Talking Shop: Advancement on a Global Level
Joanna Watts has more than 25 years of experience in higher education both in the U.K. and Australia. She is passionate about building a better donor and alumni experience, and she believes that improving advancement metrics can have a big impact. As a CASE volunteer, she has served as an AMAtlas Advisory Committee member working with global core metrics, was co-chair for the advancement services stream for APAC 2021 and the chair of CASE Support of Education Survey, Australia and New Zealand Committee. She has participated in writing the Australian/New Zealand chapter of the CASE Global Reporting Standards. The new standards give institutions the tools to benchmark globally, no matter how small or large their advancement departments are.
Why was it important for you to be a volunteer on the Australia/New Zealand Chapter of the CASE Global Reporting Standards?
There is a common attitude and outlook amongst advancement professionals that I really appreciate, and I am always struck by this whenever we get into a room together. What I notice first is usually a commitment to the profession, irrespective of the size of the institution or the maturity of the advancement function. We are all in this business because we believe in education and the contribution that philanthropy and alumni engagement can make to further the cause of education as a transformative force for society.
For me the Global Reporting Standards are important because they give us a framework, guide rails to help us to develop this important work within our own institutions and according to our own contexts.
How do you use metrics in your day-to-day work?
Metrics of all types (fundraising, engagement, operational) underpin everything that we do at the university. Many of our metrics have been tied to our campaign, Believe. As we are nearing the end of the campaign, we are looking both at how we measure and report outcomes as well as how the metrics we have adopted have driven our priorities.
What are some common misconceptions you’ve seen about advancement metrics?
I think the biggest misunderstanding is that the technology is only one piece of a puzzle; equally important is the data itself. If you put rubbish data in, then you can only get rubbish data out. Hand in hand with this goes a misunderstanding that data is an advancement services responsibility. Sure, the advancement services or operations staff will have sophisticated knowledge of the systems and can manage the data that is in there, but everybody has to play a part in data management to ensure that the information put into whatever system you use is as clean and accurate as possible.
How does Australia compare, in terms of advancement, to the U.K. and the U.S.?
The U.S. and the U.K., generally speaking, have more mature advancement functions. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily bringing in more money or engaging more alumni but there is a level of embeddedness within the organization that many institutions here in Australia are still seeking to achieve. Often it is only when the function is achieving results will the institution feel confident to invest. That’s where metrics can be really helpful—in showing the progress towards the destination, even if the results aren’t yet in.
How will being able to benchmark with advancement colleagues across the globe affect your team?
Being able to see what is happening globally will provide additional information and inputs, provide further inspiration for growth trajectories, and will help to demonstrate to the broader institutional leadership that the fundamentals are the same regardless of geography, size, or maturity.
About the author(s)
Beth Mechum is the manager, strategic communications, at the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.
Article appears in:
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