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The Role of a Foundation within a System

The Role of a Foundation within a System

In August, AGB’s board endorsed a Statement on Institution Foundation Partnerships (which is also the subject of an upcoming webinar). The work was driven by a recognition that public institutions are struggling to adapt their business models in the face of sustained disinvestment by state governments and growing concerns about student costs and debt. Philanthropic support, public-private partnerships, and entrepreneurial revenue are the obvious candidates to help close the budgetary gaps.

In the context of systems, in which institutions lack individual campus governing boards, foundations can play a particularly important role, serving as partners in strategic visioning and planning, helping to identify philanthropic and entrepreneurial opportunities, and forging relationships with business and community leaders.

But how can foundations work most effectively across a system?

Systems looking to diversify campus revenue streams (and manage the risks that may stem from these activities), should consider investing in training and support for foundation boards as well as campus and foundation administrators on fiduciary responsibilities, fundraising, and ways to build foundation capacity. The foundation is ideally positioned to lead this training effort, for a few reasons:

  • It can be very hard for resource-constrained foundations to fund board education, assessment, and capacity-building work. System offices can play an important role by supporting training opportunities for foundation administrators and boards across the system.
  • System-wide programs and workshops are an extremely efficient way to ensure that foundation administrators and boards are familiar with fundamental fiduciary responsibilities, enhance risk management, and help fulfill system boards’ fiduciary responsibility for oversight of affiliated entities.
  • Including campus presidents/chancellors and other leaders in such programs also signals the importance of foundation support and affords newer campus leaders, who may not have deep experience working with foundations, to learn from the most seasoned and successful fundraisers within the system.

As presidents and chancellors are looking to grow both philanthropic and entrepreneurial revenue, system offices and system foundations should make the small investments necessary to provide training in fiduciary roles to help campus and foundation leaders partner more effectively in fundraising and other enterprises.

The 2017 Foundation Leadership Forum will tackle this issue and others. Join us in Naples, Florida, January 22-24, 2017!
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