In the realm of higher education, the challenge of funding mental health support for students is increasingly pressing. Limited resources often leave leaders struggling to address the growing need for mental health services on campus. However, what many may not realize is the untapped potential for engagement with donors and university funding teams. This blog explores how three institutions leveraged insights from attending EAB’s Student Mental Health and Well-Being Collaborative to successfully raise funds for student mental health support.
Making mental health a fundraising priority
Mental health initiatives make compelling fundraising pitches, especially as the public becomes more aware of the pandemic’s ripple impacts on student mental health. Yet, a recent EAB partner collaborative revealed that just half of campus mental health leaders were prepared to make a pitch, and nearly a quarter had never had a conversation with their advancement teams about fundraising opportunities around student mental health.
Student affairs leaders can proactively seek out their fundraising teams and make this pitch to help address the low resource problem they are facing. Let’s explore how three such institutions made the ask after attending the fundraising-focused session of EAB’s Student Mental Health and Well-Being Collaborative:
Impact stories: Institutions making the ask
1. Butler University (BU)
At Butler University, the Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA) led efforts to center holistic student well-being on campus through the establishment of BU|BeWell, and has championed mental health as a top priority. Eager to implement innovative best practices, the VPSA participated in EAB’s inaugural Student Mental Health and Well-being Collaborative. During a specific session on Fundraising for Student Mental Health and Well-being, researchers from EAB shared groundbreaking fundraising ideas, which inspired the VPSA to develop strategies to fund his top priorities.
Impressed by the EAB session’s impact, the VPSA then collaborated with colleagues in the university’s advancement area to undergo specialized training for higher education leaders on fundraising for mental health to further develop the case for support. He was then invited by the university President to present to high-profile potential donors and subsequently met with several friends of the university who share a passion for student mental health.
Leveraging EAB’s research on innovative fundraising ideas, the VPSA has partnered with university advancement to secure increased financial support, including the establishment of an endowed fund for student mental health initiatives. This success underscores the tangible outcomes achievable through proactive engagement with EAB insights and collaboration between different university departments, all in an effort to support student success.
2. University of New England (UNE)
The Vice President of Student Affairs (VPSA) at the University of New England immersed herself in the insights of EAB’s Student Mental Health and Well-Being Collaborative in 2022. A pivotal moment occurred during a session dedicated to fundraising for student mental health initiatives, where the VPSA found inspiration in an impactful example impact report shared by another university. Motivated by this model, the VPSA collaborated with colleagues in Advancement, Communications, and student services to compile data and narratives for the Division of Student Affairs’ inaugural impact report.
The resulting report, the Division’s first of its kind, served as a comprehensive tool to inform the UNE community about the Division’s significant contributions to the student experience. Beyond internal communication, the impact report opened avenues for new opportunities to support student wellness. Notably, its influence played a crucial role in UNE’s current progress toward securing a 2-year, $50,000 grant from MELMAC, a Maine-based educational organization, and a $75,000 grant from LLBean, a Maine-based retailer specializing in apparel and outdoor recreation equipment. Both grants are earmarked for initiatives that will further diversify the University’s holistic approach to student wellness. The VPSA credited her participation in the Collaborative for providing a much-needed elevation from the COVID-induced haze, allowing her and her team to reconnect with the broader perspective of who they are as a Division, what they do, and why they do it.
3. University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas)
The leadership team at UT Dallas, driven by the impact of recent student suicides, is increasingly focused on supporting student mental health. UT Dallas participated in EAB’s inaugural Student Mental Health and Well-Being Collaborative.
Following a session of the collaborative focused on fundraising for student mental health, the VPSA and Associate Dean collaborated with the development team at UT Dallas to brainstorm innovative fundraising ideas, such as creating endowments to support counseling centers and highlighting personal narratives to prospective donors to help make the case for investment in student mental health. Their collaboration resulted in plans for joint fundraising efforts and leveraging their existing contacts to share “student success stories” with stakeholders and donors to help garner support for mental health and well-being on campus.
The success stories from Butler University, UNE, and UT Dallas highlight the transformative power of leveraging fundraising strategies to address the pressing need for increased resources for student mental health. As other institutions navigate similar challenges, the experiences shared here serve as a roadmap for success in working with EAB to secure critical support for the well-being of students.
Kate Brown is an Associate Director of Research Discovery and Design. Her research expertise include student activism, university-wide well-being strategy, mental health, and faculty and staff support. She also has a background in advancement and alumni relations research.
In her free time, Kate enjoys exploring the Atlanta area with her partner and dog, Lucy.