Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Higher Education (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Michael T. Miller

Committee Member

G. David Gearhart

Second Committee Member

Suzanne McCray


advancement, compassion, culture, fundraising, organizational behavior, organizing


Compassion organizing has been described within positive organizational scholarship as an organization’s response to pain and suffering in organizational behavior and also the ability for organizations to flourish and promote joy and fulfillment in the workplace. Compassion organizing has been examined in organizational life through the four areas of noticing, feeling, acting, and sense-making. Previous research has focused on business and healthcare workplaces and has shown that compassion organizing is both an organizational and interpersonal social process. Because of the limited existing research on compassion organizing in the higher education workplace (and none with respect to the university advancement workplace), the purpose for conducting this study was to explore the possible effects (if any) of compassion organizing on the university advancement workplace and the voluntary employee turnover and workplace satisfaction of major gift officers within this organization. This study utilized a phenomenological research design to gather information via semi-structured interviews from 8 major gift officers within public 4-year higher education institutions. The findings suggested that compassion organizing does play a role in the voluntary turnover of major gift officers in institutional advancement workplaces, especially as it relates to the development employee’s relationship and interactions with their supervisors and leaders. Study participants described both positive and negative experiences with compassion organizing in their workplaces as well as specific behaviors and processes that could foster compassion organizing in the institutional advancement department. Further, study participants described the negative and significant effect of the voluntary turnover in the university advancement workplace on the culture and environment of the organization as a whole. The results are important for institutional and departmental leaders to foster and grow a compassionate workplace environment whereby it is possible to recruit and retain talented major gift officers and foster a positive and flourishing culture that will not experience high rates of voluntary turnover within the development profession and will also increase fundraising success with alumni, donors, and friends of the university.