Executives from African Universities Learn from the American Fundraising Model

As African universities seek to attract more students, to support existing programs, and to expand their academic offerings, the pressure to find sources of funding is intense. Ten senior executives from African higher education institutions talk about the challenges they face in fundraising and reflect on some of the lessons that they learned in New York City, during their participation in the study visit on the American fundraising model, organized annually by the King Baudouin Foundation United States (KBFUS).

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September 2, 2016


Speaking at an entrepreneurship conference during his 2015 trip to Kenya, U.S. President Barack Obama described Africa as a “continent on the move.” To accelerate this trajectory and secure Africa’s prosperity, higher education has a critical role to play in producing smart business leaders, skilled legal and medical professionals, and informed policymakers.

Yet when it comes to fundraising, universities face tough challenges, as the comments of participants in the KBFUS study visit reveal. The question for these leaders is how to generate the funding needed to deliver the high-quality education that will be a cornerstone of Africa’s progress.

The pressure to find new sources of funding is intensifying. At the African Higher Education Summit held in Dakar in March 2015, the African Union delegates highlighted funding as one of the top five higher education priorities.

Yet social and economic forces form a complex backdrop against which African higher education institutions work to raise funds for their organizations. Much of the region is experiencing rapid economic growth, while a “youth bulge” that could lead the continent’s young population to double by 2050 provides a potentially rich source of future students. At the same time, Africa is home to some of the world’s highest rates of poverty, hunger, and inequality.

For any fundraiser operating in this environment, the challenges are manifold. Often, little government funding is available for higher education, as many of the professionals we interviewed point out.

Many of the institutions we spoke to supplement government funding with revenue from tuition fees. At Great Zimbabwe University, for example, 90 percent of operational funding comes from student fees, with the government providing funding only for staff salaries.

However, government funding and student fees only go so far. Most of the professionals we spoke to thus talked about the need to accelerate their fundraising activities to expand their teaching and research capabilities.

When it comes to fundraising, a number of barriers exist. Several study visit participants highlighted continued poverty in their country as an obstacle to fundraising. But even among the more affluent of Africa’s citizens, a culture of giving back to one’s alma matter does not yet exist.

The task ahead, therefore, is to build a philanthropic culture in which citizens feel a duty to support educational institutions, and universities can start building the kind of loyalty that in the U.S. results in billions of dollars being donated by alumni.

Given that the African diaspora is one of the world’s most important in terms of numbers, potential exists to tap into the generosity of alumni outside Africa. Africans working overseas sent almost US$60 billion back home in remittances in 2012, according to the World Bank.

Few universities have yet established alumni networks that would enable graduates overseas to connect with their place of study. However, having attended the KBFUS workshop, many of the professionals we interviewed said their organizations were planning to build these networks. This is the case at the Université Kongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which plans to create a database to connect with alumni and inform them about the university’s events and funding needs.

Alumni living in the United States present an attractive target audience for most interviewees, given the size of the country and its culture of charitable giving. This is the reason why several universities are currently looking at legal options to raise tax-deductible donations in the USA, either through the setting up of a separate 501(c)3 structure or by opening of an American friends fund at KBFUS.

Meanwhile, the challenge for many institutions is securing the initial funding needed to support a development team that can devote its attention to building alumni relations and raising money for the university. While some already have such a team—as does the Johannesburg-based University of South Africa—others such as Senegal’s Université Gaston Berger rely on faculty and staff but have no specialized professionals dedicated to fundraising.

The lack of human resources makes it difficult for African universities to raise the capital needed to invest in new buildings, research resources, and scientific and IT equipment. While some institutions have impressive campuses that were established during the colonial era, many are in need of upgrading or adding new buildings, either for academic purposes or student accommodation.

Pockets of support for fundraisers exist, particularly in South Africa where, for example, Inyathelo has been helping South African universities advance their fundraising programs and the Southern Africa Institute of Fundraising offers events, professional development and other resources.

Nevertheless, there is a general scarcity of training programs or professional fundraising associations on the continent. Study visit participants we interviewed stressed the importance of finding a way to connect with other fundraisers in other parts of the region in order to hear about their experiences and learn lessons from them.

With this in mind, we have prepared this report, which presents the views and experiences of 10 senior executives from leading African universities. Between 2013 and 2015, these individuals participated in the ‘study visit on the American fundraising model’, which is organized annually in New York City by the King Baudouin Foundation United States (KBFUS) and is designed to introduce strategic decision-makers in African higher education institutions to successful development strategies. Their comments provide insights into the challenges they face in supporting the growth and financial sustainability of their institutions. We hope that their comments will help inform their peers.

