ERIC Identifier: ED382106
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Worth, Michael J. - Asp, James W., II
Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.| George Washington
Univ. Washington DC. Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
The Development Officer in Higher Education: Toward an
Understanding of the Role. ERIC Digest.
Fund raising has been a part of American higher education since its earliest
days. In recent decades, however, it has become a central activity of most
colleges and universities and the development officer has become an increasingly
important figure in the administration of the institution. Despite its
prominence, however, the role of the development officer is not well-defined or
understood. The literature is often ambiguous or inconsistent concerning the
development officer's proper role.
Major authors in the field can be placed into schools of thought depending on
which of four development-officer roles they advocate as most important. Authors
of the "Salesman" viewpoint emphasize the development officer's activity as a
solicitor of gifts; "Catalyst" authors view the development officer as working
behind the scenes to support the fund-raising activities of presidents and
volunteers; authors in the "Manager" category discuss the development officer's
internal role in organizing fund-raising programs and staff; and some see the
development officer playing the role of institutional "Leader," with a voice in
policy decisions beyond fund-raising.
This report proposes a "development officer paradigm" that depicts the
relationships among these four roles. This model includes two "vectors," one
describing internal and the other external development functions. These vectors
overlap, depending on the size of the particular development program. This
paradigm provides a model for understanding and integrating the literature, for
analyzing the staffing needs of a development office, for planning the
progression of an individual development career, and for considering the major
questions facing the development field.
WHAT PERSONALITY TRAITS ARE REQUIRED FOR SUCCESS AS A DEVELOPMENT OFFICER?
Authors who focus on the Salesman and Leader roles
emphasize interpersonal skills and personal charisma. Those who focus on the
development officer's role as a Catalyst or Manager more often emphasize the
need for him or her to stay behind the scenes, remain anonymous, and "fit in" to
the institutional culture.
IS DEVELOPMENT AN ART OR A SCIENCE?
The literature provides
muddled answers to this question, but authors of the Salesman and Leader points
of view more often describe development as an art related to the development
officer's inherent qualities and judgements. Those who favor the Catalyst and
Manager roles more often discuss technical skills that can be taught and
WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE MOTIVATION FOR ENTERING A DEVELOPMENT CAREER?
Some authors view development as a "calling," to be
undertaken because of a deep commitment to philanthropy or an institution, often
motivated by religious belief. Others are less inspirational in their tone,
presenting development as merely a career field.
IS DEVELOPMENT A "PROFESSION?"
There is a consensus that
development is not a mature profession, like medicine or law, but perhaps an
emerging profession. Some writers express concern that development's advancement
as a profession not lead its practitioners to become arrogant or alienated from
WHAT SHOULD BE THE DEVELOPMENT OFFICER'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PRESIDENT?
Authors who see the development officer as a Salesman,
operating independently, tend to de-emphasize the importance of other players.
Most writers discuss a "fund raising team" in which the president, trustees, and
development officer are all important. The development officer's relationship to
the president is especially critical and must be based on good personal
chemistry as well as a common understanding of their respective roles.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE DEVELOPMENT OFFICER'S RELATIONSHIP TO THE TRUSTEES?
Fund raising is the one area in which trustees go beyond
policy-making to play active roles. For this reason, the development officer is
often closer to the trustees than anyone else on campus except the president.
Most authors see the development officer in a Catalyst or Manager role with
regard to the trustees and emphasize the need for appropriate boundaries to the
development officer's influence with the board.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE DEVELOPMENT OFFICER'S ROLE IN INSTITUTIONAL PLANNING?
The literature is divided on this point. Some
authors argue that development goals should be based on institutional priorities
determined only by academic leaders. Others, particularly those who view the
development officer as an institutional Leader, say that he or she should be
involved in institutional planning. Research indicates that some development
officers play this wider role.
WHO SHOULD SOLICIT THE GIFT?
Adherents to the Salesman
perspective argue that the solicitation of gifts is too important to leave to
amateurs and is best undertaken by professional development officers. Some
authors of the Leader school agree. Those who see the development officer role
as that of Catalyst or Manager say that the president and volunteers should
solicit gifts, with the development staff playing behind-the-scenes support
WHAT ADDITIONAL RESEARCH AND DISCUSSION ARE NEEDED?
is a need for more research and discussion regarding the development officer's
role. A better understanding is needed of how development officers divide their
time among the various roles, how institutional differences affect the roles
development officers play, and how the styles and preferences of individual
presidents and development officers can be identified and measured in order to
create better working relationships.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF THE DEVELOPMENT OFFICER'S
Questions about the development officer's role in the future are
related to declining volunteer involvement, the growing importance of planned
giving, and the increasing complexity of development administrative operations.
The development officer's role likely will change and evolve, as it has
throughout the history of American higher education, in response to the changing
needs of colleges and universities.
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1991. Taking Fund Raising Seriously: Advancing the Profession and Practice of
Raising Money. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Coloia Jr., L.S. 1980. "Fund Raising in Private Higher Education: An Analysis
of the Role of the Development Officer as Administrator at Selected
Institutions." Doctoral dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago.
Panas, J. 1988. Born to Raise: What Makes a Great Fundraiser: What Makes a
Fundraiser Great. Chicago: Pluribus Press.
Pocock, J.W., ed. 1989. Fund-Raising Leadership: A Guide for College and
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Pray, F.C., ed. 1981. Handbook for Educational Fund Raising. San Francisco:
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