In our view

Changing the odds for university survival - Mail & Guardian 15 Jul 2011

ADVERTORIAL Nazli Abrahams - Programme Manager at Inyathelo - The South African Institute for Advancement Government funding for higher education has deteriorated to such an extent that most institutions are now "state assisted" or "state affiliated" rather than "state funded". Universities in South Africa get less than half their funding directly from government and the brakes have been put on annual aboveinflation fee increases as a means of plugging the financial gap.


We have also outlived our 'developing' status that helped secure significant support from international donors during and after the struggle. Education Minister Blade Nzimande recently appointed a task team to review the current funding framework for higher education and although the recommendations are only due out next year, it is clear that our institutions need to look urgently at ways of generating 'third stream funding', whether it be through donations, investments, research contracts or other entrepreneurial activities.

We can no longer rely and survive on handouts. We must now, in open competition, win support for research and developmental projects from private and other donors. Established more than a decade ago, the South African Institute for Advancement - Inyathelo - has developed and refined the practice of grantseeking and grantmaking in a South African context as part of its efforts to ensure the sustainability of organisations and institutions, like universities, in our country. "Advancement" is not just a euphemism for fundraising. It's about building, maintaining and improving support, skills and funds for your projects, department and higher education institution.

Advancement is about finding common cause with those who have similar values and aspirations and those who want to give their time, talent and financial resources to worthy organisations and institutions. And then it's about how that cause can be advanced to yield tangible, sustainable improvements and practically realise your common goals. It's about moving the organisation forward and advancing your goals which is why everyone, from the Vice Chancellor down, needs to get involved. But building educational capital and enhancing collaboration between foundations, individual philanthropists and other institutions requires investment and expertise.

Those willing to put their hands in their pocket and pull out a six-figure sum expect time and money to be spent on them. You need to build the capacity and skills within your institution to mobilise new resources which is why the South African Institute for Advancement has crafted a three day course to specifically help higher education institutions tap into new sources of funding and keep them flowing. Inyathelo's Spring School 2011 covers all critical aspects of Advancement, providing participants with both the theory and practical applications for securing support. Sessions will be facilitated by leading local and international players in institutional and organisational Advancement and cover key topics like proposal writing; prospect research; donor stewardship; building a base of alumni support; capital campaign management; and communications, positioning and branding.

Spring School 2011 is not just for advancement or fundraising professionals but it is also aimed at any academics and administrators who are involved in donor management, communitybuilding and the implementation of strategies to secure financial support for their higher education institutions. Fundraising at higher education institutions can no longer be seen as a pastime or a luxury you can't afford. Adequate resources, energy and expertise need to be dedicated to the task of fostering public and private support if you want to survive and build financially sustainable institutions.

As Professor Brian O'Connell, Rector at the University of the Western Cape, bluntly puts it - the challenge for South African universities is not simply to exploit the market in order to secure its share. Our history has been such that we do not have a national market of citizens seeking to buy a part of us. We must create that market by convincing our nation that universities are indeed the lifeblood of the nation and that they must be supported if we are to endure. If we succeed, then it is also up to each university to develop its special brand, as well as its relationships of trust with its prospective donors based on the quality of its intellectual endeavours and its service to the community. This is our challenge and in this we must succeed.