Theses Doctoral

Evidence-Informed Institutional Advancement: An Organizational Understanding

McNamee, Chase

This dissertation study seeks to better understand two main ideas around institutional advancement in higher education: the knowledge and evidence that informs practice and the structures and systems that are set up for the sharing of this knowledge and evidence within and across these organizations. I use a conceptual framework based on organizational systems, learning, and culture theories along with the tenets of evidence-informed policy and practice (EIPP) to delve deeper into my research questions. These research questions include: 1) To what extent do advancement divisions value certain types of evidence and knowledge? 2) What types of evidence and knowledge do advancement divisions utilize to inform their practice and policies? 2a) What organizational practices and individual and organizational characteristics, if any, affect which knowledge guides the work of advancement organizations? 3) What organizational learning systems and structures are in place both within and outside advancement organizations that guide practice and internal policy making? 4) What sociodemographic and organizational characteristics, if any, show a relationship with systems and structures of knowledge management and mobilization of institutional advancement shops?

I draw on an original data set that combines responses from survey methodology and data from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) AMAtlas Data Miner and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) (n=1,826). Using a combination of descriptive statistics, ordinal logistic regression (OLR), and linear regression, I add to the literature base on philanthropy in higher education and gain insight into my research questions. The field of institutional advancement is understudied and often relies on anecdotal evidence versus more theory-based understanding of how work is carried out (Drezner, 2011; Drezner & Huehls, 2014; Walton, 2019). These findings push the field’s understanding of what knowledge, evidence, and learning systems and structures drive and guide the work of advancement.

Advancement organizations value all types of knowledge and evidence in their work, including tacit, explicit, embedded, and research based. However, there is an incongruency between this valuing of all knowledge and evidence types and day-to-day practice. Practitioners are more likely to use and share tacit, explicit, embedded knowledge and evidence sources than research based. In addition to these findings, I find that advancement practitioners share knowledge and evidence using a multitude of different learning structures and systems both within their organization and across the broader field of institutional advancement.

My study uses organizational theory and tenets of EIPP to highlight the ways that advancement practice can be further understood and improved. These improvements are critical to ensure that the field works towards a model of equity and inclusion for all alumni, donors, and stakeholders. In addition, with changing demographics and decreased alumni participation rates, the findings from my study are more important than ever to ensure the sustainability of these organizations for generations to come.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Drezner, Noah D.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
November 9, 2022