Kick start 2017: Looking ahead for the Advancement Forum

By Dena Schwartz

Each year, the Advancement Forum conducts a topic poll to determine which areas are of the greatest interest to members, and where member institutions have the greatest opportunity for improvement. The topic poll results and early research conversations with members help us chart our course for the next year.

The results are in

From the poll results and early conversations with members, five topics have emerged as potential research areas for 2017:

1. Quantifying advancement's value: Institutions of all shapes and sizes are feeling pressure to cut costs while increasing returns. In this climate, advancement professionals seek a trusted data source to justify a known fact—you can only cut advancement expenses so far before negatively impacting the ability to raise philanthropic revenue. Advancement shops seek new ways to articulate and quantify their value to stakeholders on- and off-campus.

Register for our webconference to learn how to make the case for more advancement resources

2. Next-generation advancement services: The role that data plays in our advancement shops has grown dramatically across recent years. Data is no longer solely the purview of the annual fund; it touches all aspects of advancement. Members highlight that there are areas for growth and opportunities for improvement in this space with regards to development (in both major and principal gift moves management) and alumni relations (in engagement history and propensity for further engagement).

3. Diversity in the profession, the board, and volunteers: Building off the Advancement Forum’s 2016 research on diverse alumni and student segments, members are keen to see more work in the diversity space. Diversity in the advancement profession is becoming an increasingly pressing concern, while advancement leaders continually struggle to recruit staff, board members, and volunteers from diverse backgrounds.

Register for our webconference series on diversity in the advancement profession

4. Corporate and foundation relations: As state appropriations shrink and research funding becomes more competitive than ever, there is a sense among advancement leaders that we are entering a new age in corporate and foundation relations. Ignoring corporate and foundation giving means leaving gift revenue on the table, yet the skillset that led to success in the past is no longer adequate to secure grants from these organizations. Advancement shops will need to develop collaborative cross-campus partnerships to ensure long-term success in this arena.

5. Graduate, professional, and online student engagement and giving: Early research calls indicate a common trend: members would like to do more to engage graduate and professional school alumni as well as alumni from online programs. In recent years, advancement shops have made great strides around undergraduate alumni participation rates, but have not focused on graduate, professional, or online student participation. This is an area with untapped potential in both giving and engagement, if advancement leaders know how to approach these alumni populations.

Related report: Evaluating alumni engagement and career services for master's programs

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