Publications & Products
Volume 2, Issue 8

Benchmarking Tools Within Reach

Community colleges looking for a method to track their fundraising efforts in comparison to their peers should look no further than the Voluntary Support of Education survey, says one advancement leader.

Germaine Brandt Elkins, director of foundation operations and scholarship programs at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, N.C., has completed the VSE survey for her institution since 2008. She actively encourages her colleagues at other two-year institutions to complete the survey, which is considered by many to be the authoritative annual source of information on private giving to education.

Elkins says the survey is invaluable to her institution because it provides a standardized means of measuring its fundraising efforts.

"Even if you're not using the survey to look at other institutions, it helps show where your institution is going," she says. "Completing the VSE forces my institution to take a snapshot of itself after each fiscal year, which is something that we might not do otherwise. I can see where my institution's advancement program has been, financially, on June 30 for the past 10 years. Not many community colleges can do that."

In addition, Elkins says the survey results can often generate positive publicity for her institution. For example, she notes that her college recently raised more money than a four-year institution in the state—a result that was a point of pride for many.

"We've used the results as a morale booster with our foundation, faculty and staff," she says. "We've performed pretty well in the past few years, so we use the results to toot our own horn, both internally and externally."

Elkins says she typically benchmarks her institution's performance compared to other similarly sized community colleges—especially in categories like grand total raised per student. This perspective, she notes, helps her college guide its fundraising efforts.

Less than 200 community colleges participate in the annual survey. Elkins says those in the sector who do participate are often more than happy to help their colleagues understand the value of the data collection process and assist them in completing the survey. To that end, Elkins will co-present on March 6 a free CASE webinar on using the VSE to benchmark community college fundraising with Ann E. Kaplan, director of the VSE survey for the Council for Aid to Education.

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 February 2013 issue of the Community College Advancement News.


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Enhancing Internal Relations for Community College Fundraising Success
Feb. 19, 2013
2 p.m., Eastern

Use the VSE to Benchmark Your Community College Fundraising
March 6, 2013
2 p.m., Eastern
Free webinar

Bringing Order and Sanity to Your Community College Website
March 19, 2013
2 p.m., Eastern

Making the Most of Your First Donor Visit
May 7, 2013
2 p.m., Eastern

Conference for Community College Advancement
Oct. 2 - 4, 2013
San Diego, Calif.

See the full list of CASE resources for community colleges