Pennies from heaven: with endowments ever more critical, IHEs are looking for leaders who can bring home the donors--and the dollars. (Advancement Leaders)(Cover Story).
Greensboro College's Man Behind the Money
From 1994 to 2002, Greensboro College in North Carolina raised $48 million, dramatically bypassing the prediction of a feasibility study that it could expect to raise, at best, $6 million in a capital campaign. Yet under the direction of a new president, the college built relationships with business and professional leaders in its community, who in turn provided the hulk of the gifts during that time frame.
Was it just luck and timing? Not at all, says Allen Lee, a higher education consultant with First Counsel, a national fundraising consultancy headquartered in Charlotte, NC. "I used to think that a college could raise money without having a highly visible, dynamic president," Lee says. "But the longer I do this, I'm believing that less and less."
In 1993, Craven E. Williams arrived at Greensboro just as the school was seeking re-accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. As part of that once-a-decade process, the administration, trustees, and faculty had completed a self-study of the institution, which they presented to their new president. An extensive compilation detailing what the institution needed in order to advance, the report recommended upgrading faculty and staff salaries, hiring new faculty, launching new curricula, providing new instructional resources, and addressing long-deferred maintenance on existing facilities, as well as building new performance spaces, classrooms, and laboratories.
The cost of implementing those recommendations? An estimated $45 million. For a college founded in 1838 as a women's college (Greensboro went co-ed in 1954), affiliated with the United Methodist Church, with 1,200 students, 9,000 alumni, and a development staff of just three people, $45 million was daunting. The school's endowment at the time was just above $8 million, and a fundraising consultant hired by the previous administration had recently completed a $6 million feasibility study. "They had recommended the college might be able to raise the dollars," says Alan Sasser, VP of Development, "but did not specify how long it would take."
Greensboro had a limited fundraising history. To build its library and a classroom-and-laboratory facility, it had raised around $500,000 during the late '40s/ early '50s, and it conducted another campaign in the 1960s that resulted in an additional classroom building. But for its 150th anniversary in 1988, it conducted what Sasser considers its first targeted campaign, with "modern fundraising apparatus," including an explicit goal of $5 million, and county chairs and volunteers making solicitation calls to alumni and corporations. It took about seven years for the college to reach its goal
Nevertheless, the new president was undaunted; the campaign he launched--New Dimensions in the Liberal Arts--was slated to raise $40 million over an unspecified time period. "The faculty and trustees had undertaken a long, elaborate study," Williams recounts. "To then announce a $5 million campaign is to say to the faculty, `Let's go out there and be mediocre.'"
The first two gifts--one for $1 million and a second, anonymous gift of $5 million--came within the first few months of Williams' presidency and immediately shot the college beyond the original feasibility study's recommendation. By August 2001, they realized that the college was close to meeting its first goal of $40 million, Sasser says, so they decided to bring that campaign to an end and try for another $60 million. The new campaign, "Campaign for Greensboro College: A Promise to Keep," is divided into two consecutive $30 million campaigns, the first of which is now in its silent phase. Since Williams' inauguration and the launch of the New Dimensions campaign, the college has raised more than $48 million. By its 175th anniversary in 2013, it aims to hit the $100 million mark.
The turnaround for Greensboro College has been "due primarily to a talented fundraising president," says Lee, who worked as a consultant for the institution. "It's a prime example of the absolute necessity for private college presidents to be able to exercise fundraising talents."
Williams, as it happens, came to Greensboro College with a long history of fundraising in higher ed. His first job after graduating from college was in the Development office of his alma mater, Wake Forest University. Afterward, while he earned a doctorate in Theology, he served as vice president for Development at two other colleges. Then, as president of Gardner-Webb College (outside of Shelby, NC), he successfully brought in more than $20 million in 10 years.
But Williams also had a strong business background, having left Gardner-Webb in 1985 to start Capital Dominion Corp., a large property management operation in Raleigh. Sasser says this experience, too, was critical. in enabling Williams to reach the business community in Greensboro. "He's made a payroll, has paid corporate taxes, and has done all the kinds of things that CEOs and CFOs understand and have to do," says Sasser. "So some doors were opened that might not have been otherwise."
The school competes for attention with another six IHEs in Greensboro, a town of 220,000, but still it was able to make itself a vital part of the community. "If we participate actively in the life of Greensboro, then Greensboro will take an active role in the institution's life," Williams says. Of the 40 trustees of the college, only 15 are alumni of the institution; the rest are community leaders. And of the funds that the college has raised, the majority by far, says Williams, came from friends of the college--not alumni.
Williams built these relationships both individually and programmatically. "I made it very clear to key staff how important I felt it was for us all to find leadership positions in the community," he says. "And I wanted participation in the life of our community to be part of our workday, not just something we had to do after hours." Williams became chairman of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce (he is the only individual to have served two consecutive terms), president of the Boy Scouts Council (serving nine area counties), and a board member for the city's economic development partnership. Williams' personal impact on the city has been so distinct that he has been approached to run for mayor.
