Cassie McVeety: Trends and Challenges in Advancement

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Cassie McVeety, Vice President for College Advancement and Executive Director, MHCC Foundation, Mount Hood Community College

WG: From your perspective, what are the three major trends you see coming in the advancement field over the next five to ten years?

First, I would note that technology remains the major trend that is fundamentally changing the way we do business in institutional advancement. For example, five years ago we were not using social media the way we are today in our work, and the evolution will only continue. Google is now a common verb in our vocabulary and the traditional tools of the past like telephoning alumni at home on land lines, sending out paper press releases to newspapers, and hosting class-year based alumni reunions have morphed into texting campaigns, communications channels with multiple inputs and outputs and virtual affiliations, and posting yearbooks and reunions on Facebook.

Second, advances in technology and the immediacy of information exchange, combined with generational changes among our graduates are factors that – when combined – are creating the new graduate. Our alumni, whether of an independent school, a community college, a traditional four-year university or a graduate or professional program are now choosing if, when, and how they choose to identify, relate, communicate and become involved with their alma maters.

WG: What are the two to three challenges that you face on a regular basis today?

Related to this issue of the new graduate is the challenge of transforming the way we communicate and engage with our many audiences, especially graduates. I recently talked with Jeff Todd, Executive Director of the University of British Columbia Alumni Association and he described his innovative university-wide effort to capture, measure, and track alumni involvement as they strive to double their alumni engagement during the next five years. UBC and many others are leading the way with creative outreach, and we all need to be rethinking the way we inspire students and graduates to become–and stay–a part of our institutions.

Other challenges include the overarching decline in funding for public education across the US, as well as other countries. Having now worked at an independent school, a private liberal arts university, major public research universities, and now at a large community college, I have observed that the disinvestment in education effects all institutions in the continuum of educational levels, as well as choices and delivery from preschool through post doc.

WG: What keeps you up at night in thinking about advancement organizations? Do you envision changes in staffing and functions over the next several years?

One of the trends that I am concerned with is the idea of development and philanthropy separating from the other key facets of advancement. Based on my nearly 30 years in our field, I have experience with many organizational structures. I am entirely convinced that our work is much more successful, efficient and effective when it is truly integrated work. Alumni relations, communications and marketing, and philanthropy each play vitally significant roles and simply work better when strategically aligned with the institution’s overall goals. That being said, it doesn’t really matter who reports to whom as long as the shared vision, planning and evaluation of programs is integrated.

WG: From your perspective, what role does the board of trustees play in raising philanthropic support? Do you see that changing in the next five to ten years?

Governance of educational institutions is an enormous job, whether at a public institution or a private one and the role of the Board of Trustees must include their personal commitment to their institution. Just as the role of college and university presidents is significantly external and focused on raising philanthropic support, so too is the role of Trustee to advance and support the institution’s key fundraising initiatives. If anything, I suspect this emphasis on fundraising for boards will only increase in the next five to ten years, and I would also add that deans, provosts, and others in leadership roles are also integrally important to raising philanthropic support.

WG: In considering the alumni/ae at our respective institutions, what role or function should they be serving? Is that changing?

As I mentioned earlier, the role of the graduate is not only changing – it has already changed. If I want to contact a classmate from my undergraduate alma mater the University of Oregon, I can Facebook them, or used LinkedIn to find them quickly without my alumni association’s participation. In fact, I could find all the UO alumni in a certain geographic region, or profession, or class year using those social media tools. So the challenge for each of our institutions is to engage our alumni in ways that add value to their experience and engender their support, pride, and activities with us. We need to continue to empower each alumnus to not only use their own tools to connect and engage but find other creative ways to grow support for our schools.


The Woolbright Group’s services include counsel in strategic planning, board development, leadership and team building, capacity building, training in effective fundraising and solicitation skills, and more. For more information, please contact us.

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