By Tanika Scott
As an advancement professional for nearly 8 years, I was very familiar with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). I subscribe to their email list, attend their conferences, and even refer to some of their magazine articles when writing papers for my graduate school classes. So as familiar as I was with the organization, I was not as familiar with their President/CEO Sue Cunningham and her views on advancement in the higher education sector, and that is what led me to attend her presentation at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Challenges facing advancement, according to Sue Cunningham:
- The rate of the industry growth outpaces the number of employees that are available. The problem is expected to worsen as America is facing a large reduction in the workforce due to the retirement of Baby Boomers. CASE has implemented several initiatives to grow careers in the sector, including CASE on Campus, which brings tailored training to an institution’s advancement office and encourages institutions to grow their own successors and promote from within. On an international level, CASE has been in Africa for the last 12 years to help grow their advancement sector and it just so happened that four African NGO fellows were in attendance to gain knowledge.
- The lack of diversity in advancement employees has caused CASE to make diversity and inclusion a priority, leading to them offer more training sessions on diversity and increase promotion of their Advancement Internship Program and the Minority Advancement Institute in order to fill the pipeline with diverse candidates.
- Gathering advancement data is hard because of the differences in what is tracked at various institutions. In 2018, CASE released AMAtlas, a resource for educational advancement-related metrics, benchmarks and analytics. Cunningham believes that with improved data, institutions are in a better position to implement professional practices into academic study, preparing students for a more successful advancement career.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the night was Sue Cunningham’s personal reason as to why she loves her career. When asked why she joined the world of advancement, Cunningham said she loves to see CASE, “bringing together the vision and passion of donors and faculty.” That really resonated with me because it is a perfect description of what advancement does. While my career in advancement came about per happenstance, it is exactly why I am still in the field.
Cunningham attributed her success to her curiosity and passion for educational institutions and to having the insight to have a great team of people around her – knowledge that she brought to CASE, not just for herself, but for CASE’s 3,700-member institutions as well.
Tanika Scott is a community volunteer and the assistant director of development at the IUPUI University Library. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in philanthropic studies from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.