Perceptions of the development process at a large public Research II university



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


The problem of this study was to investigate the nature of the development/fundraising process within a public Research II university. The conceptual framework was Curtiss' (1994) five step, 57-element donor relations model. Curtiss had defined donor relations as the: (1) identification, (2) cultivation, (3) solicitation, (4)acknowledgment, and (5) recognition of current and prospective donors. The research question guiding this qualitative investigation was: How does the process employed by the selected University follow the development literature regarding its use of the 57 elements of the development process identified in the literature? The purpose of this research was to create a development model that could be used in development programs at both public and private colleges and universities.

Data were collected by means of audiotaped interviews with 24 participants in the university's fundraising process. Triangulation of data was ensured by gathering written materials and publications related to fundraising at the selected university. Qualitative content analysis methods were used to analyze the data. The development process at the selected university was examined within the context of Curtiss' five-step approach.

Analysis of the data revealed that the institution's development process was in a highly dynamic state due to a new capital campaign. Of the 57 elements in the 5-step framework, 46 were in use at the selected institution. A number of these had been implemented only since the campaign began. All of the elements used were perceived as important to the fundraising effort, although some were much more important than others. Five elements not in the Curtiss model emerged in this study as being critical to fundraising success. Because these five elements did not fit into any one of the five development steps, but pervaded the entire fundraising environment, they were titled Environmental Factors. They were distinct from the 57 elements in the original fivestep framework in that they were environmental streams running through the entire fundraising process and impacting it considerably.

The five environmental factors identified were: building relationships at the college or unit level, effective management of technology, assertive leadership by a strong Chief Executive Officer, tenured development staff, and utilizing powerful allies. Suggestions for future research included investigation of the different organizational levels at which relationships with donors are built, the effect of capital campaigns on the development organization, and the role of the development function within the educational organization.