Targeting business – Support could grow

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In an effort that could boost corporate support, a volunteer group at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has been working for the past year to forge stronger ties with business.

The volunteer effort aims to encourage UNCG to make its resources more accessible to companies and give the university and business community greater access to one another.

“We recognize that if we’re going to be asking for funds from the corporate community, we should also be providing services to the corporate community,” says Susan J. Larson, director of corporate and foundation relations for UNCG.

The emerging corporate strategy was prompted in part by the school’s most recent capital campaign, which ended two years ago.

Corporate support accounted for only 8 percent of the $55 million raised. While UNCG set no goal for corporate support, it should have accounted for 15 percent to 20 percent of the campaign, Larson says.

To better cultivate companies, the school’s new board of visitors – created in April 1999 – formed a corporate relations committee headed by Leo Bontempo, retired CEO of Novartis Crop Protection.

In the summer of 1999, the volunteer committee of business executives and alumni held focus groups with corporate human resources directors and heads of nonprofits to find out how to better serve them.

Based on those meetings and committee recommendations, UNCG Provost Ed Uprichard decided that the committee initially should focus on science-based companies.

The committee, in turn, decided to visit 15 local firms in 2000. It has visited all but two, and will see them soon.

The corporate relations committee hopes its work can lead to stronger internship and employment opportunities for students, professional development for corporate employees and information-sharing on research.

The visits also have identified new members for UNCG’s science advisory board, a separate volunteer group that aims to strengthen academic ties with industry.

The new corporate strategy is beginning to produce fundraising results: A local company soon will announce a $150,000 gift to UNCG’s new $46 million science building – and members of the science advisory board will help identify sources for equipping the building.

“We’re seeing that the relationships we’re building, both through the board of visitors and the science advisory board, are making it easier for us to approach companies,” Larson says.

The corporate relations committee plans this year to launch a Web site designed to give corporations easier access to the university.

And based on requests by nonprofits at last year’s focus group, UNCG is raising money for paid internships, including one that will be financed with proceeds from a recent auction held by the university’s School of Human Environmental Sciences.

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