19th June 2015Alistair Lomax
Big gifts follow big ideas
Lorna Somers, Development Director at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, is an inspiration. She was recently in the UK doing a one-day seminar for Deans and Senior Academics, with CASE Europe, which we were pleased to have sponsored.
Here are a few highlights from her session. Lorna noted that universities are very good at talking about their problems: ‘We haven’t got enough money.’ ‘The ceiling is falling in.’ ‘There is too much admin.’ ‘Teaching is just such a pain and we want to do more research.’ . . . Each of these implies that there is a need for more money.
But such complaints are not enough: donors want to be inspired by a big vision. Lorna said: ‘Big gifts follow big ideas.’ But with the next breath she reminded universities of the responsibility of delivering on a promise: ‘Big expectations follow big gifts.’
Lorna reminded us: ‘People do not give to institutions because they have problems. They give to institutions that are solving problems.’
And she talked about the unique potential of philanthropy in Higher Education to act as:
• An incubator – allowing academics to explore ideas before they earn their way
• An enabler – facilitating things that just would not happen on their own
• An accelerator – the boost needed when a big idea emerges
There are really only three things that a university needs to do for its donors: dream, promise, deliver. Make sure that you can do all three.