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Volume 2, Issue 2

Three Paths to Fundraising Success

There's more than one way for a community college to significantly improve its overall fundraising performance. Just ask three award-winning institutions from Kentucky, New York and Virginia.

CASE recently recognized three community colleges—Bronx Community College in New York City; J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Va.; and West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, Ky.—for overall improvement in their educational fundraising programs based on data submitted to the Council for Aid to Education's Voluntary Support of Education survey.

An expert panel of volunteer judges selected the winners based on a number of criteria. Judges didn't receive the names of institutions during their review. Among the judging guidelines: showing "substantial and continuous increase in total support" and "growth in the number of alumni donors" in the past three years.

Total support at Bronx grew almost two-and-a-half times from 2009 to 2011. Most of that growth came from corporate and foundation support, says Robert Whelan, the college's alumni affairs officer. For example, corporate support nearly quadrupled in three years from $220,000 to $872,000.

The college also experienced steady growth in alumni support and total individual giving. Gifts from individuals, for instance, grew from $49,000 in 2009 to $72,000 in 2011. The college also grew its alumni-of-record from nearly 36,000 to more than 38,000.

"A lot of our success [in individual support] has been because of constant communication," says Whelan, noting that the college only founded its alumni association in 2005. "Our [friends and alumni] have probably heard more from us in the past three years than they've heard in the previous 30. Cultivation just takes a long time."

Whelan says early projections for 2012 indicate that alumni support is set to further increase from 2011—from $16,000 to nearly $23,000—and he expects individual giving to make up a larger proportion of the college's total support in the near future.

Bronx Community College

2009 2010 2011
Education/General Budget $100.9 million $118.4 million $118.4 million
Full-Time Equivalent Enrollment 9,117 10,420 10,740
Total Support $747,000 $2.1 million $1.8 million




J. Sargeant Reynolds steadily grew its total support from 2009 to 2011. This growth was mostly spurred by foundation support, which grew $572,000 to $953,000. There was also strong growth in total individual support, which grew nearly two-and-a-half times from $290,000 in year to $761,000 from 2009 to 2011.

Elizabeth Littlefield, executive director of the college's foundation, attributed much of this recent fundraising success to the bar set by the institution's first major gifts campaign, which wrapped up in 2009 and raised more than $15 million.

"That really launched us to a different level of fundraising," she says. "Prior to that, we had these little projects to raise money for this and that ... but that was the first campaign which forced us to articulate a vision for what would happen if we raised that money."

Littlefield says that the major gifts campaign gave the college inroads into the community that helped grow foundation and individual support in recent years.

"We have some people of influence and affluence on our foundation board, and that's a result of that campaign," she says. "When you have influential people on your board, then that really helps you raise more money. Sometimes community colleges do things differently, and sometimes it's a campaign that actually gets us started. Now, raised on the strength of major gifts, we're looking to broaden our base of support."

Littlefield also praised the work of her institution's president in promoting the college and its fundraising efforts to the local business and philanthropic community.

"He's raised the visibility of our community college so that we're not left out of the big conversations about economic development and workforce development," she says.

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College

2009 2010 2011
Education/General Budget $55.2 million $57.4 million $66.7 million
Full-Time Equivalent Enrollment 13,079 12,729 13,372
Total Support $1.3 million $1.4 million $2.1 million




West Kentucky more than doubled its total support from 2009 to 2011. Like Bronx, most of West Kentucky's fundraising success came from corporate and foundation support—both of which more than tripled in three years. Foundation support, for instance, grew from $144,000 to $489,000.

Like Littlefield, Kay Travis, executive director of the college's foundation, praised her college's president for her steady and growing support of the fundraising agenda.

"When she was named president 10 years ago, [the president] said to me, ‘I just can't ask people for money,'" Travis says. "Just recently she told me, ‘Remember when I told you I couldn't ask for money? Now, I can't wait to go out and ask.'"

Travis also attributes the college's recent success in garnering corporate support with staying true to its roots as a training center for employees of many local chemical and mechanical industries as well as being a major hub for inland waterways companies on the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers.

"We've had some real setbacks in this area in the past four years," she says. "We've lost a lot of industry and a lot of jobs, but we've also raised more money than we ever have. We try to meet the needs of our local people. Our outlook has always been to find those people who have special interests and approach them about what matters to them."

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

2009 2010 2011
Education/General Budget $27.8 million $35.4 million $37.2 million
Full-Time Equivalent Enrollment 6,607 9,729 10,830
Total Support $943,000 $2.6 million $1.9 million




Officials from the winning institutions will discuss what they did to achieve their recent fundraising success at the Conference for Community College Advancement in October. They'll also suggest how attendees can adopt their strategies and attitudes to achieve similar results at their institutions.

Please share your questions and comments with Marc Westenburg via email at or +1 202 478 5570.

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This article is from the August 2012 issue of the Community College Advancement News.


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Conference for Community College Advancement
Oct. 3 - 5, 2012
San Diego, Calif.

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