this in mind, an examination of selected research regarding university missions generally follows in hopes to provide context for later discussion of capital campaign planning.
Kotler and Murphy describe institutional mission as "an invisible hand that guides a college or university's diverse personnel to work independently and yet collectively toward the realization of the organization's goals" (1981, p.245). Some experts in higher education (and organizational planning generally) argue that mission statements are a crucial part of any organization both in terms of maintaining legitimacy, effectiveness, and strategic planning processes. Others, however, question whether mission statements are simply "a collection of stock phrases that are either excessively vague or unrealistically aspirational or both" (Morphew & Hartley, 2006). Whichever side experts fall on, the fact remains that mission statements are commonplace in higher education and seemingly a requirement as much time and effort goes into their development and/or modification as the case may be. Typically, mission statements are required by accrediting bodies and strategic planning is predicated on their formulation. (Morphew & Hartley, 2006).
According to Morphew & Hartley (2006), of the few studies that have empirically examined university mission statements, most researchers tend to conclude that mission statements ultimately fail to follow through on or convey any noteworthy sense of an institution's current identity" (p.457) Rather than focus and direction, they provide means to an uncertain end;"evoke an all-purpose purpose; and maximize institutional flexibility." Some experts even go on to call mission statements "vague and vapid" (p.458). If mission statements are purely rhetoric and/or a manipulation of semantics to please stakeholders, and yet strategic planning is predicated upon them where does this leave higher education and how do universities remain unique?
In addition, Morphew and Hartley (2006), in their study of 300 mission statements of U.S. four-year colleges and universities examined the following question: How do college and university mission statements differ in content, and are any differences reflective of recognized differences between institutional types?" (p.460). Their examination yielded 118 unique mission elements across the institutions which were then broken down by Carnegie Classification. Considering the focus of this paper on University X, most notable are the most common elements in the first 2-3 sentences of private college/university mission statements. The six most common elements in this list are: liberal arts, civic duty/service, diversity, student development, prepare for the world, and rigorous academically (Mophew & Hartley, 2006). Interestingly, across the board mission statements seemed to lack an aspirational quality or plan. Morphew and Hartley (2006) seem to raise more questions than they necessarily answer as they begin to uncover the complexity of university mission statements:
While there is evidence that mission statements are used to signal and symbolize, it seems more like that the subject of college and university mission statements is more complex and that institutions are using these documents to communicate their utilizing and willingness to serve in terms that are both normative and politically apt (p.469).
If one argues on the side of theorists who see missions as 'symbolic artifacts," data from Morphew and Hartley seems to support the notion that missions do not speak to vision, but are used to signal key constituencies that the institution in question shares these groups "values and goals" (p.466). Further, mission statements seem to reflect the environment of that institution, i.e. public versus private expectations and demands. To summarize, "institutions include in their mission what their benefactors value" and these, then, reflect the various values across institutions (Mophew & Hartley, 2006, p.466).
While seemingly the aforementioned research seems to point to the use of rhetoric and semantics in mission statements diluting their specificity, Morphew and Hartley (2006) did note in their discussions that what may seem like similar (and perhaps cliched) terms are actually purposefully crafted in some cases. For example, the notion of 'service" in a mission statement may refer to very different actualities across campuses, regional versus global etc. Additionally, the mention of liberal arts education may be either vague or specific depending on the external stakeholders of the institution and political underpinnings.
Berg, Csikszentmihalyi, and Nakamura, (2003) in an article entitled "Mission Possible?: Enabling Good Work In Higher Education" speak to the stakeholders and external demands mentioned by Morphew and Hartley. They describe, however, focus on creating a balance of continuity and change in response to the changing environment," which, they state, does not mean 'submitting willy-nilly to external forces. Rather it means that these forces be integrated with the institution's internal vision of a better reality" (Berg et al, 2003, p.41). Berg et al (2003) state, to survive and prosper, and to enable the good work of the people who work there, a school must live up to a set of ethical guidelines embodied in a mission that expresses the spirit of a community…" (p. 42).
Berg et al (2003) describe external forces influencing institutions into three categories:
first, the field of higher education which includes models, curriculum, and pedagogies, in addition to accrediting agencies;
second, external stakeholders which includes alumni, funding sources, employers, prospective students etc; and
third, social and cultural norms and implications.