01. THE STRATEGIC APPROACH, Nimi Briggs, Former Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt (Nigeria), Class of 2014

With a location in the oil-producing region of southern Nigeria, the University of Port Harcourt not only helps educate the medical, legal, educational and other professionals of the future, it also plays a prominent role in developing the technical and management skills needed for the production and distribution of oil and gas.

However, one challenge for the university is the policy of the Nigerian government of free tuition in all its institutions. Federal universities may charge small amounts to students to cover some operational costs and they may run part-time and certificate programs, for which they can charge.

“But what that boils down to is the fact that funding is a serious problem,” says Nimi Briggs, Former Vice Chancellor and Member of the Board of the University of Port Harcourt Foundation. “The federal government has not accepted that students should pay tuition fees, unlike some of the state and private universities.”

For this reason, under Briggs’ tenure as Vice Chancellor, the university started looking at ways of making contact with potential donors, whether private individuals, businesses, or foundations.

University of Port Harcourt

Located in the south of Nigeria in the Niger Delta, the University of Port Harcourt was established in 1975 and recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary. With a comprehensive range of courses, it teaches disciplines from the humanities and social sciences to medicine and law. Given the prominence of the oil industry in the country, programs such as engineering and energy economics are an important part of the university’s academic offering. Through its Emerald Energy Institute for Petroleum and Energy Economics, it educates professionals and corporate decision makers in the petroleum and energy sectors.

As a result, the university established a relationship with the MacArthur Foundation in the U.S., which led to the awarding of a series of grants. Between 2002 and 2015, the foundation awarded University of Port Harcourt grants for programs ranging from the establishment of a petroleum geosciences institute to the building of the university’s institutional strength.

In 2008, the university received an additional two-year grant from the MacArthur Foundation to support efforts to fundraise from the university’s alumni. “This opened our university up to new vistas, particularly to rational and structured ways of fundraising,” says Nimi Briggs.

Building on this, the university established an advancement center responsible for seeking funds to support the university’s programs and activities and with an external outreach unit. “It was from there that we got to know KBFUS,” explains Briggs, adding that the university recently established an American friends fund with KBFUS so that U.S. donors can contribute to the institution in a tax efficient manner.

The advancement center has since evolved into the University of Port Harcourt Foundation. “The foundation is charged with ensuring that lack of funds or lack of goodwill will never compromise the university,” says Briggs.

When it comes to fundraising, Briggs stresses the need to be strategic. “We don’t ask for funds in a vacuum,” he says. “We put out issues that need funds.” One example is seeking funding for students who, even though tuition is free, cannot afford to pay other charges such as accommodation and library fees.

This approach is reflected in the university’s strategic plan. “It sets out what the institution wishes to do in the next five years but does not have enough funds for,” explains Briggs. “Then, if public spirited people want to support this, they are invited to do so.”

For Briggs, the New York study visit reinforced the importance of this approach. “You don’t just ask people to give you money,” he says. “You have to show them what you want to use the money for and that it’s worthwhile. That donor-recipient interchange is very strong in the U.S. It was an important lesson we learned and one we are putting in place.”

02. BUILDING ON A ROYAL LEGACY, Nora Ebeid, Professor of Public Administration, Cairo University (Egypt), Class of 2015

With two-thirds of its funding coming from government and one-third from consulting and research fees generated by special economic units inside the institution, Cairo University raises only a small amount of money from private donors. Meanwhile, contributions from overseas donors take the form of occasional in-kind donations, such as books or medical equipment.

One exception is a major capital campaign the university is currently engaged on. The campaign is designed to raise funds for the establishment of a cancer treatment institute that will provide services to Egyptians free of charge. “Other than this, fundraising efforts are sporadic,” says Nora Ebeid, Professor of Public Administration in the university’s Faculty of Economics and Political Science.

This is set to change, however, explains Ebeid. While the university does not yet have staff dedicated to fundraising, it is planning to establish a development department at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science. “We will build a solid model that we hope to replicate in other faculties at the university,” says Ebeid.

Philanthropy is not a new concept in Egypt. “The biggest factor influencing fundraising in Egypt is the extent to which the requested donation or sponsorship will help fulfill a social need, be it health, education, or poverty elimination,” explains Ebeid.

Nevertheless, fundraising is not easy, with competition for donations and sponsorships coming from Egypt’s many non-governmental institutions. Moreover, universities are barred from raising funds to support operating expenses and new laws are emerging that restrict public institutions such as Cairo University from establishing endowments that generate investment revenues.

