Date Capstone Completed


Document Type

Capstone Paper

Degree Name

Masters of Science in Leadership Education: Organizational Leadership


Leadership Education


Theresa Waterbury


This research study focuses on the role of strategic leadership within effective advancement organizations. Given the fundraising responsibility of university advancement leaders, there is a need to research the leadership strategies which lead to successful fundraising. The purpose of this study is to determine effective leadership strategies for Chief Advancement Officers (CAOs) at four-year, public universities. Strategic Leadership Theory suggests connections between the university’s executive leadership and institutional success (Boal & Hooijberg, 2001; Finkelstein & Hambrick, 1996). The research study design is qualitative to explore the experiences of individuals regarding the connections between leadership strategies and fundraising performance in university foundation and advancement structures. Eight CAOs of similar universities volunteered to participate in this study. Individual interviews are used in this research study. Data collection consists of recorded interview transcripts and annual financial reports from each subject university. Findings include leadership strategies for fundraising departments, the role of CAO in institutional and departmental planning, effective fundraising strategies, and adaptations to the limits of strategic leadership. Conclusions and leadership implications include the following: 1) effective CAOs ensure organizational fundraising goals are met by communicating clear expectations and assessing both progress and performance; 2) effective CAOs use influence and authority to ensure that fundraising activities contribute to institutional success; 3) effective CAOs improve fundraising performance by increasing donor awareness of philanthropic priorities and by increasing donor confidence in institutional leadership; 4) effective CAOs demonstrate a high level of leadership capacity and are competent advancement professionals; and 5) effective management is a prerequisite for effective strategic leadership.



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