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Volume 8, Issue 2


3 Ways Community College Presidents Can Drive Campaigns

What can community college presidents learn from taking a 600-mile bike ride? For one president, it not only gave him a chance to reflect on his well-being, but was also a lesson in leadership.

Dr. John J. "Ski" Sygielski, president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, spends a week every summer on a long-distance cycling trip to reflect on the last academic year and prepare for the upcoming year. This past summer, Sygielski and his staff at HACC decided to turn his trip into the "Tour de Dr. Ski." During this six-day cycling campaign, Sygielski traveled 600 miles from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Nashville, Tennessee, raising money for HACC's student emergency assistance fund. This fund covers a portion of unexpected expenses a student might experience due to crises such as homelessness, house fires, health emergencies, childcare or unexpected vehicle repairs.

By the end of the campaign, Sygielski and HACC raised $4,450 for the fund. It also gave him a greater understanding of area community colleges, HACC alumni and supporters.

While not every community college president should jump on a bike for a week, the sentiment behind "Tour de Ski" can still resonate with community college leadership, says Jenn Boyd, HACC's integrated marketing communication coordinator, and Kara Costopoulos-DiFilippo, HACC's development officer for organizations. Community college presidents can engage alumni and other supporters for good causes with these three principles.

1. Take advantage of passion. Sygielski has a strong social media presence, so it was only natural to use that to help crowdfund. Add in his passion for cycling and that creates a built-in strategy to visit HACC supporters and grow relationships with other community colleges.

"Dr. Ski likes to keep in contact with our supporters and alumni nationwide. This is his chance to extend a personal 'thank you' to those he may not engage with on a regular basis," says Boyd and Costopoulos-DiFilippo.

2. Understand the reason for the campaign. Aside from the fun "gimmick" of a project like this, focusing on its purpose is a key to success.

"A college president is the face and voice of the college," says Costopoulos-DiFilippo and Boyd. "Being involved in advancement efforts is imperative for the health, future and well-being of the college. After all, our students are our future community leaders. When they succeed, our community succeeds."

3. Get involved. This year, the "Tour de Dr. Ski" was more than just a bike ride. Sygielski worked with his staff on the project, learned about the institution's fundraising initiatives, used his social media presence to promote the campaign and helped brainstorm a campaign plan, goal and vision. He even took his own photos and engaged on social media during the campaign. Being involved in the process helped not only develop the campaign but also added to its success, says Boyd and Costopoulos-DiFilippo.

Sygielski will be participating in the "Building a Relationship of Trust Between the Head of the College and the Foundation" panel during CASE's Community College Executive Symposium, Oct. 13, in Anaheim, California.


This article is from the September/October 2017 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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