Rollins College (Fla.) recently hired a director of community engagement. While the position is not unusual, the funding for it might be. An alumnus gave a $1 million donation to endow the position. Donations from David Lord and his family helped establish and support the community engagement office through the years, so he knew the next logical step to expand the program was hiring a director, explains Joe Monti, director of foundation relations. This is the second endowed staff position at Rollins, the other being at their Cornell Fine Arts Museum. The endowment brings attention to the director’s position and signals to both internal and external audiences “that community engagement is something we are serious about,” says Monti. It also allows the community engagement office’s budget dollars to be directed to programs rather than personnel.
Endowed staff positions might not be as common as endowed faculty positions, but Rollins is not the only college with them. Skidmore College (N.Y.) has three endowed staff positions, two at the Tang Museum and one in the process of being funded, the vice president for advancement position, says spokeswoman Andrea Wise. “Holding an endowed chair does bring prestige to the occupant in the same way an endowed faculty chair does. It gives donors the opportunity to provide leadership support for an area or program they value.”
As at Rollins, the endowed positions lined up with existing donor interest. The museum director position donor was already involved in the campaign to build the museum, for example. Someone with strong interest in the Tang was approached about the curator’s position. By contrast, the VP for advancement position was suggested by a donor with advancement office ties. The new museum positions won’t save budget dollars, but funds from the VP position will be redirected. “It does make sense to fund staff positions this way when it is the donor’s interest,” Wise says. Monti adds that the institution must be serious about long-term community engagement.