Applying Stewardship Theory to Higher Education Donors

Open Access
Harrison, Virginia Susan
Graduate Program:
Media Studies
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
January 27, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Denise Sevick Bortree, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • stewardship
  • fundraising
  • higher education
  • relationship management theory
  • involvement
Stewardship is the critical last step in the fundraising process, consisting of activities that help institutions to retain donors and increase their giving to higher education institutions. This study examined how stewardship strategies impact organization-public relationship outcomes for higher education donors and how the concept of involvement moderates this relationship. This study found that stewardship strategies positively predict OPR outcomes, and that annual donors, donors with one endowment, and donors with two or more endowments experience stewardship strategies and OPR outcomes differently. Particularly, the more endowments a donor has, the higher they rate these strategies and outcomes. This study also suggests that higher education donors may require a different set of stewardship strategies. Instead of the four used in previous studies, this study found only three stewardship strategies of respect, responsibility, and reciprocity. This study also found that involvement only slightly moderates the relationship between stewardship and OPR outcomes. The findings have important implications for higher education stewardship activities and theory.