Obviously, when these forces are in harmony it is easier to determine direction and vision of an institution and to follow through strategically with that mission: the mission is both a result of alignment and its cause" (Berg et al, 2003, p. 43). Disharmony or "misalignment" of external forces and mission make it difficult to continue with "good work" and requires either a reaffirmation or revamping of that mission (Berg et al, 2003, p. 43). According to a 1994 survey by the Association of American Colleges, 80% of institutions were revising their mission statements, perhaps for this reason.
Given the changing political, cultural, and social environments, Berg et al (2003) suggest six key questions in regards to the reexamination of mission:
What kind of school?;
To whom are we responsible?;
What are our strengths?;
Whom should we hire?;
Who shall lead?; and
When to change? (p.45-46).
The process, they note, is not one of semantics, rhetoric, and poetic statements of education, but one that should be organic" and involve the entire community," both internal and external. Why is this process so crucial? A trustee cited in Berg et al notes "the bottom line isn"t just financial. It's philosophical… What is being brought to the Board, does it strengthen the mission? Has it appropriately passed through that filter?" (Berg et al, 2003, p. 47). In terms of logistics, having a clear mission and vision can streamline programs, save precious financial resources that may be otherwise spent on misaligned goals, divide resources fairly, and saves time and energy in planning processes as the structure is already in place.
Although, an explicit connection between mission and campaign planning is not readily available in recent research one can surmise that the commonality of stakeholders would inextricably tie the two together. University X's specific mission will now be examined in light of the research cited above.
University X's Mission
University X's mission is as follows:
University X is a Christian, student centered research university. Established in 1xxx in the spirit of the new republic, the University was founded on the principle that serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures, and beliefs promotes intellectual, ethical, and spiritual understanding. We embody this principle in the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff, our commitment to justice and the common good, our intellectual openness, and our international character.
An academic community dedicated to creating and communicating knowledge,
University X provides excellent undergraduate, graduate, and professional education for the glory of God and the well-being of humankind.
University X educates women and men to be reflective lifelong learners, to be responsible and active participants in civic life, and to live generously in service to others (Source redacted).
The six most common themes in the mission statements of private universities examined by Morphew & Hartley, once again, are: liberal arts, civic duty/service, diversity, student development, prepare for the world, and rigorous academically. Obviously, University X's mission statement seems to embody the majority of these either explicitly or implicitly. For example, while the term liberal arts is not used specifically, the notion of reflective life long learning" seems to conjure notions of this term. University X's mission as a Christian institution does include significant religious references that would not be apparent in private non-religiously affiliated institutions. Of note is the fact that criticism of University X by alumni constituents in particular is typically regarding mission/vision and specifically whether they believe the university to be "too Christian" or "not Christian enough."
Also interesting in terms of mission, University X was not always a national university. This was a goal that came to the forefront in the 1970s -- 1980s. As University X grew in size and prestige, the mission would undoubtedly change as well either specifically in its language or generally in its connotations: Once a regional university, University X now competes and contributes on the national and international stages in a rapidly shifting global context" (Source expunged). As mentioned by Morphew & Hartley, many institutions revise their missions and University X is no doubt one of those. It maintained, however, its historic roots and Christian values upon which it was founded.
To summarize, the key elements of University X's mission include: Christianity, student centered nature, a research focus, the importance of diversity, encouragement of civic engagement and service to others, as well as dedication to justice or commitment to "the common good." While it does include lofty terms that are hard to argue about, not to mention assess, in the realm of higher education one cannot truly look critically at the mission without understanding its role and visibility at the university in terms of guiding principles in strategic planning. Does it, in fact, inform university programs and planning? The next question, then, becomes how this mission is reflected in the campaign planning process and campaign themes.
According to Peter Buchanan, past president of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), capital campaigns need serious rethinking:
The recent billion-dollar campaigns and the numerous other efforts in the hundreds of millions, some of which now go on for a whole decade, face a rising crescendo of criticism from within and without the academy. The public is beginning to suspect campuses are more interested in obtaining more money than in providing better education – greed rather than need (Buchanan, 1992, p.250).
