I recently read the slim paperback University Fundraising in Britain – A Transatlantic Partnership by William Squire.* Squire, a career diplomat, served a foundational role in both the establishment of CASE Europe (this book was published on the organization's 20th anniversary), and of professionalized university fundraising in the UK. He evolved comfortably into his role as the first head of university development at Cambridge University.
The "transatlantic partnership" of the book's subtitle is appropriately featured, since a major premise of this historical overview is the way in which (and the degree to which) British fundraisers learned from their American counterparts during the formative years of the profession's establishment and growth. The book provides the US context in great detail, but glosses over the prior history of advancement in the UK too easily, covering the period from the 13th century to 1971 in exactly 12 sentences.
However, useful and readable footnotes compensate for the book's uneven pacing in places.
In examining the US context, Squire provides good data on sources of revenue in American universities. This matters because it led, in part, to awareness in England that fundraising was a source of important revenue to public institutions in the US, not just to the famously wealthy private universities whose philanthropic successes are well-known. The implication of this was that public UK institutions could see fundraising success as well – potentially, at least. Squire also makes the important point that in US institutions, the university president has, from the beginning of formal fundraising here, been an integral participant in development efforts. It was not automatic that UK leaders would be a part of the fundraising effort, and their eventual involvement drove tremendous growth. The book has numerous examples to illustrate specific points like this.
[It was not automatic that UK leaders
would be a part of the fundraising effort]
Along the way toward learning the specific history of the field, the reader also learns the important milestones along the way – many of which follow the British tradition of naming things after leaders or authors (e.g., the Ross Group, the Thomas Report, the Pearce Review, the Woolf Report, and so on).
The book successfully tells the granular history of the profession's establishment in Britain. But a more useful outcome is illustrating the effective alignment of people at two levels in UK higher education: the working level and the policy level. This mattered in a chicken and egg way. Fundraisers in the trenches had to produce results, to show that they were performing a long-term strategic service that counted. At the same time, however, policy makers had to create structures that enhanced, encouraged and enabled systemic commitment to large-scale development efforts. A failure on either side would have stalled the broader effort.
To me, this dichotomy mirrors the dual relationship (pointed out in the 2012 Pearce Review) between two of the biggest ongoing issues in UK fundraising: 1) the "availability of professional staff" and 2) higher education's overall commitment to pursue active fundraising policy. Again, there's a push-pull component: without staff to achieve results, policy doesn't matter. But without systemic support (such as matched funding), results will be sub-optimal, no matter how hard-working and savvy gift officers might be.
As for results, Squire amply documents the enterprise's growth, with snapshots of alumni donor numbers, total money raised, and institutions participating in industry-wide meetings and surveys.
In an odd omission, the book provides no index, so finding a specific reference is a little difficult. But the table of contents provides sub-headings that make things somewhat more searchable.
[Without staff to achieve results, policy doesn't matter]
This book will be of definite interest to fundraisers working (or thinking about working) in UK schools and universities, as well as those in the charity sector. Those assuming a management or leadership role, in particular, will benefit from the historical background that Squire provides.
Reading his many specific details can make Squire's content seem almost trivial at times. The agenda of a CASE conference that took place 10 years ago hardly seems "book-worthy." But to use a familiar science metaphor, Squire is relating what happened right after the Big Bang. We know that decisions at the outset of a long-term effort will have effects that last long after the original practitioners are gone. For that reason, this book will be valuable to analysts and historians of European education, though it may seem pedestrian to those toiling in advancement today.
If the book's outlook can be summed up in one phrase, it would be "Cautiously encouraging." With a strong foundation established, fundraising in UK universities no longer has to prove itself as a worthwhile investment. However, the resources to invest in the first place remain difficult to secure, so the evolutionary road map ahead remains somewhat in question. Watch this space.
University Fundraising in Britain on iTunes (with iBooks preview)
Review by Dale Cooper in the Times Higher Ed
* The book was given to attendees at a meeting hosted by the consulting firm GG+A, which is where I obtained my copy.