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Funding Your Center - Overview

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Front Page / Campus-Wide Center / Funding Your Center / Overview


Funding Your Center

Overview   | Guides  | Campus Examples |  Documents to Download


One of the key aspirations and goals of the Bonner Program and Foundation – which students should know and can lead - is to build a campus-wide culture and infrastructure for community and civic engagement, both across the curriculum and co-curricular life of the institution. Many of the longest standing Bonner Scholar Programs were first established in the 1990s (beginning with one at Berea College in 1990). Many of these institutions also were endowed by the Bonner Foundation (see History), with these sums managed and grown by institutional development and advancement offices. Endowed Bonner Programs draw on the funds (typically no more than 5 percent) to help fund an established center on campus. For more recently established Bonner Leader Programs, unfortunately, such endowments were not available.


Still, most colleges and universities are working to build and sustain an infrastructure for civic engagement, including a center. Civic engagement has grown tremendously in higher education. The national Campus Compact has, since 1986, conducted an annual survey of member campuses to ascertain and share more information about the level of involvement and infrastructure on campuses. In 1986, just 33 institutions were members, and half of them indicated they had some kind of central coordinating office with a primary purpose to promote student community service. In 2014, 423 of the just over 1,100 member campuses responded, and nearly 100% reported that their institution has an established coordinating office or center. Additionally, 57% of institutions reported they had more than one center (Campus Compact, 2014).


In 2014, academic service-learning or academically based community service is the primary role for 35 percent of centers. Other responsibilities and interesting facts include:


  • community partnership development (80%)
  • civic engagement (76%);
  • community engagement (76%)
  • academic service- learning (74%)
  • student leadership development (60%)
  • experiential learning (56%)
  • federal programming (44%)


Centers remain diverse in reporting lines, but with a notable shift into Academic Affairs: 40% report to Academic Affairs; 37% to Student Affairs; 8% to both Academic and Student Affairs; and 6% to the President’s Office (Campus Compact, 2014).


In addition, the budgets of these offices has been increasing over time, and even between 2012 and 2014. In 2012, 49% of offices reported budgets of less than $50,000, and 38% had budgets over $100,000; in 2014, only 21% reported budgets below $50,000, with the majority—59%—reporting budgets over $100,000. The graphs below represent the typical engagement/office center budgets reported to Campus Compact. 


The Bonner Foundation does not collect center budgets from the network (although institutions with endowments are required to report on certain aspects of their spending and its link to program quality). We will in 2016 be adding some financial questions to the annual program survey. 


Source: Campus Compact (2014). Three decades of institutionalizing change: 2014 annual member survey. See Documents to Download


Best Practices for Funding a Center

  1. Consider and plan for a range of renewable and/or sustainable funding sources including:
    • Institutional dollars (hard money)
    • Grants
    • Fees (for instance, a small student fee through the registrar has yielded some centers with sizable dollars)
    • Corporate or business partnerships
    • Donor cultivation (such as alumni or those who might provide small and large gifts)
    • Earned income (such as through summer camps)


     2. To cultivate such funders and funding opportunities, use an array of resources and strategies:

    • Partner and collaborate with professionals on campus in Development, Advancement, and Alumni Relations
    • Do research through your local Foundation Center, Guidestar, your state or regional nonprofit support center, etc.
    • Also research and identify potential local businesses, banks, credit unions, and other funders (Both Christopher Newport University and Siena College can provide examples of how these local entities have created financial partnerships with the center)
    • Get training, if you need it, through online or in person on donor cultivation, grant seeking and writing, and related topics


     3. You can use online tools like Indeed.com to find salary and other data for your state and region.

    • This might be helpful for benchmarking salary ranges to keep your center and positions competitive.
    • Executive position data can be found on Guidestar, which charges for an annual compensation report.