Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version


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Miller, M. W. (2013). The role of the community college president in fundraising: Perceptions of selected Michigan community college presidents. (Doctoral dissertation).


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Brent Cejda. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Matthew W. Miller


This multiple case study examines the role of the community college president in fundraising as perceived by selected Michigan community college presidents. Over the past few decades, fundraising from private sources has become increasingly important in the fiscal landscape of community colleges. Pfeffer and Salancik’s (1978) work in resource dependence theory provides a theoretical framework for this study. In a resource dependent environment, community colleges are changing their activities in an effort to pursue alternative revenue sources. Using a qualitative approach, data from interviews were analyzed to examine the perspectives of four presidents regarding their overall leadership role in fundraising as well as their role in the specific areas of leading the chief development officer and fundraising team, developing and maintaining relationships with donors, and the attributes, skills, and abilities necessary for the community college president to be an effective fundraiser.

The findings suggest that, among available options, the community colleges in this study are turning to fundraising as an alternative source of revenue. As institutional leaders, presidents have the opportunity to lead fundraising efforts and, as the organizations change, it is likely that the role of the organizational leader will change as well. The results of this study indicated that competency in fundraising by a community college president requires strategic planning, creating a vision for the fundraising activities, supporting the fundraising team with adequate resources, and the capacity to become actively involved in the community. Additionally, the ability to friend-raise, or utilize people skills to share the college’s story and connect with donors, represents an equally critical skill set and was identified as one of the most important roles of the president.

The findings also point to important considerations for presidents seeking to raise funds. According to the participants, fundraising takes an investment of time and college resources. These resources are well-spent on a chief development officer that complements the president and can manage the fundraising process and garner volunteer support. Ultimately, the environment in which the institution is embedded will impact the president’s perception of fundraising and influence the methods that most effectively raise funds.

Adviser: Brent Cejda