In 2012 HEFCE published a review of philanthropy in UK higher education that showed what tremendous success there has been in growing philanthropic support to universities in the last 10 years. The report concluded that if the current rate of acceleration in philanthropic income continues, UK universities will attract gifts worth £2 billion a year from some 640,000 donors by 2022.
The report showed that investment in fundraising brings results whatever the size or type of university. If this success is to continue we must have a strong and growing group of educational fundraisers who are skilled in leading development teams and working with academics and institutional leaders. At the moment the pool of professional fundraisers working in UK higher education is too small. In this review of the fundraising workforce many of those interviewed expressed anxieties about the vulnerabilities that come from the growing, sometimes fierce, competition between universities to attract the best from this restricted supply. As a newly appointed vice-chancellor in 2006, wanting to invest in a fundraising programme, I became acutely aware of the difficulties of recruiting a well-qualified team. There seemed to be an unnecessary vulnerability to us all in the competition that we engaged in to attract the best fundraisers. The limited pool was leading to escalation in salaries and over-rapid career progression for fundraising staff across the UK.
In order to attract more people to become educational fundraisers, there needs to be an attractive career structure and a shared understanding of the skills and knowledge-base required to be effective at different stages of that career. This is the issue that guided this second report. What should a career path in educational fundraising look like and how can we retain the best people?