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Articles: Fundraising

In our current economic environment, critical funding for an array of essential entities and institutions has dried up, leaving a momentous gap between budget needs and realities. Universities are certainly no exception to this phenomenon. Even Harvard is feeling the pinch. The university had reported a 30 percent decline in its endowment for the fiscal year ending June 2009.

So the question presents itself: What can universities do to throw out a larger net and create a new class and type of donor? The short answer: sacred spaces.

The economic crisis has dominated the headlines since September 2008 and taken its toll on individuals and institutions alike. Few have been immune to the effects of a volatile stock market, low interest rates, rising unemployment, tight credit markets, and plunging real estate values.

WHEN IT BECOMES HARDER TO raise funds and the notion of success is coming up with just 90 percent of last year's revenues, fundraisers must get smarter--by better understanding their donors and the different tools and approaches to connecting with them. Colleges and universities of all sizes now have the opportunity to influence and motivate a new generation of donors and get them in the "habit of giving," but it's an uphill climb. The competition for every second of attention and each dollar is frenetic.

It's too early to prescribe a tried-and-true methodology for meeting Donor 3.0 actively. There's still much change and experimentation happening, and each college or university will have to tailor its strategy to the peculiarities of that community. But laying a strategic groundwork will help cut through the hype, navigate among options, and recognize (even create) new, less obvious opportunities.

As colleges and universities face the sobering realities of the economic crisis, one has to wonder: Is higher education approaching the perfect storm?

For many universities, funding allocations are at maximum levels, while some legislatures are already instituting significant budget cuts. Endowment levels for public and private institutions are questionable as economic woes curtail benefactors’ ability to give. And costs on everything from fuel to health insurance continue to increase with no end in sight.

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