Cairo University

Located in Giza, Cairo University is a public institution established in 1908 by Fatma Ismail, one of the daughters of Khedive Ismail, the Egyptian monarch. In addition to funds and land on which its first two faculties—arts and law—were established, the princess endowed it with more than 600 acres of agricultural land, which generates revenue for the institution. Known internationally for applied sciences, such as medicine and engineering, the university caters to Egyptian and overseas students from a wide range of backgrounds. Egyptian students pay tuition fees that range from about 200 to 7,000 Egyptian pounds a year, with up to 30,000 Egyptian pounds in annual fees for joint degrees with international universities.

“Reforms that would provide tax benefits to donors is highly needed,” says Ebeid. She adds that Egypt must also reduce the bureaucratic procedures that make receiving donations from abroad complicated, and establish a formal training program for fundraisers, something that does not currently exist.

Set against these barriers is what Ebeid sees as a willingness on the part of citizens both inside and outside the country to contribute to Egypt’s prosperity. “Egyptians are determined to build their country and ensure stability,” she says. “And friends who are non-Egyptians all around the world see this clearly and are willing to help.”

Since attending the KBFUS study visit, Ebeid recognizes the value of having an American friends structure to support the university’s fundraising efforts in the United States. “Setting up a 501(c)(3) organization in the USA to receive donations is very costly and quite complex,” she says. “However, with KBFUS in existence, this problem is partly solved.”

Ebeid also found the study visit provided an opportunity to build new relationships. “It shortened the distance between ourselves and our African counterparts, hopefully strengthening our networking efforts,” she says.

03. EMERGING FROM CONFLICT, Nyeko Pen-Mogi, Vice Chancellor, Gulu University (Uganda), Class of 2015

In Northern Uganda, where years of conflict between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army have brought much suffering to citizens, Gulu University is playing a critical role in rebuilding stability and democracy in the region. And as part of these efforts it is working to establish the university as a center of excellence in medical education and research, including plans for the creation of a facility that will train doctors to provide artificial limbs, rehabilitation services and psychological treatment for those affected by landmines.

Of course, all this requires financial support. At Gulu University, about 85 percent of funding comes from the Ugandan government, which with a grant from the African Development Bank is building faculty and research buildings. The university also receives some support for medical and agricultural projects from the Italian, Danish and Dutch governments. Meanwhile, student fees cover roughly half of its operational costs.

However, Nyeko Pen-Mogi, the university’s Vice Chancellor, points to a need for additional funding. “We have this specific project of establishing a Biomedical Centre of Excellence where we are looking for funding immediately,” he explains. “The President of the Republic of Uganda is very supportive of this project.”

Yet, aside from the funding provided by the African Development Bank for the development of university buildings, it is hard to raise the capital needed for specific infrastructure such as the Biomedical Centre of Excellence.

Gulu University

With a mission to provide equitable access to higher education, the Ugandan government established Gulu University in 2002 with the Faculty of Science Education and the Institute of Business and Development Studies. Also known for its Faculty of Medicine, which was established in 2004, the institution now has five faculties with 260 academic staff members. While it is a national university, most students are from northern Uganda. However, through collaborations with universities in Italy and the UK, students from these countries come to Gulu University for internship training. Meanwhile, it also attracts Sudanese and Kenyan medical students.

Private funding, which the university currently lacks, could play a critical role. The first challenge is to find support for the creation of an office of advancement staffed with a team of fundraisers. “The biggest problem is funding such an office,” says Pen-Mogi.

Meanwhile, the office of the Vice Chancellor is responsible for fundraising. “We need a specialized team and a fundraising office to create and produce concept proposals for donors,” says Pen-Mogi. “If you don’t have this, you don’t get very far as the Vice Chancellor’s office is very busy.”

And while the university has networks it could use for fundraising efforts, such as its council members and alumni networks, making use of these networks is not practical at the moment. “The majority of council members are not capable of carrying out fundraising because many of them are junior people with little national and international exposure so far,” explains Pen-Mogi.

Since attending the KBFUS study visit, Gulu University has been considering the option of turning to U.S. donors, says Pen-Mogi. “We want to start by hiring a fundraising consulting firm to provide us with advice and guidance, and later establish a fundraising team and a grants office with skilled staff,” he explains.

Pen-Mogi made an initial contact with Faircom—a New York fundraising and communications agency which works with a wide range of international nonprofit organizations—during the study visit.

“I had been wanting to engage some individuals to do fundraising for the university in the U.S. or Europe, but I did not know how to go about it,” he says. “When I attended the workshop organized by KBFUS, I was lucky to learn that there are fundraising firms that can help raise funds for institutions in Africa.”

