Sunday, June 14, 2009

In the comment section of this blog, I received the following:

"As a volunteer at this year's reunion, I encountered several alumni at the registration table who took a look at my name tag and asked "what is the office of advancement?"I answered with something like "it advances the university through x, y and z."Do you have a one or two sentence definition that you use when you get that question?"

Thank you for asking. Here's how I would answer:

"The office of advancement is made up of a number of functions that help the University advance its mission by articulating and aligning its interests with those inclined to give their time, talent and treasure to a worthy cause. Those functions (in this case) include marketing and strategic communications, alumni relations, development, research and records, gift accounting and stewardship."

At that point, the questioner may say, "Well, isn't that really an indirect way of saying you raise money?" I would respond by saying:

"Successful fund raising is one of the outcomes an advancement office strives for but that can't be achieved if people don't understand, believe in and identify with the University's purposes and goals. Advancement doesn't just ask people to give their time, talent and treasure. It listens to and engages its potential supporters in a discussion about the future of the University. It seeks to involve them throughout their life in its struggles and dreams. It strives to create a greater and more vibrant community of active, well-informed stakeholders that extend well beyond the boundaries of the campus. And it is from this mutuality of interests and sustained interaction that support flows. Yes, we raise funds but we build community first. And after people give, we seek to sustain their trust and participation in our community by helping them see how their time, talent and treasure are advancing the University's highest and best purposes, how we, together, are making a difference where a difference most needs to be made."

What do you think? How would you answer those questions? Such questions present a huge opportunity to help people understand the ideals and aspirations of advancement -- if we are prepared.

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