"The college has directly invested its human assets in the county," Sasser says. Internships, corporate leadership initiatives, and a character education program strengthen community ties and help foster relationships as well. One program--Middle College--brings to campus about 100 high school students at risk for dropping out: They have their own high school teacher and classrooms, but can take Greensboro college classes as well. According to Mike Clark, the school's CIO, every student in last year's program graduated from high school.
Williams also instituted a character education program on campus, in which values and ethical ways of living are taught. The program has spread throughout the public and private schools in the county. He founded the Triad World Affairs Council, one of 90 councils worldwide linked to the National Council of World Affairs Organizations in Washington, DC. It offers paid individual and corporate memberships and hosts speakers throughout the academic year.
Another Williams creation is Village 401, a reference to the local 27401 ZIP code that encompasses the college and the downtown business district, as well as federally funded public housing projects and a number of nonprofit agencies that serve at-risk populations. As part of this program, faculty, staff, and students work with agencies, schools, and businesses in the area. He also founded a center for leadership and ethics that this spring is offering a seminar for citywide not-for-profit leaders. Students intern for such companies as American Express, Burlington Industries, and Jefferson-Pilot Corp. A corporate leadership initiative brings leaders of area companies--eight of which have their national quarters in the vicinity--to address business classes on a weekly basis.
The companies participating in internships and business classes are cultivated for solicitation. "Part of making a proposal to someone about a program you need funded is getting an audience with them," Sasser says, "and because we have developed these kinds of relationships, community leaders understand that we're really doing some good stuff, and they're part of it."
Donors are given naming opportunities and are encouraged to make targeted donations focusing on scholarships, professorships, brick-and-mortar projects, and pedagogical support. One of the goals of the initial campaign, for instance, was to create the college's first graduate-level programs, and donors gave specifically to this cause. Last summer, Greensboro launched a Masters of Teaching degree program, and this summer will add two more Masters of Education programs. Three years ago, the college purchased a building near campus to convert into a Student life center. The chairman of its board of trustees made a $2 million donation, and the center will bear his family's name.
Williams says he spends 100 percent of his time on fundraising because he is "setting the profile of the institution in such a way that people will want to participate." He differentiates his role from that of a Development VP, explaining that a president's job is "establishing the enthusiasm, the momentum, and the confidence in the program."
Since he arrived, Greensboro has consistently exceeded fundraising levels from year to year--even during the last two years of economic difficulty. "People are still willing to give," Williams says. "It's just the forms of those gifts that are changing." He adds: "In 30 years, I have never known a time when people said, `This is a great time to be raising money.' The only good time to raise money is when you need it."
University of Oklahoma: Vision and Salesmanship
In 1995, the year its new president, David L. Boren, arrived on campus, the University of Oklahoma launched a five-year capital campaign with a $200 million target. By 2000, it had raised $514 million, making it the fourth-largest public university fundraising campaign in the nation's history. During the period of 1995 to 2002, the annual giving level at the university has more than tripled. What's at the root of this success? Pat Ryan, president of Skystone Ryan, a national fundraising consultancy, maintains it's the leadership skills of OU President Boren, Oklahoma's former governor and U.S. senator. David Maloney, the school's VP/Development, agrees and adds: "The leader was right, the vision was right, and the organization to support his vision was in place," he says.
Boren, in fact, has a long history of leadership experience in the state. Son of Oklahoma Sen. Lyle H. Boren, he is a former Rhodes Scholar and Yale graduate, and was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1975--at the time, the youngest governor in the U.S. In 1979, Time named him one of the country's most promising young leaders, and in 1980 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, a post he held until 1994 (when he resigned to become president of the university). In Washington, where he served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence, he was known for his support of education, authoring the National Security Education Act of 1992, which established a program that provides scholarships, grants, and fellowships for undergraduate students to study in countries and world areas critical to national security.
Installed at OU, Boren's vision for the 29,000-student institution was ambitious from the start. Without waiting for Development office studies or for quiet-phase build-up, he announced the capital campaign at his inauguration and declared that OU would be a pacesetter for the rest of the country. "He lifted our whole self-image," says Assistant VP/Development Robyn Tower. "It was a transformation in the whole mentality of who we were and what we could become."
University supporters were motivated by the transformation as well According to both Tower and Maloney, the university had had long-term donors, but they had never made their best gifts until Boren arrived and made them believe the university could become one of the best in the country. "It's one thing to have a vision, and it's something else to be able to communicate it in such a way that you excite people about it," Tower says. "We had a lot of donors who were ready to make their ultimate gift but hadn't found anything here to excite them until David Boren came."
Boren took advantage of a program created by the state legislature in 1988 that provided matching funds for any gift to endow a professorship, during the five-year campaign, OU added 200 endowed faculty positions. He also emphasized campus beauty, seeking donor funding to endow gardens, purchase sculptures, and install benches around campus. "He understood that making the place beautiful was at the heart of making everyone care more about it," Tower says.
