For some of us (even today, even post-postmodernism) the liberal arts are like a Church. The problem with Universities, though, is that the day you are Confirmed (i.e. graduated), you are kicked out of Church. No more rituals, no more Congregation. You get to wait outside the gates until the Offertory, then the Ushers arrive to ask for money.
Giving is a moral act. Giving is both expressive and formative of identity. Giving is how we answer the questions of who we are, what kind of community we want to live in, what kind of world we want to leave, what legacy we want for our children.
Fundraisers at Universities and Colleges will wisely ask, "So what? We are running a campaign here." A Fool would say, "Treat the donor like a student and engage her in the questions that are central to the work of the University, the questions of the liberal arts. Let her apply that thinking to her finances, and gifts from the gifted will flow." The proof of the methodology is the huge dollars raised at Harvard by Charles Collier, using a liberal arts methodology applied to Wealth in Families.
The theme of a fundraising project for a liberal arts college, private school, or university might be, "The Art of Liberality: Engaging Donors and Advisors in The Liberal Art of Giving Well." The outcome of such a program would be donors who are better able to articulate their highest aspirations for self, family and society, and better able to engage advisors in creating a plan that embodies these ideals. So what? Well, maybe some of that money will find its way to the university, college or school, as sponsor, ongoing mentor, Alma Mater, as beloved source of the ideals the donor is motivated now to act upon, live up to, and pass on. Not all of the giving will go that way, but the total dollars raised will exceed, I wager, those raised by a traditional "ask." It works that way at Harvard.
"A Civic Dialogue on the Art of Liberality"? Around the country in selected cities? Make it an event for several colleges? Share expenses among the schools? Invite the highest capacity donors from all the schools? Make the event a public benefit in itself. Bring in a speaker like Charles Collier, Amy Kass, or distinguished alums to teach it? (University of Chicago, the Ivies, the Little Three, etc)? Involving key advisors from the community might well raise their level of play and help them see how and why giving matters to their best clients.
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