Publications & Products
Volume 3, Issue 9

Start Major Gift Fundraising

Community college fundraisers thinking about launching a major giving effort should first establish a robust annual giving campaign, say a pair of foundation directors.

In 1996, the Cabrillo College Foundation in Aptos, Calif., started its President's Circle, an annual campaign to raise unrestricted gifts of $1,000 or more to support foundation operations. The campaign now raises about $280,000 annually from around 190 donors.

Melinda Silverstein, executive director of the foundation, says the initial impetus to start the annual campaign was to make the foundation—which doesn't receive any general fund support from the college—was self-sufficient. Through the years, however, she says the annual campaign became an excellent way to start building the foundation's "gift pyramid" as it sought more major gift prospects.

"It's helpful to have a broad base of support," Silverstein says. "When you have a lot of folks donating, it's a natural progression for someone to give larger and larger gifts and to be more and more invested. You don't often have a large gift from someone who's never given before."

Eileen Hill, associate director of the foundation, credits the President's Circle's 36-member volunteer committee with growing the annual campaign's donor base and imbuing the college's community with a culture of giving. She says that these volunteers, mostly business and community leaders, have influence in the area and continually connect new potential donors to the foundation.

"That's the reason why we're so successful," Hill says. "Everything we do is an opportunity for a major gift. That's how we think about every effort that we put in: How is this going to be a major gift for us."

Hill and Silverstein will further discuss how to turn annual campaign donors into major gift donors in a March 18 CASE webinar.

This article is from the March 2014 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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