Bridging the Gap Between Advancement and Academic Research: The 3 “C” Strategy

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The “3C” Strategy for More Effective Fundraising

Advancement and research offices can optimize their strategies to compete successfully for external funds by utilizing the “3C” approach. The “3C” approach is:

  • Communication that involves discussions and understanding of different approaches for external fundraising.
  • Collaboration in creating a plan that has common mission and goals for research and outreach programs.
  • Coordination in developing a bridge between grants and philanthropic gifts which advance your research and outreach programs.

Strategies for Enhanced Communication

Over several decades, advancement and research offices have developed distinctly different approaches for fundraising. Advancement’s role is to procure gifts from donors who have very specific interests in funding priorities. Research works with faculty to compete for grants for specific scientific, outreach and training programs. Also, there are distinct “global” perspectives on each office role in working with their constituencies.

Planning, facilitation and open discussions are vital to creating enhanced communication between the two offices. This is a new endeavor for many institutions, so take the time — whether it is 3 months or 1 year — to develop good rapport between your offices.

To bridge this gap:

  • Set up a series of informal meetings between the research office and advancement to discuss possible trends in funding.
  • Create teams that are expert in communications, media and public relations to write publications that explain relevant research to donors and government programs.
  • Coach researchers and deans on ways to approach donors.
  • Coach advancement on ways to communicate with researchers.
  • Develop strong strategic plans that identify relevant research opportunities.
  • Develop strong analytics and data management plans that can be used by both advancement and research programs.
  • Designate facilitators and coaches from advancement and research to develop specific plans for reaching successful outcomes.

Effective Collaboration Strategies

Improved communication between advancement and research offices creates opportunities to pursue new funding sources. An effective collaborative model is composed of:

  • Identifying funding opportunities for new and existing programs.
  • Creating consensus to develop teams for pursuing funding.
  • Identifying effective leadership and sponsorship for the program.
  • Writing mission and vision statements for the program — and using them to create better team cohesion and cooperation.
  • Setting up flexible goals that define successful outcomes.
  • Creating timelines and benchmarks that can help you analyze the team’s success in pursuing funding.

Coordination Strategies for Advancement and Research

The goal of successfully coordinating grants and gifts is to develop long-term programs that can draw from diverse sources of private and public funding. Successful coordination makes all the difference between success and failure for funding these complex projects.

Consider these three scenarios:

Scenario 1
A private donor funds a new center, with the assumption that the center will be sustainable after an initial donation. The professor(s) and staff hired will bring in additional federal and private foundation grants to keep the center sustainable. For this to work, the research office and colleges need to be involved in the hiring process. The university will be using existing resources to fund program. Research offices will need to develop plans for faculty — to develop an effective grant strategy for pursuing federal funding.

Specific recommendations for this scenario:

  • Create sustainability plans to share with the donor.
  • Assign specific individuals from the research office to work with new hires and assist them in networking with other faculty for collaboration on writing competitive grants.
  • Develop long-range financial plans detailing additional costs and benefits for funding this new program.

Scenario 2
An existing center at a university is receiving predominantly federal funding. Because of projected declines in research support from government agencies, the center needs to diversify its funding portfolio. Advancement identifies private donors who are interested in funding certain aspects of the continuing research.  Developing the communication plan that incorporates advancement and research goals is essential for making a successful pitch to the private donor. The donor will also want to visit with faculty and leaders at the center. Coaching will be essential in assisting faculty to explain how current research with additional funding will be beneficial to society. It is also vital that the center explains how the new private funding will meet the donor’s goals for improving and changing the world.
Scenario 3
The university is creating a research park that has multiple partners. These partners are the municipal government, local businesses, national corporations, economic development councils, and nonprofit organizations. The university foundation will be tasked to work on land and infrastructure development. The research office will be in charge of working with government entities, intellectual property, technology transfer, and spin-off businesses from translational research. Because this is a very complex collaborative effort by more than one organization, coordination between these entities will be critical; conflict between multiple partners over funding and goals could easily derail the process.

In this scenario, the lead organization, which happens to be the university, needs to hire at least one person or create an office that works as community organizer, facilitator and collaboration leader to keep the process moving toward a successful completion.

Coordination is a vital element for the successful implementation of these programs. It is essential that the person(s) assigned to these programs identify the gaps in communication, collaboration, and conflicts that could lead to the failure of these endeavors. Then they need to figure out solutions for resolving the issues that have not yet been addressed.


Developing strategic fundraising plans that involve the “3C” systematic approach of communication, collaboration, and coordination helps break down barriers between research and advancement offices to better pursue a more diverse portfolio of external funding from private and public sources.


I would like to thank Advancement and Research Office personnel from the University Of New Mexico (UNM) that discussed the ideas for the article. They are Henry Nemcik, CEO, UNM Foundation, Betsy Till, Corporate and Foundation Director, UNM Foundation, Carlos Romero, Director, Center for Education Policy Research at UNM, Kevin Malloy Associate Vice President for Research Initiatives at UNM and Michael Dougher, Vice President for Research at UNM.

All the thoughts and opinions stated in the article are my own.