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Volume 2, Issue 6

Community Colleges Join Forces in Statewide Fundraiser

Maryland's 16 community colleges collaborated in a 24-hour online fundraising blitz last month and raised more than $62,000 for scholarships, programs, facilities and other local projects.

The Big Give, which took place Nov. 14, was the first online community college fundraising effort of its kind in the United States, according to organizers from the Maryland Community College Fundraising Professionals.

Michelle Goodwin, vice president of advancement at the College of Southern Maryland, proposed the idea to her counterparts around the state last year after her institution participated in Greater Washington Give to the Max Day—a similar 24-hour online fundraising blitz for numerous area nonprofits in which Southern Maryland raised about $6,000.

Even though some schools weren't sure if or how this would fit into their existing plans, such as an annual fund drive, "We decided to all give it a try to see what would happen," Goodwin says.

The community colleges shared marketing resources to promote the event. On Nov. 14, participating institutions reached out to students, faculty, staff and other supporters via social media in an effort to make the fundraising effort "go viral."

All donors were directed to a special website managed by Razoo, an online giving platform that has helped facilitate other 24-hour fundraising events. Donors then were able to give to the community college of their choice. Corporate sponsors of the Big Give offered financial awards to institutions that reached various goals during the event, multiplying the impact of donations.

"This was as much a fundraising event as it was a public relations opportunity and part of our advocacy plan," says Goodwin, noting that the Big Give drew the attention of government officials and business leaders around the state to the cause of community colleges.

The Big Give yielded $62,145 from 659 unique donors—many of whom were first-time donors to their respective college. The fundraising effort was also a great opportunity to engage these new online donors, participants say.

Though a leaderboard was updated throughout the fundraiser and there was ultimately a significant performance gap among them—one college raised $23,014 while another raised a mere $20—the organizers say that competition was not the intent of the Big Give.

"You never want to make your institution look good at the cost of another," Goodwin says. "That's not what this was about. But, of course, once the event starts you want to outdo each other. I think the competition was more within institutions than among them."

Goodwin adds that, in spite of the performance gap among colleges, all 16 institutions have agreed to another Big Give next year. And she expects the totals for all institutions to improve now that they have participated and know what is expected of them.

"I give a lot of credit to the college presidents who put their colleges on the line to try something new," she says. "After seeing the good and not so good results, I know next year will be big. I expect to reach $100,000 or more."

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

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