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Volume 1, Issue 3

Fundraising 101

Community colleges looking to spark a culture of advancement on their campuses need look no further than the classroom. Several two-year institutions have reaped the benefits of teaching their students, faculty and staff the ins and outs of fundraising.

Consider the recent achievement of Feather River College in rural northern California. Officials at the college of 1,400 students feared they had tapped their local community dry with prior fundraising efforts.

"Small communities are very giving," said Michael Bagley, mathematics professor and former dean of instruction at Feather River. "But there's a lot of need as well. Everyone in a small community goes to the same sources."

Despite this and the tough economic realities of the past two years, Feather River was recently able to meet its goal and raise nearly $60,000 for student scholarships—which the Bernard Osher Foundation matched by 50 percent as part of a larger gift to California's community colleges.

"I was determined not to miss out on this huge opportunity," Bagley said of the chance to receive a matching gift from the Osher Foundation, which issued the fundraising challenge to California institutions in 2008. "But we needed some more knowledge and someone to help us out."

Bagley called on Wendy Davis, social media expert and principal consultant at SunGard Higher Education, for help. SunGard gives its employees release time to volunteer. Davis created and taught an "Introduction to Fundraising" course at Feather River in 2009. The class was taken by the college's president and his wife, the dean of students and the director of marketing as well as several student leaders. All learned about how to "identify, engage, contact and ask" prospective donors for funds.

"We also talked about the Obama effect—how Barack Obama was able to raise a half a billion dollars and that most online donations [to his campaign] were less than $100," Davis said. "I tried to get them to think about things they hadn't thought about before and how they should use readily available tools to market online. Little miracles have happened since we've gotten the college onto social networks."

Bagley said he "got way more people attending a fundraiser" than he thought possible after marketing to alumni and businesses throughout the college's service area via Facebook.

"The longer term impact is that we're realizing the value of a social network," Bagley said. "We now know ways, through technology, to track and keep in touch with alumni who want to see us succeed. We'll be tapping into this a lot more."

The student leaders who took Davis's course were also inspired. The Feather River chapter of Students in Free Enterprise—an organization that teaches students entrepreneurship and business ethics through outreach projects—has ambitions of launching its own 501(c)(3) organization. Amy Schulz, faculty advisor for the student group, said it wants to start its own alumni association to help fund projects for future students. For example, the Feather River group has undertaken a project to bring clean water to Uganda.

Another take on teaching fundraising at a two-year institution is look at the Students4Giving program at Portland Community College in Oregon. The program was created in 2007 by a Campus Compact and Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund initiative "to educate and inspire a generation of engaged citizens, philanthropists and community leaders."

"Essentially what the program does is provide grant monies to colleges interested in student philanthropy courses, and students develop a philanthropic vision for those funds," said Maggie Grove, special projects consultant at Campus Compact, a nonprofit organization that promotes civic engagement among college students. "Students do the [requests for proposals], site visit and eventually give away the money."

Jennifer Sonntag, alumni and annual fund officer at Portland, believes the Students4Giving program has helped the college boost the profile of its annual fund and work toward building a network of engaged alumni.

"It's really cultivating a different culture here," said Sonntag, who noted that some students from the program have volunteered to help the college raise funds.

Though Grove admitted that the Students4Giving initiative was not started to boost student giving back to their alma maters, she said it was likely a natural effect of the program.

"A college would be well served to support the cultivation of a philanthropic identity among its students and those in its community," Grove said. "That's going to translate into a variety of long-term civic engagement."

This article is from the September 2011 issue of the Community College Advancement News.


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The VSE: An Invauable Tool for Assessing Your Community College's Fundraising Efforts

Sept. 21, 2011
Free Online Webinar
2-3 p.m. EDT

The Voluntary Support of Education survey is considered by many to be the authoritative national source of information on private giving to higher education. This free CASE webinar will provide an introduction to the survey, show some of the many ways community college advancement professionals can use data from it, and provide guidance on completing the instrument.

Mobilizing a Volunteer Team for Your Community College Annual Fund Campaign

Oct. 4, 2011
2-3 p.m. EDT
$125 members/$175 nonmembers

How can a small shop run a robust annual fund appeal with a budget of less than $250? Learn how the Los Rios Community College District mobilized a group of volunteers to conduct a successful ($40,000 in two weeks) and fun annual campaign blitz. Get step-by-step advice and tips ... and realize the value of investing your time in volunteers.

The Power of Legacy and Planned Gifts: How Nonprofits and Donors Work Together to Change the World

Small or mid-sized institutions that have thought about starting a legacy or planned giving program can find themselves stalled by certain assumptions. The Power of Legacy and Planned Gifts addresses these fears and assumptions and presents a simple, multi-stage process to help institutions undertake a planned giving effort.

More Community College Resources
See the full list of CASE resources for community colleges.