The University's Office of Advancement is moving forward with several major fundraising campaigns this year despite the absence of a permanent director.
The advancement office has been led by Interim Vice President John Kudless since former Vice President for Advancement Laurel Price Jones left her post in August. But experts interviewed said the lack of a set vice president should not impede the University's efforts to raise money, because a university's president, not a fundraising office's head, usually shapes fundraising initiatives.
"The true leader of the campaign is the institution's president," said Rae Goldsmith, vice president for advancement resources at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, a trade association that helps colleges and universities build alumni relations and increase fundraising.
The University has been working on a number of large fundraising projects over the last year, including a continuation of its plan to quadruple donations for financial aid, raise funds for a Science and Engineering Complex with a price tag in the hundreds of millions, and solicit donations for innovative learning objectives. But Goldsmith said that fundraising initiatives are planned far in advance, and that the support staff in the fundraising office "can pick up and keep that plan moving even in a change in fundraising staff."
In the fiscal year 2009, the University raised $84 million, a $26 million increase from 2008 and the largest amount in University history.
The vice president for Development and Alumni Relations has more of an advisory role, said University President Steven Knapp, and is responsible for supporting the deans, trustees and University president in their fundraising efforts. The position also researches new ways to solicit donations and keep records of the amount of money the University is raising.
"In one sense, the president does serve as the university's 'chief fundraiser,' " Knapp said. "The president leads the process of developing the themes and priorities of our fundraising efforts, and the president also builds relationships between the university and the donor community, which includes foundations as well as individual donors."
Scott Jaschik, an editor at Inside Higher Ed - an online publication that focuses on higher education - said GW's fundraising efforts are most likely not impaired by the office's lack of a permanent leader because Kudless is an experienced fundraiser. He has been at GW since 2007, and has worked in the development offices at Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Kudless directs reporters to his office's communications director, who did not respond to questions by press time.
Jaschik said he is not surprised the search for a new vice president has been a five-month-long endeavor.
"When you have openings like this, everyone wants a position filled as soon as possible, but it tends to be far worse to make a bad hire," Jaschik said. "It doesn't strike me that it's been going on for this long, especially since they have a qualified interim."
University President Steven Knapp said a plan for both the "Power and Promise" fund -- a capital campaign for financial aid - and the Innovation Task Force - which seeks to save and fundraise an extra $60 million at GW over the next five years - has been in the works since he took office in 2007.
"I launched a brainstorming process a month after I arrived in which faculty, staff and students met in teams focusing on four key areas: learning, research, service, and community," Knapp said of the fundraising plan. "It's also why we had a retreat last summer in which several hundred people - trustees, deans, faculty, alumni - all got together to discuss potential themes of a comprehensive fundraising campaign."
Holly Hall, who has covered fundraising at the university level for the Chronicle of Higher Education for 20 years, said it is important that Knapp makes connections with donors and alumni, as the relationships a president makes determine the amount of major gifts a university receives.
Knapp estimated he spends about a third of his time fundraising and plays a key role in building relationships with the donor community, but he said fundraising is still a institution-wide initiative.
"The deans play a crucial role in working with their schools to identify needs and opportunities, and they multiply the number of contacts we can make with potential donors far beyond what the president could accomplish working alone," Knapp said. Knapp announced earlier this year that deans would begin to have a larger role in the fundraising process.
And although the Office of Development and Alumni Relations is currently operating under an interim vice president, Knapp said the search for a permanent vice president is nearly complete.
"We have finished all the first-round interviews and are very far along in the second round," Knapp said.