Dollars for Deans

Today’s business school deans spend nearly 30 percent of their time raising money, and that figure is likely to escalate. The trick is setting priorities and surmounting challenges.
Dollars for Deans

Fund raising isn’t just one of the most critical tasks that falls to today’s business school deans; it’s also one of the most complex. Donors increasingly want to restrict their gifts to a particular school, building, or program; they also want to be intimately involved with the success of the school. They’re more likely to give money if they can associate a familiar face with the institution—and, most of the time, that face is the dean’s. Thus, every dean must be deeply involved in fundraising activities for the school.

According to a recent survey of AACSB-accredited schools in the U.S., the average dean spends 29 percent of his time raising money—and that percentage is likely to grow in the coming years. Because state support for many public institutions continues to decrease, the need for private funds increases every year. To raise money from private sources, it appears that deans must be visionary individuals with a strong sense of the business school’s mission and values, and they must be able to convey their own enthusiasm to the donors they contact.

The charts on the following pages give an overview of what many U.S. deans perceive as their greatest priorities and challenges in terms of raising money and how they expect their fundraising initiatives to change in the next five years. The survey was sent to 394 business school deans; 164 responded. Seventy-six percent represented public universities, 24 percent private universities. Most—92 percent— offer both graduate and undergraduate degrees in business. Forty-one percent of respondents have an enrollment of more than 2,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. Thirty-six percent have between 1,001 and 2,000 FTEs, and 23 percent have fewer than 1,000 FTEs.

What’s clear is that deans are most interested in obtaining money to fund endowed chairs, student scholarships, and faculty salaries—in other words, the core components of a business school. They also realize that donors who have a great deal of respect for the school—its mission, its reputation, or its relationship with the community—are more likely to give. Therefore, deans are highly motivated to strengthen their programs and improve their national rankings. Since such initiatives are expensive, it appears that, for the foreseeable future, deans will be deeply involved in the intricate dance of courting donors, upgrading their curricula, and selling their vision of a state-of-the art business school.

Berkwood M. Farmer is dean of the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Joseph W. Coleman is associate professor of management science and information systems, and Colleen Lampton is director of development at the Raj Soin College of Business.