A recent article in the New York Times entitled "The University of Raising Big Money," for example, states that money raised in capital campaigns helps the elite institutions market themselves" rather than helping students (Nocera, 2006, para 3). The article questions the motives of universities with already high endowments and tuitions who are launching billion dollar plus campaigns. The author, for example, looks specifically at Stanford and asks: "Wait! Does Stanford really need a new campus for the business school? Not in the sense that its business school students aren"t managing just fine" (Nocera, 2006, para. 2). Clearly there are some skeptics of university finance and campaigning.
Buchanan (1992) argues that the process by which universities have initiated fund raising dates back to the 1950's and 1960's when economic conditions were quite different. Now, in the days post Enron and September 11th, both the media and the public are much more skeptical, including in their views of higher education.
Buchanan suggests the following reforms" in capital campaign planning:
1. Get your house in order before you begin.
2. Develop a strategy and choose the most urgent needs.
3. Decide on the size and duration of the campaign.
4. Choose a capital campaign or a general campaign.
5. Decide how your institution will organize the campaign.
6. Educate and explain thoroughly (Buchanan, 1992, p.251-253).
While advance planning seems like an obvious need when starting a capital campaign, the reality is that economic conditions can sometimes create a demand so great that time is of the essence. According to Buchanan, however, the planning that goes into the capital campaign process can really be the determinant of its success. In other words, avoiding a thorough planning process due to extreme need will only backfire in the end. The first step in planning, Buchanan (2003) suggests is to streamline processes at the University as a whole: "reduce expenses, eliminate duplication and wasteful practices and make your college as efficient and productive as possible" (p. 251). Stakeholders are not oblivious to these practices in higher education, as universities are often scrutinized for their poor business practices. Giving on the part of alumni or corporations is much more likely if there is confidence in the overall operations of the institution.
Understanding the vision for the institution, say in the next ten years, is also crucial for those who want to give financially. They want to know that their money will be well spent and the institution values are in line with their own. Campaigns require an in-depth audit of its own strategic goals and hard look at the strength of the mission, board of directors, donor support and executive leadership" (Gardyn, 2005, para. 5). Top priorities for the campaign once decided upon, must be clearly and specifically delineated and must remain consistent for the duration. Additionally, those goals must be compelling to potential donors/stakeholders (Gardyn, 2005, para. 10). Strategic planning is not just a buzz word in the preparation for a capital campaign. It allows for somewhat specific financial forecasting which major donors will require before committing to a donation in addition to building campus synergies.
With the plethora of billion-dollar-plus campaigns in today's market one major question institutions need to ask themselves is "How much?" What amount is not only needed but feasible given the environment of that institution? Many "formulas" or guiding principles are used in practice to determine this amount with quiet phases" of campaigns used a testing ground for success. While five to ten year campaigns are typical (2-3 years in the quiet phase with 5-8 in the public phase), Buchanan (2003) states that campaigns should be as "brief as possible, and very pointed, not lengthy or vague" (p.252).
Education of faculty, staff, and volunteers is also crucial to campaign success, and not just those within the advancement" arm of the institution. Even to those who work at a university, not to mention alumni or the public, the terminology and process of capital campaigns are new and not obvious (i.e. endowment logistics and realities, the meaning of a quiet or nucleus phase, etc). Making the campaign transparent in terms of process and goals is important for both donors and solicitors.
One point raised, once again, by skeptics and specifically in the New York Times article by Nocera, is that the planning process on the part of the university is really about finding out what donors find compelling rather than what the university needs or its vision. Like many universities, Nocera (2006) sites a large, well endowed, research institution that spent the silent phase "talking to donors, gauging the market and getting a sense of what alums and others might be willing to fund" (para. 13). Nocera (2006) further argues that often campaigns are about keeping up with competitors in an upward spiral of bigger salaries and better facilities" (para. 19).
New York University's most recent campaign, of which they are $1.8 billion into their $2.5 billion goals, enumerates the following themes: "faculty recruitment and retention, campus improvement, student financial aid, the school curriculum, and increasing alumni participation" (Soman, 2006). Yale's $3 billion campaign is focusing on hundreds of new work internships around the world designed to prepare students for more global-oriented careers" (Christoffersen, 2006). Yale is looking to expand education to specifically include nations that will influence the 21st century which includes India and China (Christoffersen, 2006). Like other universities, Yale is also seeking to increase scholarships, though they specify for international students, and also to invest in science and technology. Further, Yale is hoping to increase access through the development of a financial aid policy stating that students whose families make less than $45,000 do not pay tuition (Christoffersen, 2006). Among other goals: a new School of Drama and Theater, scholarships for careers in the arts, and expansion of the Peabody Museum and School of Medicine's research facilities (Christoffersen, 2006).
