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Volume 2, Issue 12

Award-Winning Colleges Share Secrets to Success

Strong presidential leadership, engaged alumni volunteer boards and increased communications with donors. A handful of community colleges honored by CASE credit these strategies with spurring their recent fundraising success.

The CASE Educational Fundraising Awards recognize overall performance and overall improvement in educational fundraising programs based on data submitted to the Council for Aid to Education's Voluntary Support of Education survey.

This year, four community colleges were recognized for overall performance:

  • Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Northern Wyoming Community College District (Sheridan, Wyo.)
  • SUNY Westchester Community College (Valhalla, N.Y.)
  • Tyler Junior College (Tyler, Texas)

And five community colleges were recognized for overall improvement:

  • Broome Community College (Binghamton, N.Y.)
  • College of Coastal Georgia (Brunswick, Ga.)
  • Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Hudson Valley Community College (Troy, N.Y.)
  • Northern Wyoming Community College District (Sheridan, Wyo.)

In addition, SUNY Westchester was recognized for sustained excellence, an award that recognizes those few exemplary fundraising programs that have garnered a CASE Award for Educational Fundraising in either overall performance or overall improvement in three of the last five years.

Advancement leaders from three of the winning institutions recently spoke to Community College Advancement News about the strategies they used to achieve their fundraising success.

At Community College of Allegheny County, total support grew from $1.1 million in 2010 to nearly $5.2 million in 2012—most of which came from foundation and corporate gifts. Advancement leaders there credit the strong leadership of their president, Alex Johnson, and his making fundraising a priority for the institution.

"Everybody knows everybody else," says Rose Ann DiCola, executive director of the college educational foundation. "Here, it's not about having a grants person who can write grant proposals; it's about having a president and board members who can sit down with the local business community and take advantage of the connections we have. Our president helped our institution achieve a lot of creditability in our community."

Nancilee Burzachechi, the college's vice president of institutional advancement, also credits the president for supporting greater outreach to alumni, many of whom had never heard from the college before his tenure. She adds, "When the president talks about the importance of fundraising, that's when we've been successful."

At Westchester Community College, total support has remained strong, growing from $5 million in 2010 to $5.4 million in 2012—most of which came from individual support.

Eve Larner, executive director of the college's foundation, says her institution's strength comes from its foundation board. With 55 members, the board is considerably larger than most of its peers. But, Larner says its large size has made it diverse in both background and expertise.

"We've produced a board that is knowledgeable about the college and has really played a leadership role in fundraising," she says. "[Our board members] understand college needs and move toward goals."

Additionally, Larner notes that the college recently devoted a staff member to alumni outreach, resulting in more alumni solicitations and more alumni donors.

At Northern Wyoming Community College District, total support grew from $1.5 million in 2010 to nearly $2.3 million in 2012—most of which came from foundation gifts but a significantly growing amount came from alumni support.

Susan Bigelow, vice president of development for the district, says the college was able to achieve fundraising success in a "down market" because of its increased communication with donors and community members.

"In a community filled with alumni, the foundation reached out to the entire [service area] to tell our college's story and articulate its vision," she says. "We also regularly updated donors about our progress, with transparent and regular reporting."

Bigelow also says that her foundation's database has become the "premiere database for contact at the college." In prior years, she says the college's outreach database wasn't centralized and updated. Becoming a source of up-to-date information on alumni and community supporters has helped the foundation's fundraising efforts, she says.

All of the community college Educational Fundraising Award winners will be recognized at the Conference for Community College Advancement, which takes place Oct. 2-4, 2013, in San Diego.

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 June 2013 issue of the Community College Advancement News.