On May 13, 2013 Jonathan Fanton delivered a set of opening remarks to the King Baudouin Foundation, which supports initiatives across the globe aimed at improving living conditions and quality of life for different populations. Here, Dr. Fanton discusses successful strategic planning and fundraising strategies of universities.
Jonathan F. Fanton
King Baudouin Foundation
May 13, 2013
Let me begin by thanking Jean Paul Warmoes for the opportunity to talk with you about the role of strategic planning in fund raising success. I am especially pleased to see colleagues from Nigeria where MacArthur has invested $60 million in strengthening higher education. I have visited Bayero, Ibadan and Port Harcourt many times, indeed am an honorary alumnus of Bayero and Ibadan.
I have seen the planning – fund raising nexus from both sides. In the 1970s I ran Yale’s large capital campaign in a turn around year. I was Vice President for Planning at the University of Chicago. And President of the New School for Social Research for 17 years when fund raising was a matter of survival.
I say both sides because I spent 30 years raising money for universities and 10 years granting money to universities. Let me give you a little background on the MacArthur Foundation. It works in the US and 60 countries around the world granting on average about $200 million a year, much of it to universities. Its focus in the US is urban renewal, affordable housing, juvenile justice reform and how technology is impacting the education of young people. It has offices in Nigeria, Russia, Mexico and India. Outside the US it works in population and reproductive health, conservation, human rights and international justice, peace and security, and migration and mobility. In Russia and Nigeria it seeks to strengthen higher education and research.
MacArthur’s Nigeria work was part of a Partnership for Higher Education in Africa with the Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon, Hewlett and Kresge foundations that together invested $440 million in nine countries over 10 years – South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Madagascar, Kenya, Egypt and Ghana.
MacArthur’s strategy was to work with four universities as models to show that wise investments could bring measureable improvement. Bayero University, Kano, Amadu Bello University, the University of Ibadan and Port Harcourt University were our choices. When the Vice Chancellors gathered in Chicago to inaugurate the program, I said this:
“Our interest in higher education proceeds from a simple faith that an independent scholarly community supported by strong universities goes hand in hand with a healthy, stable democracy. In fact, I do not think there is an example of a democratic society without strong and independent universities. And we know only too well the reverse is also true: anti-democratic regimes cannot tolerate academic freedom.
Of course we care about universities not just for their contribution to building a healthy democratic process. Universities are the source of good policy advice essential to rebuilding the economy, of scientific and technological discoveries in health and other fields, of trained personnel to staff the legal system, businesses, municipal governments, environmental agencies, and all the rest. …
We know there is a lot to do to bring your universities to its full potential — to make them the best they can be. But that is our goal — to help you achieve selective excellence, not incremental coping through a steady stream of compromises and rationalizations. … I am a firm believer that ambitious goals can be easier to achieve than modest ones.”
By ambitious goals I meant a long term vision for the university. That is the critical starting point for a strategic plan which in turn is essential to a successful fund raising effort. Donors, be they local or international, private foundations, corporations, government agencies or individual favor a university with a clear vision, a comprehensive strategic plan backed up with specific timetables for implementation and a budget indicating where donated funds will be invested.
MacArthur asked each university for their strategic vision. Common to all was strengthening information technology. But there were particular needs for each, rebuilding the Sciences at ABU, starting a gas and petroleum engineering program at Port Harcourt, establishing a faculty of Agriculture at Bayero, developing a distance learning capability at Ibadan.
And we encouraged all universities to both increase and diversify their sources of support. As I said at the ABU convocation in 2004, “… governments should (not) be the sole source of funds. After all, a government strong enough to give a university everything it has, is also powerful enough to deprive the university of everything it is. Dependence is the enemy of intellectual freedom … that is why public universities in most countries try to maintain a degree of autonomy by diversifying their sources of funding.”
You will hear later in this program from Robert Kissane, president of a premier consulting firm, CCS, which, with MacArthur support, worked with alumni and leadership of four universities to create a fund raising plan, prepare a case statement, organize alumni, build a prospect list of foundations, corporations and wealthy individuals. You will also hear from Wale Adeosun, President of the Nigeria Higher Election Foundation, which MacArthur created to receive tax efficient donations in the US.
Looking back on MacArthur’s work in Nigeria, I wish we had invested more in the strategic planning process, perhaps made a consultant expert in strategic planning available as a partner to the fund raising consultant. I was reading a piece about strategic planning the other day authored by Anthony Knerr, one such consultant.
Dr. Knerr is Managing Director of AKA|Strategy, a strategy consulting firm that has assisted a wide variety of leading universities and colleges and other nonprofit institutions in the US, Europe and beyond.
