Administrators and Endowments: Fundraising as Leadership

Article excerpt

Journalism and mass communication education has changed dramatically during the past two decades. Almost all of our programs are considerably larger than they were 20 years ago. Our enrollments--though they have now leveled and actually are declining slightly--skyrocketed during the 1970s and 1980s. Faculties grew in size, though that growth did not generally keep pace with enrollment surges. The research being conducted in our programs today is broader and deeper than anyone 20 years ago dreamed. Our students are embarking on careers that were not even in existence five years ago. And, some of our units are configured in ways that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.

Our administrative tasks also have changed considerably over time. My older and wiser predecessors have told me that it often was downright enjoyable to administer journalism and mass communication programs in the earlier years, an era of unbridled growth and economic optimism. They nostalgically recall those "simpler" times. Frankly, I don't know that times ever were really simple--we just like to remember them that way.

But we do know this for sure: Our predecessors of 20 years ago were not scrambling to the extent most of us are now to raise private money to supplement institutional budgets.

I remember vividly a story Jerry Sass, senior vice president of The Freedom Forum, told me a few years ago. Sass has a unique, 20-year perspective on fundraising in journalism and mass communication education. In 1973, he approached the dean of an accredited journalism program with the suggestion that there would be up to $250,000 available-a quarter-of-a-million dollars--for any type of innovative project of the university's choosing.

Naturally, if that same offer were to be made to most administrators today, our pulses would quicken, adrenaline would shoot through our bodies and we would immediately start babbling about a major project that we would like to implement.

Sass didn't get that response 20 years ago. That particular dean politely thanked him for the offer, but told him that his schedule was packed and that he was eager to burrow into some research he had earlier placed on the back burner. The dean finally said, simply, that he was not inclined to submit a proposal.

Times have changed.

Evolution of fundraising

Sass provided me with some of his impressions on how fundraising in journalism education has evolved during the past two decades. Among other things, he said:

* Fundraising 20 years ago was much less formal. Fewer administrators sought private money. Competition for available funds was less spirited.

* For the most part, the objectives of journalism fundraising have changed. Most proposals in the 1970s sought money for bricks and mortar--and equipment. Fewer requests were built around programmatic enhancements and initiatives.

* Increasingly widespread, aggressive fundraising in journalism education didn't really burst on the scene until the 1980s. Sass pointed to the first wave in the early 1980s: administrators were searching for private dollars primarily to meet the needs of programs whose enrollments had swelled dramatically. It was at this time that deans, directors, and chairs--en masse across the country--started to understand what only a handful of pioneer fundraising administrators had discovered in the 1970s: that the route to major programmatic enhancements was going to be paved with "soft" money. There was another surge in the mid- to late-1980s when programs started scampering for outside dollars to offset losses from federal and state sources.

* Foundation funding criteria also have evolved over time. Sass pointed to his own Freedom Forum, formerly the Gannett Foundation. Its priorities have shifted from being primarily a grant-making institution to one that places much heavier emphasis on operating programs, including the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center in New York and the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center in Nashville. …