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November 20, 2007

Fundraising, stasis, and innovation

While reading an excellent article about the need for new UC-Irvine Dean Irwin Chemerinsky to do some fund-raising, I began to think about the interaction between fund-raising and innovation.  Though I would hope that innovation would generally help fund-raising for a law school, I fear that in some instances it may work the other way. 

It would seem that donors would be encouraged to give when they see their school fostering new forms of teaching and scholarship.  It would show the donor that the school is intellectually active and growing.  Perhaps just as importantly, the creation of new professorships, programs, classes, and physical space also creates things to be endowed and named for supportive donors.  For example, a new clinical program might offer two naming opportunities-- one for the the program, and one for the clinical professor hired to run the program.

On the other hand, it would seem that many law school donors are graduates of the school, who often want to see their own experience replicated.  They are attached to established professors and programs, and may be hostile to movements away from a focus on traditional methods.   The danger here is obvious:  That such donors will discourage a school from innovating, as it is no secret that big donors can and do influence many administrative decisions.

To those who have experience in development-- am I right about this two-edged sword?

-- Mark Osler

November 20, 2007 | Permalink


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