The University of the Free State in Bloemfontein was recently selected as one of only four universities to take part in a multi-million rand programme to improve fundraising and advancement. The programme is a joint initiative between Inyathelo: The South Afican Institute for Advancement and US-based philanthropic foundation, Kresge.
The programme is not merely a form of funding for universities, but rather a complete advancement practice that includes a strategic and business-minded approach.
According to Bill Moses, who directs Kresge's education programme, declining government support means South African university officials need to tap into diversified philanthropic and private funding if they want to enhance their institutions' ability to serve students better. "Stronger advancement skills are critical to their success and ultimately to getting more South African students into universities and completing degrees.
Advancement is not just about raising funds. It is the practice of building, maintaining and improving support, skills and other resources to ensure the sustainability of an institution," explains Moses. Executive director of Inyathelo, Shelagh Gastrow, says universities have to go through a very competitive process to be chosen for the programme.
"It was a competitive process. Universities were invited to submit proposals to be part of the programme. We shortlisted six and of those six the Kresge Foundation actually went on site visits, met the vice-chancellors, met members of the university council, as well as people who are involved with fundraising at the moment and out of that selected four that they felt have the capacity to be successful over the next five years," said Gastrow.
The Kresge Foundation will make $2.5 million available to the project. The four universities will each receive an initial financial injection after which they must reach certain milestones to receive further "challenge-grants". The other universities that are also part of the programme are the Durban University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Johannesburg.