University of Tasmania
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Growing the University's funding through philanthropy : an Australian and a Malaysian case study

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posted on 2023-05-27, 14:36 authored by Mohd Isa, R
Higher education needs sustainable forms of funding to operate effectively. As Government financial support to public universities are declining due to limited government funds, most of the state universities in the world are looking at ways to develop alternate revenue streams. An increasingly important and largely underdeveloped financial source is philanthropy. Philanthropy is associated with the action usually manifested by giving for socially useful purposes. In the context of defining the action of giving to higher education, philanthropy is about giving towards institutions that provide benefits of education. Thus, contemporary Universities need to compete with other societal organisations, e.g., Health, Welfare, as well as private contributions for a share of the tax dollars. This study examines the factors influencing philanthropic fundraising success in higher education organisations to gain an understanding of donors' giving decisions and their perceptions of giving. This understanding is important in the consideration and planning for a successful philanthropic fundraising program at two public universities, one in Malaysia, and one in Australia. In doing so, the study moves beyond the understanding of 'benevolence' in the society and explores the similarity and differences of 'giving behaviours', and the reasons for giving in a contemporary cross-cultural context, Australia and Malaysia. The study adopted a Qualitative Research Approach, and used a mixed method research design, particularly case study method. The study utilised the survey-questionnaire, interviews, and document analysis as the data gathering tools. A total of 220 Donors-Alumni respondents completed a survey questionnaire, and 35 participants including University Representatives, a Malaysian Government Official, and Donors-Alumni participated in the interview sessions. This study is unique as it considered the institutional philanthropy of public universities in two different national contexts, namely, Australia and Malaysia. The study's findings suggest that philanthropy is a source of funding that is presently underdeveloped in Malaysian public universities, but is relatively more prevalent in Australia. The study suggests four main findings in the area of philanthropy, namely, the role of culture (including religion and the need to recognise the local milieu), governance (including policy framework, transparency, resources, ethics), the need for alignment of goals and University Mission (including identifying donor's needs and aspirations), the role of University Profile (such as University Reputation, Branding, Achievements), and the role of government policies in the promotion of private financial support to universities. Not surprisingly, a number of differences in donors' giving behaviour across both countries also arose, particularly, the donors' demographic and socio-economic characteristics and their motivations for giving. The study's findings confirmed that race, religion, custom and tradition are prominent elements in the Malaysian culture of giving while the Australian giving culture seems to be influenced more by causes for support‚ÄövÑvp and not so much on donor's background characteristics. To ensure fundraising success, the institutional philanthropy framework must have the most impact on the institutions' prospective donors. The study's findings also confirmed that Government participation is important to stimulate giving through effective policy that would attract giving and to encourage a philanthropy culture to support their Public Universities. This study will be of interest to researchers and practitioners of Institutional Advancement, particularly, Malaysian public universities' Leaders and Development Officers involved in the planning and implementation of fundraising from philanthropic approaches. So far no academic study was found to have investigated this issue in Malaysia. Similarly, Australian Universities Advancement can benefit from this study as they consider enhancement and improvement in their fundraising efforts. More generally, the study will allow public university stakeholders, namely, the Government, to plan policy and mechanisms to support philanthropic culture of giving to public higher education institutions in both countries and, Alumni and philanthropists passionate about educational causes to gain a better understanding of the importance of their philanthropic support to the success of universities.


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