From the President's Desk
Scott G. McNall
Volunteer Fire Fighting and Fund-Raising
Success comes from training and commitment to a common goal
Volunteer fire departments used to be the rule in this country. People in a community banded together to save homes and property. This was serious business, and people did not approach putting out fires in a casual fashion. They gave up time; they trained together; and they held fund-raisers to buy protective gear and the equipment needed to fight blazes. When the alarm sounded, the volunteers stopped milking the cows or whatever they were doing and were on their way to help. There are still many volunteers in local fire departments, but today most work alongside of full-time paid professionals.
For a long time, universities relied on volunteers to raise resources. Now, however, the stakes are so high and the need for funds so great that we must enlist a core of trained professionals to guide and direct the efforts of volunteers. In the case of a fire that threatens our homes, the need for a fire department seems compelling; the need to raise external funds for education is not always so clearly compelling.
Why do we, as an institution, need to raise more money and why would we sacrifice time, energy, training, and resources to do so? The reason is that we have goals of excellence that cannot be realized with state support alone. The Task Force on Development is working on a strategic plan for development that will guide the selection of a new vice president for advancement. This plan will be reviewed by our new president and will guide the activities and energies of people throughout the university. One of the central responsibilities of our new president will be raising external funds for the university, and we need a plan that can help this effort. Let me give you the highlights of what the university wants to accomplish with fund-raising.
- We want to recruit and retain world-class faculty. We can do this if we have endowed chairs and professorships. We now have just one -- the Jack Rawlins Endowed Professor of Environmental Literacy.
- We want to support worthy and high-achieving students through scholarships. We have gone a long way in the last 10 years in raising new scholarship funds, but there is more to do, particularly if we are to have the resources to help first-generation and underrepresented students. We also want to attract high-achieving students that we are now losing to other, better-endowed universities, both public and private.
- We want to jump-start the research and creative activities of our faculty by allowing them time to complete scholarly works and to seek outside resources. This is necessary to deepen the teacher-scholar model that characterizes the university.
- We want to protect the environment through the growth of the Bidwell Environmental Institute and its efforts at research, education, and public service. We want to make our system of preserves more open to the public and provide opportunities for schoolchildren to learn about and preserve the environment.
- We want to create selective learning opportunities for our students through deepening experiences in the major, in the community, and in the Honors Program. A long-term goal might be separate housing for high-achieving students.
- We want to establish Chico as a leader in the country in the use of academic technology to enhance learning in demonstrable ways.
These goals are directly linked to the institution's academic strategic plan, grounded in the goal of creating ever higher-quality learning environments for students. Each college and unit will have its own goals that we will support. We need to think carefully about how goals are established and which we can realistically pursue. People do not always respond positively to an appeal that sounds like an alarm -- even a four-alarm. They have heard enough about our problem of not having enough money. They want their money to make a real difference. We know that they will support visions, good ideas, and clear plans for making a university better with their names attached.
A good example exists on this campus -- the campaign for the Northern California Natural History Museum. This effort began as part of a vision to link the science education efforts of faculty in the College of Natural Sciences to their colleagues in K - 12, to provide opportunities for children to get excited about science, and to provide a science resource for the community. This drew the interest of volunteers who are dedicating their time and money because they believe in the vision. Through these efforts, $3 million in funds were secured from the state of California, and community members have pledged other resources. More volunteers continue working with professional staff from the university to secure the remaining funds.
Continued organizational work is essential, and everyone must be involved. Presidents, provosts, deans, and department chairs must be involved, as should students, faculty, and staff. If this seems a new responsibility, remember you can all continue to tell the story of the university, and to offer transformational ideas that attract private support for the things we all want. You can identify potential donors -- former students or members of the community you believe might be interested and with whom you have a connection.
In a professional fire department, we would pay our taxes and count on somebody else to save our home and belongings. In fund-raising, we will never be able to afford to hire all the people necessary to do all the work. Even if we did, we need the people who make up the academic heart of the university to tell the story about all the good things we do.
As we seek to expand our fund-raising abilities, please think about ideas that would excite people, ideas that would prompt people to donate their time, and about ways we can transform the institution with their help. Then, we will have created the common cause that kept homes safe when volunteer fire departments were the rule.