Community College Fundraising in the New Economy

Much has been written about the effect globalization and technology are having on the composition of the American workforce and the knowledge and skills workers need to participate successfully in the new economy. This is impacting the things community colleges teach and the way learning is delivered.   Community colleges must redouble their efforts to prepare students for new high-skill and middle-skill jobs, in the classroom, in the workplace, and in cyberspace. But one important question has not been asked: How will new demands on community colleges affect the way financial resources must be sought and obtained? Here are some suggestions for addressing the resource development challenges community colleges face today:

1. The proportion of financial assets community colleges obtain from governmental sources will continue to decline. The high proportion of governmental budgets going to entitlements (e.g. Medicare) and infrastructure will persist for the foreseeable future. Therefore, community colleges must invest more in private and corporate fundraising.

2. Community colleges should launch targeted campaigns through which local businesses collaborate in building capacity to address the economy’s demands for more high-skill and middle-skill workers.

3. While business investment in community colleges remains essential, there are limits to what businesses can provide. The mix of community college charitable sources must come to resemble more closely the prevailing model for nonprofit fundraising, whereby up to 88% is attributable to individuals (including bequests and personal foundations).

4. Community colleges must increase awareness of their role in changing lives and in enhancing the quality of life in their communities.

5. While events can be a useful way to inform and engage potential community supporters, they are often inefficient as fundraising activities. They require time and resources that might be better invested in other resource development efforts.

6. Community colleges must find ways to identify potential supporters from among unaffiliated individuals in their service areas.

7. Community colleges must be more effective in attracting individuals to continuing education courses and campus activities, both of which can engage and cultivate them as donors.

8. Community colleges must put a greater emphasis on development strategies and tactics that raise money from these unaffiliated individuals.

9. Community colleges must engage volunteers more effectively in cultivating and soliciting major donors—business and individual.

10. We are in the midst of an unprecedented, intergenerational transfer of wealth. Community colleges must begin seeking planned gifts, if only by promoting bequests.

11. Community colleges must create cohorts of individuals whose identity is centered on the college—for example Friends groups.

The days when community colleges could rely on governmental support are passing quickly. If colleges are to thrive—and particularly if they want to meet new challenges—they must be more comprehensive in their approach to fundraising. Businesses will continue to be an important source of financial support, both through fees for service and contributions. But the best opportunity for increasing revenue resides with individuals. And since most of those potential, individual donors lack formal ties, the colleges must develop innovative ways to identify, cultivate and solicit them.

Community College Fundraising in the New Economy Hands

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Each week, our team of experts will put share their experiences, tips and viewpoints in all areas of higher education consulting, leadership, and fundraising. We're a team that consists of tenured individuals who have made it their life’s work to help solve some of the issues surrounding community colleges today. Some of our topics include:

  • How to connect and establish relationships with your alumni
  • Ways to create impact with all generations of people
  • How to raise more on a tight budget
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  • Ways to prepare for a feasibility study
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