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Volume 1, Issue 2


The VSE: "An Aspiration Tool"

The Voluntary Support of Education survey is considered by many to be the authoritative national source of information on private giving to higher education. However, community college participation in the survey has remained low. Arguing that the survey is an invaluable tool for their field, many community college officials say they would like to see more of their peers participate.

Susan K. Kubik, vice president of institutional advancement at Northampton Community College, is one of those professionals who finds the VSE survey, which is managed by the Council for Aid to Education and co-sponsored by CASE, useful.

"It's the only consistent longitudinal benchmarking tool that allows colleges of any type to compare against peer institutions to see how well they're doing," she said. "If you really look at the data, the data can tell you a lot of things. It can tell you whether an area in your advancement office isn't doing as well compared to other institutions. It's an instructive tool to see what others have been able to do, but it's also an aspiration tool."

For example, Kubik explained that her institution used the VSE survey to refocus its solicitation efforts.

"For years, I would see that when we looked at the top three gifts [received], ours were modest compared to the community colleges that were ahead of us," she said. "There are two ways to look at that. Either, that's a good thing, and it means our donor base is broader. Or maybe it means we're not putting as much focus and emphasis on major gift solicitation. We ended up putting greater emphasis on it after looking at the data."

Of the 938 two-year schools that were mailed surveys last year, only 155 took part. Kubik said the survey would be made a "more credible tool" if more community colleges were to participate.

"Some of us wonder if it's that people who fill out [the survey] are the ones who are doing exceptionally well [with fundraising], and the people who don't are not doing so well," she said. "But, I don't feel that's the case. I would just encourage everyone to participate. There is value there."

Kubik will host a CASE webinar this fall on the many and various ways community college advancement professionals can use data from the VSE survey.

Ann Kaplan, director of the survey for the Council for Aid to Education, said that a two-year school that does the survey for the first time can receive free access to the Data Miner, including help and training, until March, "so they can really see the value of the information."

For more on the VSE, visit www.cae.org.


This article is from the August 2011 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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