Cornell University is also, not surprisingly, in the midst of a capital campaign that began in 2002 (Holmes, 2006). Not unlike the aforementioned universities, Cornell is focusing on the sciences, financial ad, maintaining and attracting faculty, and facilities (Holmes, 2006). Finally, Stanford University's $4.3 billion campaign is seeking to "focus the university's whole range of expertise in new ways on the most important issues of our time" (Strout, 2006). Specifically, it is seeking to raise $1.4 billion for efforts to seek solutions to the century's most pressing global challenges;" $1.175 billion for enhancing K-12 education via education of teachers; and $1.725 billion for teaching, research, and facilities (Strout, 2006).
Seemingly, there are themes that emerge in the case of all campaigns briefly described. Globalization, faculty recruitment, and access/financial aid seem to be the top three followed closely by facilities, research, and academic bolstering. Perhaps it is not happenstance that these also fall in line with current trends and issues in higher education and specifically the recently announced Spellings Report on Higher Education (Field, 2006). The question remains, what makes each unique?
University Xs Campaign
An interview with University X's Director of Campaign Initiatives provided insight into the campaign planning process at University X. Multiple buzz words and themes are abounding at University X amidst the buss of the new campaign: creative engagement," animating passions," and witness to history" are just a few. After extensive market research to determine brand and standing among constituents, University X has created its niche as the top W university focused explicitly on the pursuit of academic excellence and the formation of character, conscience, and citizenship" (director, personal communication, 2006, November 6). According to the University X Campaign Playbook (2006), the following are the enumerated campaign themes/targets:
1. To redouble the efforts to make the life-changing benefits of a University X education available to those who are most in need and who stand to benefit the most ($500 million) [Need blind admission]
2. To more fully optimize the extraordinary intellectual potential and dedication of the University X faculty, and to ensure University X's prominent place among the world's leading universities, by promoting and rewarding excellence ($400 million) [Faculty excellence]
3. To enable greater congruence with the ideal of the liberal arts education and to prepare University X graduates for a future in which an understanding of science will be fundamental to conscientious and thoughtful decision making ($200 million) [Sciences]
4. To strengthen the University's Christian identity by reaffirming its relevance to the opportunities and obligations of the 21st century through a series…(references expunged)
The very beginnings of the Campaign Playbook (2006) (which was provided to the Board, among others) recall University X's history and NN-year-old tradition of Christian education. It even continues on to state specifically that the Board of Directors plays a vital role in advancing the vision and mission of University X (italics added) (p.3).
It also generally references mission in its articulation of the fine balance that University X faces in the 21st century: If we attempt to distinguish ourselves on academic excellence alone, we cast ourselves squarely in the shadows of the deep-pocketed privates. If we skew our position too far toward values, we run the risk of sacrificing our academic prestige. If we stand for the combination of excellence and conscience, we can and will compete with any institution anywhere" (source expunged, 2006, p. 2-3).
The aforementioned themes came to be articulated as a result of a very deliberate planning process initiated by University X's president, following the last campaign in 2003. He engaged faculty and deans in a democratic system in order to sift out major needs and priorities. Each dean was responsible for submitting two documents. The first asked for what the dollar amount they would need in the next campaign, broken down into expenditures, and the second was a competitive analysis asking what made their programs/school/curriculum unique in the industry This allowed the President and his team to cull this information for cross-cutting themes. This process was quite purposeful and intensive, which prompted someimpatience on the part of a few alumni. However, this being the President's first campaign, he wanted to make this process a dialogue that was thorough and planful.
The quiet phase of the campaign is focused on "readiness" before a public launch. During this phase the campaign themes and case statements for each will be "tested" with stakeholders and donors to determine if they are compelling. The quiet, or leadership phase, will also focus on further development of the case for giving, principal and leadership giving, institutional pipeline, budget and staffing, volunteer leadership, and marketing and communications. The threshold is p - q% of the current $XX billion goal before a public launch. Typically this percentage comes from "insiders" such as the Board and other major donors (Buchanan, 1992, p.254).
