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As community colleges across the nation tighten their belts, development teams are mulling ideas to cultivate or reengage donors with diminished budgets.
Virginia Western Community College used some cost effective “friend-raising” initiatives that may be useful to other community colleges.
Handwritten notes or phone calls are fast becoming historic relics, which actually makes them a standout way to recognize supporters. Only a few sentences to say how their scholarship dollars have impacted a student are necessary.
An alternative is to send a postcard with your students holding the letters “Thank You!” at Thanksgiving time or at another holiday. Add a short paragraph telling how many students have been impacted by donor dollars.
Engage your board members in the process if you have too many donors for your staff to call. Ask each board member to contact five important donors just to say how much their donation has been appreciated. The donor will be flattered and the board member has the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the donor.
Arrange tours of your campus for CEOs of local businesses and corporations. They may not know the kind of training you have to offer. This will provide them an opportunity to see it firsthand.
Focus on businesses in your community whose employees are alumni of your college. Treat them to a continental breakfast at their office and invite other employees to attend. Reengage them by bringing them up to date about the college. We call ours “Breakfast with Bobby” (our president’s name) which gives it a more comfortable connotation.
Ask to be a speaker for business and civic group meetings. Those groups are always interested in what special programs the community college is offering. It is also a great opportunity to connect with potential donors.
Use social media. One of the most cost-effective ways to tell prospective donors you are out there is through Facebook, YouTube and others tools. Social media is fast becoming one of the favorite pastimes for every age. A simple banner ad can be directed to your alumni and cost very little, plus you can start a special alumni “friends” group to stay connected.
Finally, always look for ways to spotlight the contributions of special donors. Tape their testimony (or their story) and put it on your Web site, focus on them in your next magazine or honor them with an award or honorable mention at your next awards ceremony.
Strickland is executive director of the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation and a board member of the Council for Resource Development (CRD), an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges.
CRD provides the Resource Development columns to the Community College Times.
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