Having presented the idea to the university council, the plan to hire the agency was recently approved, and Gulu University is now working with Faircom to develop a solid fundraising strategy.

04. SEEKING NEW RESOURCES, Bernard Lututala, Rector, Université Kongo (DR Congo), Class of 2015

As for any relatively new institution, Université Kongo is under pressure to increase its sources of funding as it builds its physical and academic infrastructure. Université Kongo has three priorities when it comes to its plans for the future: new university buildings, the training of professors, and laboratories for its departments of medicine and agronomics.

Of these, the need for new campus facilities is most pressing, says Bernard Lututala, the university’s Rector. “For now, we are working with buildings that have been given to us to use for free,” he says. “But they are not our buildings – we need our own campus.”

Training the next generation of professors is another priority. Older academics are retiring and many of the university faculty members are still teaching at other universities in addition to their work at Université Kongo.

“We have a good doctoral program so in some years’ time, we could have our own professors,” he says. “But to do this, we need funds so that they can go to universities in Belgium or the USA to follow this program and come back to our university to teach.”

Université Kongo

A community university founded in 1990, Université Kongo is located in the Bas-Congo province. Formerly known as University of Bas-Zaire, the university currently functions on two campuses. One is in Kisantu, a city 120 kilometers from Kinshasa, the country’s capital, where the schools of medicine and literature are located. The other is at Mbanza Mgungu, 160 kilometers from Kisantu, and houses the faculties of law, economics and management, engineering and the faculty of agronomy. With a student body of about 3,600, the university also attracts students from countries such as Angola, Cameroon, and Congo Brazzaville.

But while the university receives funding from tuition fees, raising private donations is difficult, particularly in a country with such a weak economy. “In the past, whenever we’ve held ceremonies, we have tried to collect funds from the community,” says Lututala. “But this has not been very successful, because we are in a really poor country.”

Moreover, following decades of conflict, political instability, poor governance and a culture of corruption are deterrents to overseas donors. Lututala stresses the need to build trust among donors. “One strategy is to assure the donor that the accounts will be audited,” he says.

And as a result of his study visit in New York, the university has established an office and hired a manager to take charge of fundraising. “I’m supervising this as I’m the one who knows most about fundraising,” explains Lututala. “But I cannot be the head of the office so someone will manage it and I’ll collaborate with him.”

Alumni—both at home but also in the U.S. and Europe—could be another source of funding. “We have important people among our alumni who studied in our university,” says Lutulala, “So one strategy is to contact them and to ask them to support us.”

The university therefore plans to build a database and communicate with alumni through newsletters and a website informing them of university events, research and publications.

Many of Lututala’s plans originated during his study visit. “I went to New York with little understanding about how fundraising works so what was important for me was learning how to organize a strategy,” he says. “It was also very important to be with colleagues from other universities in Africa and understand their experiences.”

But while he came away with new ideas, implementation will be challenging. From poor internet connections to the language barriers that come with being based in a French-speaking country, fundraising will not be easy. “We have so many constraints in our country,” says Lututala. “But we are trying.”

05. TAPPING INTO AN ALUMNI NETWORK, David Farirai, Director of Institutional Advancement, University of South Africa (South Africa), Class of 2015

Resource mobilization and fundraising are not yet well-established and well-developed as a mainstream profession in Africa. Compared to many universities on the African continent, the University of South Africa (UNISA) is doing relatively well in fundraising but, as David Farirai, Director of Institutional Advancement at the University of South Africa explains, “We still believe that it has not yet reached its full potential.” As a public university, it receives about 50 percent of its budget from government sources, 35 percent from student fees, and the remaining 15% from investments. Meanwhile, in 2004, the Unisa Foundation was established at the university to raise funds to support teaching and learning, research and innovation, student bursaries and community engagement initiatives.

“We have a team of people who drive that fundraising and I’m the director of that,” explains David Farirai. This team, he adds, has one group focused on fundraising and resource mobilization, another devoted to alumni relations and the third one is focused on international partnerships. Unfortunately, his office is staffed by relatively young professionals who still need to build up their fundraising experience.

However, despite this infrastructure, fundraising from private donors remains a challenge. “Our alumni are not strong in giving,” he explains. “It’s not a culture that they’re used to.” The other challenge of UNISA is that most of its students are enrolled in  the Open Distance Learning mode and as such they do not have a strong affiliation with the university.

Inspired by the American models of fundraising he encountered on the study visit, Farirai has plans to increase the university’s ability to tap into alumni support. “Having learned about the models in the U.S., it’s [these] models that work extremely well and we look at them with envy.”

