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Volume 4, Issue 12

New Practitioners Should Make Connections

Community college advancement practitioners new either to their job or the sector should develop relationships with key influencers on their campus, say two CASE faculty members leading a newcomers workshop.

In 2012, Amy Evans transitioned from a chief external relations role at a rural community college to executive director of the foundation at Collin College in suburban Dallas, Texas. Among the challenges of her career transition was learning how to handle the office politics of working for an organization that is technically separate from the college but must work very closely with its leaders. Evans notes that sometimes staffs at a foundation and its college disagree over ideas, vision and direction for the institution and its fundraising efforts.

"A new foundation leader has to come in as a servant-leader," Evans says. "You have to understand that you're here to serve [the institution]. Once people understand that, it'll open doors. But you have to back up your words with actions."

For example, Evans notes that she put her support and that of the foundation behind an existing employee giving campaign to fund student scholarships that was run by college faculty and staff. The foundation eventually helped thank employee donors with food deliveries during the workweek. She says this support garnered goodwill from the individuals running the giving campaign and showed the potential of the foundation to make a difference on campus.

"You have to meet [college constituents] at their level rather than expecting them to come to you," says Evans.

Also in 2012, Beverly "Babs" Sandeen made a different kind of career transition-from the four-year sector to the two-year sector. Previously an advancement practitioner at the Universities of California, Davis and Irvine, she is now vice chancellor of resource and economic development at the Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento, California.

Sandeen says one of the challenges of her career transition was learning how to work and think like a generalist rather than a specialist. At a four-year institution, she says, advancement practitioners become specialized in a particular discipline, such as only working on foundation relations. At a community college, most advancement leaders have to take on the role of multiple individuals in varying disciplines.

"It's all about being able to prioritize what's most important," Sandeen says. "Honestly, for me, we're not ready for a huge alumni relations effort here. We have to build up our major giving and stewardship and how we're communicating with current and past donors. Then we can add other tasks later."

Sandeen says she's been able to build connections with advancement practitioners at her district's many institutions by making their work easier. For example, fundraisers from all of the colleges need and use the same gift agreement. Sandeen helped make a centralized database for all the documentation and other information needed by gift officers.

Sandeen and Evans will be among the faculty for the new Preconference for Newcomers to Advancement at the Conference for Community College Advancement, Oct. 1-3, in Anaheim, California.

This article is from the June 2015 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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