Much as was discussed by Buchanan, University X seems to be focusing on internal processes and restructuring in the planning phase in order to streamline processes prior to the public launch. The Vice President for Advancement in his tenure since 2005 has done major organizational restructuring including dividing the Office of Advancement into alumni relations and fund raising teams, charges that were previously intertwined. Budget planning and restructuring has also been a major task in planning for the upcoming campaign.
In terms of institutional pipeline, a major Initiative has been launched to discover, engage, and cultivate constituents who have previously not reengaged with University X post graduation. This initiative involves the individual, in-person interviewing of alumni across graduation years and schools within University X. It calls for a total of 10,000 interviews within a 3 year period.
Training has begun to familiarize Office of Advancement staff with the intricacies of the key campaign goals and themes in addition to University X history, admissions practices etc. through workshops, panels and the launch of an intranet with campaign information. Various training sessions will also take place for volunteer groups such as the Board of Directors and various other Boards, a Dean Series, Leadership Weekend, and the creation of a Campaign Volunteer Leadership team.
Integration of Mission into Campaign Themes at University X
The imperative of University X's upcoming campaign is quite significant. Termed "k/n" by Advancement staff, referring to University Xs U.S. News & World Report ranking of k versus its ranking of n among university endowments, in order to compete globally as is the vision for University X, additional funding is not just necessary but critical. That being said, the planning and clarity of University X's campaign is critical as well.
University Xs mission, once again, focuses on the key elements of: Christianity, a student centered nature, a research focus, the importance of diversity, encouragement of civic engagement and service to others, as well as dedication to justice or commitment to the common good. The campaign themes seem, to this author, to be quite an expansion of this mission, although still in line with its meaning. In other words, the campaign themes seem to more aptly and vividly describe the environment, vision, and plan for the university. One must tease out meanings of the succinct terminology in the mission statement in order to fully understand University Xs niche in the realm of higher education. For example, the term "Christian" is used in the mission and yet the ideals of a Christian education are not specifically enumerated within the mission itself. Additionally, the mission mentions "international character" and "human kind" but does not specifically mention the global nature and intentions of University X's culture inherent in the campaign themes.
The Campaign Playbook does make several references to University Xs founding and mission. The following are excerpts that are particularly salient with regards to mission:
Clearly mission was taken into consideration when crafting and planning the upcoming campaign, however, it seems as though cultural and societal implications were considered as well, not to mention stakeholder tendencies and feedback. This is not atypical in mission and campaign planning given the previously mentioned changing political, cultural, and social environments. Interestingly, the six key questions in regards to the examination of mission as cited by Berg et al (i.e.What kind of school?; To whom are we responsible?; What are our strengths?; Whom should we hire?; Who shall lead?; and When to change?) seem to be questions asked in terms of this campaign as well
Globalization, faculty recruitment, and access/financial aid are themes present not just in University X's campaign but many other institutions in the same peer group. This is probably not coincidence as society as a whole is becoming more global, excellence in education is becoming more competitive, and access/financial aid is becoming a topic of debate. The most frequently sited themes in mission statements of private institutions according to Morphew & Hartley are also present mostly in both University X's mission and campaign (2006). What, then, sets University X apart in their quest for $ZZ billion?
Perhaps themes are largely the same in campaigns among like institutions, what some may refer to as rhetoric, but it is the corresponding action plan that is the difference. For example, University X's Christian identity leads to a focus on religion, politics, and peace and specifically the CC Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs which will have a very different flavor than a public or non-denominational institution. In other words, while this center will deal with global challenges, much as many other institutions are, it will be doing so in a manner that is unique to University X due to its Christian mission and foundations in Hometown. Likewise, the Center for Public Scholarship will also have a strategic plan that is uniquely University X.
University X's upcoming capital campaign has its foundation in research, community building and synergies across campuses and disciplines. The spirit of the mission is readily apparent within the planning process and outcomes of the campaign. The campaign, however, seems to go beyond the spirit of the mission and paints a more vivid picture of the vision of the university. Perhaps the critics of missions are correct in their assessment that mission statements try to be all inclusive and vague purposefully to allow for flexibility and change. Perhaps they are correct in the assumption that missions speak to environmental explanations. That is not to say that mission does not have a role in university planning. On the contrary, it provides a much needed definition and cornerstone on which the university can be built.
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