University of South Africa

At 143-years-old, University of South Africa is one of the continent’s longest established educational institutions. A public university, the institution is also Africa’s largest open distance learning university, with a total student population of 400,000. Building on this strength, it is now working in partnership with the African Union to establish a distance-learning network based on the model of UK’s Open University.

Today, therefore, strategies to increase alumni support for the University of South Africa include building alumni chapters at home, in other African countries with high UNISA alumni concentrations, overseas, as well as developing specific projects for alumni to support, such as scholarships supporting disadvantaged students who have demonstrated the potential for success.

Communications is another tool. While the university has a database of alumni, Farirai says it is challenging to keep all alumni details current. Yet this is a priority. “That’s a major struggle we have,” he says. “But we try to update it and whenever we do that, we communicate with alumni about the activities of the university.”

While most alumni are based in South Africa, some are in places such as London, New York, and Washington DC. So, since last year, the team has started increasing its efforts to building relationships with these alumni. “We had a successful event in London at the South African High Commission and we also had an event in Washington,” explains Farirai.

He stresses the importance of establishing these relationships before starting to fundraise. “Because we’re new in building this up, what we’ve been doing is more of a ‘friend-raising’ with the hope of fundraising later, once people are excited about what is happening at the university,” he says.

Links with institutions in former colonial powers will help. “We have a productive relationship with both the UK and the Netherlands,” says Farirai. “And we even have similarities in language between Dutch and Afrikaans, which helps develop productive research partnerships and student exchange programs.”

Nevertheless, Farirai sees work ahead in cultivating private donors. “The culture of fundraising and philanthropy is new and growing in South Africa and the rest of Africa, and even university programs asking for donations is very much a new thing,” he says. “So fundraising has to develop more in Africa.”

He recognizes the importance of leadership, a theme he says came out strongly during the study visit. “The role of the vice chancellor of the university and the whole executive leadership is critical in supporting fundraising,” says Farirai. “It’s an integral part of the institution and not just the work of one department. I am glad though to say our Vice Chancellor has embraced this role and he is supportive to us as we mobilize resources internationally.”

Other lessons from the study visit included the importance of donor stewardship and donor recognition. “We’re developing an advancement plan for the next five years,” says Farirai. “And as part of that strategic plan, we’re looking to incorporate best practices we learned in the U.S.”

06. A WEST AFRICAN HEAVYWEIGHT, Stella Amoa, Director of Public Affairs, University of Ghana (Ghana), Class of 2015

With a student population of about 38,000, University of Ghana is the country’s largest higher education institution.  And as such, the University seeks to play an increasingly prominent role both nationally and globally and to become a leader in academic research as well as in teaching and learning.

In addition to government funding (which makes up about 47 percent of its needs) and student fees (making up 20 percent), the university secures funding for research, mainly in the form of grants from overseas institutions.

Ghana’s educational institutions also benefit from the Ghana Education Trust Fund, a public trust established by an Act of Parliament in 2000 with a mandate to provide funding to supplement government support for educational infrastructure and facilities.

University of Ghana

University of Ghana was founded in 1948 as the University College of the Gold Coast. At the time, with the country still a British colony, the university was admitted to the Scheme of Special Relationship extended by the University of London to certain English and overseas university colleges. This allowed it to teach for the external degree examinations of London University and modify the London syllabuses to suit local conditions. In the 1960-61 academic year, it became a university with the power to award its own degrees. Today, it is Ghana’s largest university and has affiliations with a number of Ghanaian and international institutions, as well as agreements with universities in Africa, Europe, and North America that facilitate student, faculty, and staff exchanges and collaborative research.

However, tapping into private donors such as alumni is becoming a priority in order to secure additional funding, says Stella Amoa, the university’s Director of Public Affairs, particularly as the priorities of the Ghana Education Trust Fund appears to have shifted. “More recently, this platform has been used for pre-tertiary institutions so the bulk of tertiary institutions are not being supported through it as previously,” she says.  “It is a signal for leaders of higher education to look to other sources of funding besides government.”

And with an ambitious 10-year strategic plan launched late last year, funding will be needed to support the university’s growth. “Apart from the research and academic areas, we also see a need for capital projects for buildings,” she explains. “In line with our strategic plan, we want to enhance the quality of our equipment and research labs.”

With the establishment of colleges, it is expected that much of the fundraising will be conducted within the individual colleges headed by provosts who have direct relationship with donors as well as by the constituent units. In addition, members of faculty write grant proposals in order to fund research.

