Local Colleges Have Some Fundraising Success
Conducting an appeal to donors through Zoom may be less than ideal for those who work in college advocacy offices.
“It’s scary sometimes to apply in person, let alone use technology that you fear will freeze,” said Greg Sanders, vice president of institutional advancement at Lakeland Community College and executive director of the Lakeland Foundation.
His team pivoted, adapting and learning quickly during the pandemic. It has become second nature and even a strength in some situations. But a bigger obstacle loomed.
“There is a tendency to pull back and say, ‘The world is closed, now is not the right time,'” he said. “But we challenged ourselves to keep communicating, to keep providing information. Based on the feedback I received from donors, it was very much appreciated.”
Lakeland is one of the local colleges reporting a stronger-than-expected fundraising year, even amid the financial crisis caused by the pandemic.
“The relationships we started and nurtured before the pandemic really started to pay off from a donation perspective,” Sanders said.
The college aimed to raise $ 1.7 million. He topped that figure by more than $ 1 million, securing $ 2.74 million in philanthropic achievement for the recently closed fiscal year 2021. The figure encompasses all projects his office has been involved in, including cash, in-kind donations, pledges, planned giving. and the possibilities of public funding.
The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education examines charitable giving to colleges around the world. For the fiscal year ended June 2020, donations to institutions in the United States reached $ 49.5 billion. The group said that number was “virtually unchanged” from the previous year.
It’s still too early to say how things rocked nationally in the most recent fiscal year, according to Ann Kaplan, senior director of CASE’s Volunteer Support Education Survey. For the record, she hears positive things, perhaps in part because of the strong correlation between the stock market and increased donations.
“Even when everything around us is in some kind of turmoil, if this platform of wealth is stable, philanthropy tends to do well,” Kaplan said.
Richard Konisiewicz, College of Ursulines vice-president for institutional advancement, admits his team was a little nervous when the pandemic began. Pepper Pike campus officials kept the faith.
“We are a Catholic institution and we are filled with hope all the time,” Konisiewicz said.
They brought in about $ 300,000 more than expected. Support from alumni and the board has been particularly strong. Some board members, Konisiewicz said, are giving in a “very magnificent way.”
The college has carefully crafted the shared message. Officials focused on the best talking points to amplify, such as a study by the American Enterprise Institute that ranked Ursuline as the best college in the country for student mobility and a national nod from its school of ‘nurses.
“We talk about our students, we talk about our professors, their successes, sometimes even the staff,” Konisiewicz said.
Telling the stories of the university community is also important at Akron University. Kim Cole, vice president of advancement and executive director of the university’s foundation, said providing a context that paints the full picture for donors is critical.
AU officials gathered information from places such as the Financial Aid Office, Bursar’s Office, and its ZipAssist Student Resource Program to convey current needs.
“If I say, ‘We really need a scholarship this year because our students are in the worst financial situation of their lives’, we had to be able to show it in some data and tell them how we knew that.” , did she say. “It cannot be based on anecdotal notions.”
The university reported donations totaling $ 19.8 million in fiscal 2021, an increase of 16%. About $ 6.2 million is earmarked for scholarships, of which $ 2.6 million can be used immediately.
UA is one of nearly 30 higher education institutions and countless nonprofit organizations in the region. That’s a lot of people and places all looking for donor money.
Cole said UA isn’t worried about the competition, however. The Elder Base is its main advocacy group. Support for this sector increased by 20% compared to the previous year. Local businesses and foundations, she said, “really take care of us.”
“The good thing about Akron University is that it’s rooted in this city, and this city really feels like the university is theirs,” she said.
And as a new fiscal (and school) year begins, there are new challenges ahead.
“Who will be the next generation of donors, who will be the next big donation prospects? Sanders asked of Lakeland. “If you look at the pipeline, this is an area that has been challenged by the pandemic.”
The college is hoping that some of its milestones can be hosted in person again later this calendar year. Officials are closely monitoring the Delta variant and its potential impact.
“Things like our Hall of Fame induction ceremony, our donor breakfast, we really want them to be in person,” said Sanders. “These are really important times in the year of the foundation.”
Otherwise, they will be ready to rotate. Again.