Understanding and influencing fund raising leadership

Donald Thomas Cahill, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation, a qualitative study of twenty capital campaign leaders, examines the factors and forces that help to define styles, preferences and behaviors of fundraising leaders in a capital campaign. The setting for the study is the recently completed $17 million capital campaign at Marian College, a small liberal arts institution located in southeast Wisconsin. The findings and recommendations of this study will help to define fundraising leadership taxonomies and will help college administrators in understanding and maximizing leadership effectiveness. Four prevalent leadership theories—Transactional, Transformational, Situational, and Contingency Theory—provide the conceptual framework for this dissertation. Six research questions guide the direction of the study. The research questions deal with issues that help define different leadership styles, relational and environmental factors that can affect leadership behavior, and the connection between fundraising leadership experience and other aspects of college governance. In a major fundraising drive or capital campaign, the need for commitment and ownership on the part of the governing board, internal college leadership and other key volunteers is essential for successful fundraising results. While each of these groups agrees that strong and effective leadership is one of the most significant predictors of a successful capital campaign, there is a scarcity of literature or research on the factors that influence or define fundraising leadership styles, practices and behaviors. The findings in this study identify and suggest factors that influence capital campaign leadership styles and behavior. The study identifies the unmistakable link between internal and external leaders and leadership behavior. Leaders can at different times, and for various reasons, be both transactional and transformational. With the exception of “levels of giving” as an indicator of leadership style, fundraising leaders tend to be transactional in carrying out leadership tasks. There appears to be strong evidence of the relevance of Situational and Contingency theories to the study of fundraising leadership. Finally, college administrators must recognize the value of using committed and informed fundraising leaders in other aspects of college governance.

Subject Area

School administration|School finance

Recommended Citation

Cahill, Donald Thomas, "Understanding and influencing fund raising leadership" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3084863.