The university has plans to enhance its fundraising capabilities. “Specifically, we are in the process of recruiting a director of institutional advancement,” explains Amoa. “That will be the rallying point to identify prospects, donors and seeking major gifts to boost fundraising.”

She also says that the university needs to do more to tap into its alumni network as a source of funding. “The income from alumni support is not even factored in the University’s budget as a source of funding because it is not forthcoming,” she says.

Part of the challenge is cultural.  Amoa says that the kind of loyalty seen in the U.S. from former students towards their alma mater is rarely present in Africa.

However, as a result of her New York study visit, Amoa is hopeful that the University will work to build the alumni network, especially in the United States, and very soon look at the possibility of establishing an American friends fund at KBFUS to facilitate that.

“That’s something I brought home with me,” she says. “And since returning I have made a proposal to senior management which has been accepted in principle.”

07. FUNDRAISING IN A TOUGH ECONOMY, Rungano Zvobgo, Vice Chancellor, Great Zimbabwe University (Zimbabwe), Class of 2015

When it comes to obstacles to fundraising, it is hard to underestimate the difficulty of operating in a country that is subject to trade sanctions by major Western powers, as is the case in Zimbabwe. And during a period when much of Africa experienced economic growth, Zimbabwe slid into a deep recession after the implementation of a controversial land reform program that led to the collapse of the all-important agricultural sector and the decline of the once-productive mining industry.

Rungano Zvobgo, Great Zimbabwe University’s Vice Chancellor, stresses the fact that his institution steers clear of politics. However, the economic fallout of the Zimbabwe government’s decisions has had an impact on the university’s financial sustainability.  “We are not politicians,” he says. “But our ability to attract resources from outside has been seriously diminished.

Government funding has shrunk by about 90 percent, Zvobgo adds, while domestic fundraising has been hampered by the weakness in the economy. “Parents, who are normally a major source of aid, are struggling,” says Zvbgo. “And in addition, it’s very difficult to approach philanthropic organizations overseas with requests for funding.”

Great Zimbabwe University

Established in 1999 in Masvingo, a town in south-eastern Zimbabwe , Great Zimbabwe University started life as a teacher training college and was transformed into a public university through an act of parliament. With government funding covering only staff salaries, fees from a large student body cover most operational costs, while the university receives 8 percent of its funding from the donor community, with 2 percent coming from its own fundraising efforts.

One advantage the university does have is Zimbabwe’s strong reputation for higher education. And while it also has academic strengths in agriculture and social sciences, Great Zimbabwe University has acquired a reputation for training student teachers, particularly special needs teachers.

With no other schools providing this kind of training, the university has been able attract a large number of students—its student body is currently about 15,000—both domestically and from across the region, from countries such as Botswana, Malawi and Zambia. “We are training teachers who then go back and teach in their schools,” explains Zvobgo, who says that about 25 percent of the university’s students come from outside Zimbabwe. “We pride ourselves on being able to attract such a large number of international students,” he says.

This means the university can tap into tuition fees to finance its operational costs, leaving government funding to cover staff salaries. However, this does not leave the university with any funding it can use for capital investments.

While physical facilities exist, Zvobgo points to the need to upgrade the lab equipment, particularly given the university’s popularity among special needs student teachers. “This coming August we’re getting about 200 student teachers from Swaziland who we’re going to train in this field,” he explains. “But we’re very badly short of equipment.”

But while fundraising has been challenging, Zvobgo sees opportunities to draw support from university graduates and other Zimbabweans living in the United States and Europe, where he says interest is growing in the activities of his institution. Inspired by the experience of the KBFUS workshops, the Great Zimbabwe University is starting to create a database of alumni and is sending directors on overseas trips to developing relationships with former students.

The university has a development department with 10 staff members and is working with Stellenbosch University in South Africa, which offers training programs for fundraisers. And since attending the New York workshop, Zvobgo recognizes the need to bolster its local fundraising capabilities. “There are many people in this country who are very wealthy,” he says. “They need to be approached by university officials, because we need to broaden our base—it’s not enough to depend on outside fundraisers.”

08. FROM CRISIS TO RECOVERY, Henrique Tokpa, President, Cuttington University (Liberia), Class of 2014

Facing everything from conflict and financial constraints to the Ebola crisis, Cuttington University has not had an easy history. On several occasions, civil war forced the institution to close. During the First Liberian Civil War from 1989 to 1996, it was looted, its buildings sustained serious damage, and the campus was used for the training of militias. From 1990 to 1997, it maintained an office in the U.S. state of Virginia before re-opening in 1998.

