Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Rema Reynolds, PhD

Committee Member

Noah Drezner, PhD

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, PhD

Committee Member

Elizabeth Broughton, EdD

Committee Member

Sarah Ginsberg, EdD


Women in higher education fundraising navigate the broad forces of sexism and racism in society and their profession, a profession in which they are being paid less than their male counterparts and are under-represented in leadership roles, despite being the majority of fundraising professionals. This study provided a platform for women in higher education fundraising to tell their stories and to explain, in their own words, how they navigated a traditionally White patriarchal system of philanthropy, interacted with fundraising prospects and donors, and experienced the fundraising profession. The research questions included:

• What do women say are their lived experiences as higher education fundraisers?

• What are the perceptions of access to professional advancement (pay and promotion) amongst women in higher education fundraising?

• What do women see as their advantages and barriers in higher education fundraising practice?

• How do women perceive race as a mediator of the experiences of women in higher education fundraising?

Tenets of feminist research and a conceptual framework rooted in intersectionality framed the lived experiences of women in higher education fundraising. Of a qualitative design and utilizing the portraiture approach, this study explored the interplay of power and privilege as women navigate the landscape of higher education fundraising. This context included their institutions, colleagues and supervisors, and interactions with fundraising prospects and donors. Five individual portraits revealed women fundraisers that were tenacious, hardworking, and committed. They were savvy about their identities and disclosed frank observations regarding the possibilities of fundraising in higher education as well as the unique challenges they faced as women in the profession. Women fundraisers described feeling motivated by the difference they could make for their institutions and students, shared the ways in which they tailored their personal performances and strategies to engage prospective donors, and revealed the complexities of navigating fundraising organizations. Advancement organizations, the researcher concluded, were encouraging women fundraisers to fit a prototypical standard. The results of the study inform the strategies employed by institutional advancement leaders as they support women in fundraising.