10 Ways to Help Ensure Successful Resource Development

by John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.DS and Linnie S. Carter, Ph.D., APR
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College
Harrisburg, PA

Community colleges’ budgets continue to be slashed, while employees are being asked to do more with less. In addition, students are being asked to pay more for tuition and books. With all these elements at play, the future of community colleges has never been brighter, and their role in economic and workforce development has never been clearer. This positive outlook can be attributed to many factors, including successful resource development – which is more important today than ever before.

Because resource development is not for the faint of heart, we offer 10 whys to help ensure your efforts are successful. This advice is especially important for community college presidents.

  1. Tie your college’s strategic plan directly to your foundation’s fundraising priorities. Use the college’s strategic plan to determine the foundation’s fundraising priorities. If the initiative is not important to the community college, do not ask your precious volunteers to raise funds for it.
  2. Hire a competent vice president of advancement with experience in fundraising, public relations, marketing and/or sales. In too many cases, employees who fail in other positions are moved to fundraising positions at community colleges. Those days are over. Community colleges need to hire professionals with the appropriate level of education, experience, expertise and interpersonal skills.
  3. Consolidate the advancement functions – including advertising, alumni affairs, branding, fundraising, grants, graphic design, marketing, photography, public relations, publications, scholarships, special events, sponsorships, videography and website development – under one unit. Community colleges can ill afford to work in silos. They must strategically consolidate and leverage functions that naturally fit together.
  4. Give your vice president of advancement the resources to hire additional staff. Give the vice president of advancement resources that are in proportion to your expectations of him or her. At the same time, hold him or her accountable for results and deliverables.
  5. Give your vice president of advancement a seat on the Cabinet and hold him or her in as high esteem as the vice president of academic services. The person charged with raising much-needed funds for the college is as important to an organization as, for example, the person charged with developing academic curricula. Treat him or her as such.
  6. Agree that the college president is the organization’s chief development officer. Embrace the fact that the college president is the chief development officer and the most important person – besides the donor – in the philanthropic relationship.
  7. Join professional associations and attend their regional and annual conferences. Presidents, please do not send your vice president of advancement to these activities. Instead, attend them with him or her. Schedule a lunch meeting within 30 days of the activity to discuss what initiatives, if any, you will work together to implement at your community college.
  8. Fund your fundraising team’s professional development activities and encourage them to visit other community colleges to learn new best practices. While it is tempting to cut professional development budgets during times of economic strife, cut the fundraising team’s professional development budget only as a last resort. An investment in this team is an investment in your resource development success.
  9. Demystify resource development for your internal and external stakeholders. Make resource development as much a part of your college’s culture as academic services, student services and workforce development. Include resource development information in written and verbal updates, printed materials, presentations to community groups and board meeting reports.
  10. Make annual contributions to the foundation a requirement of all foundation board members. Make it clear to your foundation board members that they cannot ask donors to do what they themselves are not willing to do. Make annual contributions a requirement for board members. Be prepared to remove foundation board members from the board if this requirement is not met.

Community colleges’ resource development functions can no longer be relegated to lower priorities and colleagues who are not capable of performing the job duties. Our resource development colleagues – if given the appropriate resources and tools – can help to fill the void left by dwindling financial support from our local and state governments. If presidents and other leaders do their part, our resource development colleagues will do theirs.

John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.DS is the president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.

Linnie S. Carter, Ph.D., APR is the vice president of college advancement at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and executive director of the HACC Foundation.

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