Publications & Products
Volume 1, Issue 8

Turning Community College Alumni into Donors

The advancement staff at the Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland—where alumni donations increased 89 percent in one year—has discovered practices that turn alumni into donors.

Ann-Marie Thornton, director of development and alumni relations at the college, will share some of the strategies that led to her institution's recent fundraising success in an upcoming CASE webinar on March 13.

Thornton says the college didn't have a formal annual giving program when she arrived in 2010 and that the institution was only in touch with alumni about three times a year. And without a hard "ask" during those communications, only a few people chose to make unsolicited contributions, she says.

"Many community colleges don't ask donors all the time because they feel as if their alumni aren't at a place in their lives where they can give back to the institution," Thornton says. "But if you don't ask, you don't get money. So we put in place a plan to be in touch with our alumni about six to eight times a year—informing them of changes to the institution, renovations, programs that were excelling, et cetera—and decided to formally ask them twice a year for contributions. We rely heavily on our annual campaign program for small contributions, especially from alumni."

Thornton explains that the college's twice-a-year solicitations are clear and somewhat repetitive.

"Consistency is the key in fundraising," she says. "You need to get people in the habit of giving. By having the solicitations at the same time every year, it helps people out. They can know that the college campaign is coming, so they can hold off paying for this and budget for that. Keeping the solicitations in a certain timeframe really creates a culture of giving."

Thornton notes that facilitating this culture of giving goes beyond knowing when and how to ask for donations. She says her institution has to be proactive about reaching out to and planning events for alumni so that they're able to form a bond with each other and their alma mater.

"We decided that we need to go to our alumni more as opposed to waiting for them to come to us," she says. "We now have alumni mixers within the campus communities that incorporate an educational component. For many alumni, this is the first time they've been able to come together for fellowship."

With their deliberate focus on the cultivation and solicitation of alumni and friends of the institution, Thornton and her staff say they have already achieved some success in growing philanthropy at the college. Thornton says she hopes the college will continue to see further growth in its annual giving campaign in the years ahead as a result.


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


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Fundraising Strategies for Community Colleges: The Definitive Guide for Emerging Institutions

Preorder now! Available April 2012.

This comprehensive guide, written expressly for community colleges, offers practical advice and concrete steps on how to build a strong advancement program that encompasses annual funds, grants, major gifts and planned giving.




Upcoming CASE District Conferences

20th Annual CASE Conference for Institutionally Related Foundations

April 18 - 20, 2012
Chicago, Ill.

The theme for this conference is "The Basics, the Best, the Next" as CASE and its foundation members reflect on two decades of helping to strengthen the IRF field and look ahead to what foundations and foundation leaders can expect in the future. The conference is designed primarily for executives at foundations affiliated with four-year public institutions and community colleges.

More Community College Resources
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