He is very clear about the planning-fundraising connection when he wrote:
“Successful fundraising depends upon clear strategy. Those organizations that have gone through the difficult work of thinking through their mission, aspirations and objectives have the best shot at raising significant philanthropic resources. Those institutions that have not done so lack a compelling rationale to discuss with prospective donors, may raise money for the wrong purposes and are likely to underachieve their financial targets, possibly significantly so.”
He cites several “critical ingredients” for a successful strategic plan.
First, the planning process matters and must reflect the culture of an institution and its moment in history. In a complex university that process might start by having each Faculty or School prepare a plan to be reviewed and integrated by a university-wide Planning Committee. The Committees at both the Faculty and University level should be representative and must have a strong chair approved by the deans and President. And the process should engage the entire university community, Board, faculty, administrative leaders, students and alumni.
Second, I have already mentioned the importance of thinking big, setting forth a compelling overall vision and clear statement of mission. That mission should connect to the economic, political and social progress of the nation. In some situations, it may be useful for the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor to set forth a mission statement as an hypothesis to be tested by the Planning Committee.
Third, the planning process must focus on the key issues and opportunities and not get diverted by trying to address every question large and small. Plans that are driven by positive possibilities will be more inspiring that those that are
dominated by problems. What are the university’s comparative advantages? What makes it different? are key questions.
Fourth, the planning process should be evidence based, the product of rigorous analysis, that draws on data. Get the thinking straight and leave to a second stage the communications plan, the lofty sales rhetoric.
Fifth, I think it is useful to have a clearly set schedule for developing the plan, dates for the individual school and faculty plans and for a draft of the university-wide integrated plan. There should be room for open debate within the committees and time to seek additional information. And while opinions will differ on this point, when possible I favor a series of public discussions about the draft and time to make adjustments based on what is learned.
Sixth, Anthony Knerr recommends, and I agree, that the document coming out of the process, in his words “should be concise, crisp and big picture …. (including) the organization’s mission and vision; delineate four to five key strategic objectives with underlying goals for each objective, lay out means of measuring progress … and provide an implementation plan, and often, a financial plan in an appendix.”
Seventh and last, we all know of plans that are well done but sit on the shelf, unimplemented. Sometimes that reflects an out of touch process where the substance of the recommendation doesn’t fit the reality. Sometimes it means the process was not politically sensitive, even divisive. More often it is due to the absence of an implementation plan driven by the university leadership team – President, Vice Chancellors and Deans.
To make the plan real for members of the university community, and potential donors, I recommend a Quick Start Fund : a set of visible improvements for what money can be raised quickly. These improvements should bring benefits to the university community that will be felt and appreciated, lift morale, create a buzz that the university is on the move.
Leadership needs to identify a list of such giving opportunities before the strategic plan is complete and have some money lined up in advance. Indeed building the development staff and large prospect list and cultivation of the prospects should be underway even before the planning process is complete.
The overall plan will most likely cover a 5 year period. The quick start fund should be the first 12-18 months and build confidence that the overall plan is doable.
Let me conclude where I began. Every institution is different. Each of your country contexts is distinctive. There are no magic formulas that fit all circumstances. I have tried to offer some suggestions to get you thinking. Some may make sense to you, some may not.
With all that said, I am convinced that most international donors, foundations, corporations, development agencies, will look favorably on institutions that have a clear mission statement and a robust strategic plan. This is not a field of dreams, “Build it and they will come.” The strategic plan is a starting point, the raw material that trustees, alumni, development staff need to launch and execute a successful fund raising campaign.
Let me end with a passage from my ABU Convocation – in which I quoted Nelson Mandela who said:
“In the history of nations, generations have made their mark through their
acumen in appreciating critical turning points and, with determination and
creativity, seizing the moment. A new and better life will be achieved only
if we shed the temptation to proceed casually along the road — only if we
take the opportunities that beckon.”
Amidst the many perils of this moment, opportunities also beckon. I urge
you, therefore, not to proceed casually along the road but rather to seize
those opportunities: to build on the remarkable progress you have already
made; to remember that a university embarked on an upward path must
keep climbing to avoid the temptations and traps that might cause you
to stumble; and to go forward as a true community with each member
dedicated to the success of all, and all committed to the success of each.
That might be said of the spirit in this room. Let us hope that history will record that this conference was a turning point through which private fundraising across the continent of Africa took a major step forward. Our collective goal is a change in culture, within universities where all faculties step forward to help raise funds, in national culture where tax laws should incent private giving which is honored by society, and among international donors who have strengthened confidence that investment in African universities will be well used and bring results – for stronger universities which contribute to economic and social development and advance our quest for just, humane, democratic societies at peace.