In recent years, not only has the university rebuilt its infrastructure. It has also revitalized its curriculum, introducing new areas of concentration, as well as an English program to address the poor use of English among many college students.

A liberal arts school with a campus 120 miles north of Monrovia, the university has a strong focus on agriculture and a large public health program. For this reason, when the university found itself at the heart of the Ebola epidemic, it was able to offer assistance.

During the crisis, international medical workers treating Ebola patients were able to use the laboratory which the university had built with assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense. “We were very involved during the heat of the crisis,” says Henrique Tokpa, President of Cuttington University.

Cuttington University

Established in 1889 by the Episcopal Church in Cape Palmas, the university was named for Robert Fulton Cutting, treasurer of the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church in the United States, who in 1885 provided funding for land on which to build a school. A private university, Cuttington University receives about 8 percent of its funding from the government of Liberia, with student fees covering 80 to 85 percent of its costs. The university now has seven colleges covering disciplines such as natural and health sciences, agriculture, business and public administration, and arts and social sciences.

Now that the crisis is over, Dr. Tokpa can start to look ahead. And he points to a range of funding needs, from science equipment to computers. “We lack basic training tools,” he says. “For example, we want all of our teachers to have access to computers in their offices.”

However, fundraising for these things comes with a number of challenges. First, it is hard to attract overseas donors. “Liberia is a hard sell,” says Tokpa. And those who are ready to contribute do not prioritize tertiary education. “People give for orphanages, clinics, and feeding programs, but not for higher education.”

Raising funds at home has been no easier. “We started a fundraising drive and we thought we would get our President and high officials here involved,” he explains. “But that did not pan out at all – the government did not look at us.”

Tokpa stresses the need to establish an office dedicated to fundraising and to organize an alumni association that can seek donors among the university’s graduates both in Liberia and overseas. This message was reinforced during his time on the KBFUS study visit. “Being exposed to some of the lectures was really intriguing to me,” says Tokpa.

He believes that if donors could be made aware of the mission and achievements of the university, it could attract funding. “We have a very rich history,” he says. “Quite a number of students are training here from Nigeria and Kenya. And we have our track record of having won an ethics award in West Africa [the 2012 Exam Ethics Marshals Award]. So we have something to sell.”

However, the challenge for the university is finding the initial financing to support fundraising infrastructure and staff. “We need the seed money to hire a professional to develop and implement a fundraising plan,” he says. “Basically the story is good and the needs are here, but we just don’t have the ability to do the fundraising at this stage.”

09. SUPPORTING NEW GROWTH, Sophie Diallo, Attachée of the Rector, Coordinator of the Operational Unit for Fundraising Strategies, Université Gaston Berger (Senegal), Class of 2013

Senegal’s second largest higher education institution, Université Gaston Berger has been expanding. The 2013-2014 academic year was marked by a sharp increase in the number of students, with the student body now standing at 8,479, compared to 6,957 students in the previous year, representing an annual growth rate of 18 percent.

However, in order to support this growth, the university needs funding.  The institution has added to its academic offerings. From 2007 to 2012, it added four faculties and one pedagogical institute. Many of the new disciplines lack their own buildings and the existing buildings need new equipment. “It’s a huge problem for us,” says Sophie Diallo, Attachée of the Rector of the university.

Thanks to funding from the World Bank to the Government of Senegal, the University has secured $10 million for new equipment through a performance-based contract, and an additional $13 million for a new building for the sport and education sciences faculty, one of the 5 new faculties.

Université Gaston Berger

Founded in 1990 with four training and research units, Université Gaston Berger is today structured around eight faculties and five institutes that conduct teaching and research in areas such as applied sciences and technology, humanities, law and political sciences, economics and management, agriculture, civilization, religion, arts and communication, sport and education sciences, and health sciences. The university also has two doctoral schools in science and technology, and another  in humanities and society, respectively. In 2014, the World Bank selected Gaston Berger University as an African Center of Excellence (ACE) in Mathematics and ICT. The Université Gaston Berger was one of 19 universities, designated ACE, which received funding. The university will celebrate its 25th anniversary in December 2015.

Université Gaston Berger, she explains, was established with funding from the Senegalese government, with some assistance from Italy. Today, it still receives most of its funding from the government. “But this is only sufficient to cover seven months a year of salaries and operational costs,” she says. “And as we are growing, it’s not enough.”

The university is able to charge fees to students. However, with fees ranging between just $50 and $150, this makes only a small contribution to the university’s revenue stream. Moreover, cultural barriers hamper fundraising efforts. “In Senegal, we don’t have the fundraising concept that you see in America,” says Diallo.