The new president also made students the focus of everything he did. Each fall, Boren teaches a freshmen class in political science, and he has also fostered connections with Oklahoma's international students by creating a program called "OU Cousins" to pair U.S. students with international students on campus. He reclaimed the student union for students, removing the administrative offices that had taken over the space. And he got students involved in development, realizing that potential donors want to have contact with students. Before he came, Tower says, the university would host events for donors, with faculty and administrators--but not students--in attendance. "Now we never have an event where there isn't a student at every table."
Underpinning that leadership, of course, must be organizational infrastructure--or what Maloney calls a "fundamentally sound program." At OU, that meant investing in new fundraising technology and new publications, and fostering a culture in which 35 employees in Central Development Operations, based at the campus in Norman, can work together and with each of the university's 20 colleges, most of which have their own development officers.
It also meant setting priorities. "Sometimes you can spend as much time getting a $500 gift as you do getting a $5 million gift," Maloney says. So Development increased the number of proposals as well as amounts requested, and focused on individual giving rather than corporate and foundation gifts (since the development staff believed this was the area of giving which could grow the most).
The first step in increasing individual support was to increase the number of individuals to approach. In 1995, the university had only 931 prospects, but in 2002 it had developed 3,400. Maloney attributes much of the increase to an investment in technology, both in-house and through outsourcing. A search firm was hired to match records with databases of the wealthiest people in the country and of board members of organizations throughout the world. OU also has an in-house alumni-rating system, whereby development staffers meet with alumni volunteers throughout the U.S., and ask them to rank alumni they know personally, on the basis of their ability to give.
The next step: increasing the number of proposals. The year before Boren and Maloney arrived, OU had submitted 51 proposals for major gifts, asking for a total of $14 million. In fiscal year 2002, it put out 166 proposals for $124 million. "We knew we weren't going to raise $20 million asking for six," says Maloney. The efforts paid off: From the founding of the institution until 1995, eight individuals had given $10 million altogether (the largest individual gift was $2 million). But under Boren's leadership during the following seven years, more than 40 individuals made million-plus gifts, for a total of $204 million. The university's base of overall donor support had quadrupled.
Timing had much to do with it, of course: A strong economy and a successful athletics program certainly bolstered OU's fundraising efforts, and advances in technology made research easier. But those factors were true for many schools during the '90s, and Tower says that the technology they introduced was no more innovative than that employed by other schools at the time. Leadership made the difference.
"You can look at any business that's been successful: It starts at the top, there's no getting away from that," Maloney says. Even if Boren were not a former senator or governor, he maintains, a university needs "someone at the top who's truly a leader, who has a plan, who has a vision and can sell that vision."
It's All About Perks
With investment income down, and state funding disappearing, philanthropy stands out as one area in which university administrators can have the greatest impact on the bottom line.
"The return on investment in philanthropy is the single greatest return in any of the university's so-called profit centers," says Christopher Bryant, president and CEO of the Bryant Group, a national firm specializing in searches for philanthropy executives, based in California. In terms of higher ed hiring and compensation, Development is an area that enlightened administrators are trying to protect.
The rule of supply and demand is also driving compensation for development officials. "The direction is up, certainly at the top levels," says Henry Goldstein, president and CEO of the Oram Group in New York City, a fundraising, public relations, and management consultancy. Positions at the major-gift manager level and above are increasingly harder to fill. They require a lot of expertise, and the people with the expertise are less likely to relocate. "It's counterintuitive in this economy," Goldstein says, "but supply is short and demand very high."
Development salaries--though reportedly they can hit levels over $140,000--usually hit a ceiling well beneath that as colleges and universities try to keep salaries equitable across the institution. Benefits packages, too, are fairly uniform across the board and usually consists of the health, life, and diability insurance packages, as well as tuition remission and university-contributed retirement plans commonly available to all university administrative employees.
The difference is often made up in the form of perks. Traditionally, for development officials, this has meant automobiles, country club memberships, extra vacation time, or covered spousal travel. "When it comes to negotiating perks, people are limited only by their creativity," says Bryant.
One perk becoming more prevalent these days is the sabbatical. Many advancement officials are receiving short, three-month sabbatical at the conclusion of major campaigns or drives, for instance.
And while fundraisers have to be careful not to tie bonuses to gift income or percentage of revenue, signing bonuses are becoming a trend. Though the term "signing bonus" seems as distant as the days of a 10,000 Dow--and it certainly stems from that era--it has nonetheless remained a perk for many top development officers, with reports in the industry of bonuses anywhere from $5,000 to $55,000.
A newer phenomenon is the longevity or tenure incentive, a bonus to reward top advancement officers who remain in place throughout the duration of a campaign or through a certain period of time. Institutions located in places deemed off the beaten path are likely to provide these additional incentives. Conversely, there remains a bit of a financial penalty, says Bryant, for those who desire to work in locations that are perceived as "high quality of life" locales--Seattle or Denver, for instance.
The gender gap, meanwhile--well documented in salaries across the board--remains in place for many of these incentives and bonuses as well.
But even though negotiations can be confrontational, Bryant advises, a development professional needs to lay his requests on the table. "You can't very well go back afterwards and say, `Gee, did I mention the possibility of the longevity bonus or a signing bonus?' It's got to be done upfront."
Andrea Crawford is a freelance writer based in New York.