December 06, 2008
Colleges seek —
Open hand among tighter pockets
As economy cools, schools hope to continue trend of strong fundraising
College development staffs are waiting to see the fallout from the ailing national economy, as they pursue gifts from alumni and other donors.
The college fundraising year begins July 1.
“It’s hard to answer the question of what impact the economy will have, because there are different levels of fundraising and it is such an individual thing,” said Karen Macier, director of alumni/development for Tompkins Cortland Community College.
The TC3 Foundation finished a capital campaign earlier this year, exceeding its goal of $3 million by $300,000, Macier said. The campaign lasted four and a half years.
The TC3 Foundation’s annual fund reached $185,000 in 2007-08. Macier said the goal this year is $190,000.
SUNY Cortland’s College Fund is ahead of where it was last year, said its director, Jennifer Janes. She declined to provide specific dollar amounts.
The college’s annual fund reached $736,000 last year.
Janes said December is a month when many alumni send in their gifts, because of habit and because of tax benefits. Gifts to educational institutions are tax deductible.
“June is also big, because we push hard as we approach the end of our fiscal year on June 30,” Janes said. “The spring is a time for special solicitations, like young alumni and raising money for Raquette Lake.”
Raquette Lake is an outdoor education facility the college owns in the Adirondacks.
Macier said giving is part of American culture and tends to remain strong even in difficult times. The people who develop relationships with alumni and other potential donors, and try to translate these relationships into gifts, have to remain upbeat.
“The good will you create now could pay off,” Macier said. “Obviously you want a gift but really this is about creating relationships. There are lots of ways people can give back to an organization — internships, serving on boards and committees, speaking on campus.”
SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum said major gifts, considered to be $25,000 or more, were slower now, as donors are cautious and waiting to see how their stock portfolios fare.
TC3 and SUNY Cortland both received their largest gifts ever this year.
TC3 received $2 million from retired Cornell University professor Arthur Kuckes to endow scholarships for non-traditional students. SUNY Cortland received $1 million from alumna Lynne Parks Hoffman, Class of 1968, toward its Alumni House Preservation Fund.
The Cortland College Foundation had the best year in its 60-year history, exceeding $3 million, according to the college’s Division of Institutional Advancement 2007-08 Annual Report.
The report, issued in June, said the college would pursue a number of goals this year, from increased alumni support overall to more visits to potential donors.
The report said the division expected to secure more than $600,000 in new gift commitments in 2008-09.
Some 5,695 donors made commitments for gifts totaling $719,000 in 2007-08, the total split almost evenly between designated and undesignated gifts. About $125,000 of that total took the form of bequests.
Bitterbaum was confident that donors would honor those commitments, although they might do so over a few years instead of one year, as they had planned.
Nationally, colleges and universities had a record year in 2007, according to the Council for Aid to Education. The organization said colleges and universities raised $29.8 billion in that year, a 6.3 increase over 2006 and the fourth consecutive year of growth.
The statistics are based on an online survey, with data from 1,023 institutions.
The top 20 money recipients accounted for one-quarter of the total, with the rest spread among hundreds of other campuses. The top university was Stanford with $832 million, followed by Harvard with $614 million. Cornell ranked sixth with $407 million.
In another twist, the group said alumni giving declined by 1.5 percent nationally, although it remained 16.5 percent higher than in 2005.
Gifts from foundations increased by 19.7 percent to $8.5 billion.
John Lippincott, president of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, attributed some of the growth in gifts to the increased number of fundraising staff.
SUNY colleges and community colleges in particular have dramatically increased their development staffs in the past 15 years, since SUNY began cutting its aid to campuses.
TC3 has a planned giving officer, a rarity for community colleges, said College President Carl Haynes.
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