Now under the leadership of a new rector, Professor Baydallaye Kane, Université Gaston Berger is making plans to find new sources of funds. “For the new rector, the most important challenge is to raise money,” says Diallo.

One plan, for example, is to create a medical center that could generate revenue by offering healthcare services while also serving as a teaching facility. And given that the university has an agriculture department and, a 30-hectare farm, another idea is to develop the farm and later create a commercial center that would sell farm produce.

The university is also looking to form partnerships with companies to create the buildings it needs through build-operate-transfer projects, a model in which private companies receive a concession to finance, design, construct, and operate a facility.

For Diallo, the New York study visit provided plenty of new ideas about fundraising. “It was very interesting for me. I really loved it,” she says. “During the workshop in New York, we learned that in America, there is an alumni culture and fundraising is developed by and facilitated through alumni networks and channels. I learned a lot about the culture of fundraising.”

In developing this culture, however, the first challenge for Université Gaston Berger is finding the human resources. While 15 university staff members are working on developing its ideas, most are also teaching and so can only contribute their spare time to the projects.

To execute the plans, the university needs a dedicated team, says Diallo, who is the coordinator in charge of the implementation of the projects. “Fundraising is a serious job,” she says. “It requires preparation, and it requires being dedicated, open minded and having contacts with others. And we are not at the stage of being able to pay for someone to do fundraising for us.”

For Diallo, her dream is of finding one individual who believes in the university’s mission, is prepared to commit funds to the institution, and can encourage others to follow. “That’s the starting point,” she says.

10. WORKING TO MOBILIZE NETWORKS, Rwekaza Mukandala, Vice Chancellor, University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Class of 2015

University of Dar es Salaam has played a prominent role in educating Tanzania’s professionals. For many years it was the country’s only university. “Coming out of the colonial period, there were no trained human resources,” explains Rwekaza Mukandala, the University’s Vice Chancellor. “So its most important task was to train the high-level human resources for the country.”

As a public institution, the university relies on government funding for its physical infrastructure, payroll and operational costs. And while student fees make up much of the university’s funding stream, about 60 percent of this comes indirectly from the government, which gives loans to students.

In addition, the university receives support from philanthropic institutions such as the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation in the U.S., and from development organizations in countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, China and Canada. It also receives funding for scholarships from the European Union and the Commonwealth, an organization of 53 member states that were mostly territories from the former British Empire.

Even so, like many of his peers at African universities, Mukandala acknowledges that the funding his institution receives from these sources is “never enough.”

As a long-established institution, the University of Dar es Salaam needs funding to upgrade its aging infrastructure. Mukandala also says that increased funding would enable faculty to attend conferences and seminars.

University of Dar es Salaam

Tanzania’s oldest and largest university, University of Dar es Salaam opened in 1961 as a University of London Affiliate College with just one Faculty of Law and 13 students. Three years later, it became part of the University of East Africa. In 1970, through an Act of Parliament, it became an autonomous institution. Today, it offers bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, as well as certification programs. And in addition to its strength in law, it has a wide range of academic offerings from social science and humanities to engineering and communications technologies.

In order to generate this additional funding, the university has an Office of Advancement, which was established five years ago. While the office does not operate full-time, two or three staff members are charged with fundraising efforts.

However, when it comes to tapping into funding from its alumni, Mukandala admits that there is more work to be done. “In terms of applying for funds from foundations, we do that pretty well,” he says. “But what we’ve not done well is raising money from alumni and friends.”

The biggest challenge, he adds, is gaining an understanding of the process of building an alumni network and assessing the time and resources that need to be devoted to this.

Here, the KBFUS Study Visit provided answers. “The workshop opened my eyes to this reality,” says Mukandala. “So we’re now trying to reorganize ourselves.”

This, he explains, will mean having the Office of Advancement run by a Director, rather than, as it is now, by a Manager. Moreover, he wants the Office of the Vice Chancellor to play a bigger role in fundraising and to work more closely with the Office of Advancement. “And we’ve been trying to develop a comprehensive alumni database,” he says.

Of course, there will be challenges ahead. Mukandala recognizes that the number of individuals able to become donors is more limited in Africa. “Among the general population, you don’t have the affluence you find in America,” he says. “While we are currently lacking in fundraising, we can build on our traditional values of reciprocity and self-help.”

However, he argues that given the economic realities, Africa’s educational institutions will need to become better equipped to raise funds from private donors. “The government can no longer provide for all the public universities,” he says. “So universities must engage in fundraising to augment their sources. We have had some success, but we now have to make that more sustained.”

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