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Institutional strengths, fundraising messages, and private giving outcomes in Tier One Research Extensive Universities: A multiple case study

Donald G Doty, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This multiple case study explored how the communication of institutional strengths in fundraising appeal messages was related to successful fundraising outcomes in Tier One Research Extensive Universities. Shannon and Weaver’s (1963) information processing model of communication provided a theoretical framework for the study. Six universities which had achieved successful fundraising outcomes (based upon percentage change in private giving dollars from 2003 to 2005) were selected from the top third of a population of 74 universities, using a maximum variation strategy (based upon enrollment, total giving dollars and public or private university type). University data was gathered from disparate sources including participant interviews, publications, web-based fundraising appeals, and fundraising appeal letters, and analyzed to identify salient codes and themes. Multiple data verification procedures were contributed to the trustworthiness of the data including triangulation of data sources, member checking, inter-coder agreement (84.5%), external supervision, and full description of cases. ^ Study results confirmed that the communication of university strengths was important in fundraising effectiveness. The study provided rich descriptions of institutional strengths and strength themes from fundraising appeal messages in successful universities, with potential applications for fundraising practice. Two conceptual models were proposed for theory development: (1) University-Donor Relationship; and (2) A Model of Communicating Institutional Strengths for Effective Fundraising in Research Universities. The University-Donor Relationship model emphasized the importance of an ongoing relationship between university and donor, characterized by certain attributes (e.g., gratitude, honor, recognition), for the formation of successful fundraising appeals. The Communicating Institutional Strengths for Effective Fundraising model both confirmed existing knowledge about institutional strengths, and added new conceptions of how institutional strengths (e.g., innovation and interdisciplinary culture) and strength themes (e.g., innovative, interdisciplinary solutions to big, complex problems and strength success stories with constituent testimonials) may contribute to development of effective fundraising appeal messages. ^

Subject Area

Education, Finance|Education, Administration

Recommended Citation

Doty, Donald G, "Institutional strengths, fundraising messages, and private giving outcomes in Tier One Research Extensive Universities: A multiple case study" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3321121.