Committee Chair

Rausch, David W.

Committee Member

Crawford, Elizabeth K.; Banks, Stephen R.; Deal, Charley


School of Professional Studies


College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Fundraising for higher education institutions continues to increase in importance. Relatedly, turnover among major gift officers may negatively impact institutional fundraising performance. This study investigated if burnout, perceived investment in employee development, employee alumni status of their employing institution, the current receipt of tuition assistance, and select attribute variables could ideate a predictive intent to leave model to inform managerial decision-making and strategic human resources development in higher education fundraising. The theoretical framework utilized social exchange theory and reciprocity norms as conceptualizations applied to perceptions of professional development experiences. A mixed methods research design utilized an anonymous quantitative survey and qualitative interviews with major gift officers from across the United States. The survey consisted of the Maslach Burnout Inventory – General Survey, Perceived Investment in Employee Development, Stay or Leave Index, and Intent to Leave instruments. One-time interviews were coded and analyzed for themes related to burnout, perceived investment in employee development, employee engagement, and organizational commitment. The results from four regression models indicated that major gift officers’ employee alumni status of their employing institution did not affect intent to leave, whereas, in two of four models, the current receipt of tuition assistance demonstrated a significant negative effect on intent to leave. Furthermore, perceived investment in employee development demonstrated a significant negative relationship with intent to leave in six of eight regression models. Qualitative results included perceptions of what major gift officers experience at the end of their typical workday, what makes them want to stay or leave their roles at their current institutions, and self-reflections on professional development perceptions related to elements of burnout, employee engagement, and organizational commitment. One implication is human resource development professionals and managers of major gift officers may wish to proactively encourage employees to utilize tuition assistance benefits, if available, in an effort to reduce an intent to leave. Managerial implications for practice also include major gift officers seeking meaningful professional development, time to implement training in their work, and acknowledgement of good practices to instill self-efficacy. Overall, this research informed a proposed intent to leave continuum model.


I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the individuals and organizations that supported me at one time or another during my time in the Doctorate in Learning and Leadership program. My application to this doctoral program was initially prompted nearly a decade ago by a conversation with Dr. Keith Carver. Subsequently, my supervisor at the time, Dorothy Bryson, supported my enrollment in this program. Dr. Rob Hardin, in addition to Dorothy and Keith, also submitted a recommendation on my behalf as part of my application. Relatedly, I am grateful for the tuition assistance I received from the University of Tennessee. I am grateful to the members of my committee for their guidance and instruction, especially the chair, Dr. Rausch. As a novice researcher, I welcomed the committee’s direction and advice. Thank you all for your support throughout the program and dissertation process. I thoroughly enjoyed being a member of cohort 12 in the Doctorate in Leaning and Leadership program. Through this program, I participated in an alternative break study abroad, an experience I was unable to enjoy as an undergraduate student, visiting Cape Town, South Africa. I am thankful to Dr. Elizabeth Crawford for serving as the program advisor. I must acknowledge the Engineering Development Forum for allowing me to survey and interview attendees of its recent conferences. I am also grateful for the approvals granted by the original authors of the measurement instruments I used within this work. Furthermore, I offer my gratitude to Albert Salatka, Jr. for assisting with the acquisition of reference materials through the UTC library. Finally, I wish to acknowledge Gary and Linda Park for their support, too.


Ph. D.; A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.




Fund raising--Education (Higher); Universities and colleges--Personnel management; Employee retention


burnout; organizational commitment; turnover; employee engagement; fundraising; human resource development


Higher Education

Document Type

Doctoral dissertations




xv, 142 leaves