Sector aims to swap imports for made-in-UK fundraisers

Graduate-training scheme helps institutions foster talent in quest for donors. Hannah Fearn writes

April 1, 2010

In the past they have relied on "imports" from North America and from the charity sector, but UK universities are increasingly "growing their own" fundraising experts.

With alumni development now established as a career path in its own right, a graduate training scheme is attracting burgeoning interest from universities and graduates alike.

Launched last year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the scheme is intended to support the government's match-funding programme for donations to universities.

In the first year of the scheme, six institutions took part - University College London and the universities of Bristol, Loughborough, Oxford, Manchester and Newcastle.

For 2010-11, the number of participating universities has grown to nine. Institutions joining include the universities of Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton.

Each university recruits a trainee to work in its development team and partners with a co-host institution, which is responsible for managing the trainee for one month of the year-long scheme.

UCL, which was a primary host last year, will be one of the scheme's co-hosts in 2010-11.

Kate Hunter, executive director of CASE Europe, said alumni fundraising has grown in the UK.

In-house expertise is now vital to universities, she continued, because the government is urging the sector to tap into new income streams as the pot of public funding diminishes.

"I think we're seeing the emergence of a profession," Ms Hunter said.

"Educational fundraising requires different skills and different knowledge from more typical charity fundraising."

She said UK universities are right to address the fact that in the past they have been overly reliant on alumni experts from the US or general fundraisers from the third sector.

"There is a need to grow our own fundraisers. Charities have a different culture of fundraising. Higher education has more of a focus on major-donor work, and the challenge of working in an academic environment is quite particular," she explained.

In the first year of CASE's graduate-training scheme, 800 applicants battled it out for just six positions. Most of the participating universities appointed members of their own alumni.

This year the scheme is expected to attract even more interest, with competition for graduate-level jobs tougher than ever.

Malcolm Ace, director of finance at Southampton, said the scheme was a way for the institution to secure its own financial future.

"Going into the future, we really need to be able to provide a stream of people who are capable of entering all the subdivisions of the profession," he said.

"We're not seeing a ready stream of applicants from outside at the moment.

"We will have to grow our own, and this is an extremely effective way of giving people the opportunity to see if they want to spend their early career in development," Mr Ace said.

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