J.C. Smith eyes drive

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One month into his new job at Johnson C. Smith University, Lee Hampton attended the CIAA basketball tournament in Raleigh.

While teams worked the court, Hampton scouted alumni, a group critical to his plans to mount the school’s biggest fundraising campaign ever.

“It was an opportunity to meet a number of constituents and to get a better feel for the university,” says Hampton, a veteran university fundraiser and Merrill Lynch broker who on Feb. 1 became Johnson C. Smith’s vice president for institutional advancement.

Thanks to a five-year, $2 million grant from the Kresge Foundation in Troy Mich., the school is setting up its first full-blown advancement office and gearing up for a comprehensive campaign that could total $70 million to $75 million.

Hampton, former executive director of corporate and foundation development at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., aims to prepare a fundraising plan by the end of the school year and hire directors of development and advancement services by September, plus a full-time director of annual giving and an operations manager.

And he hopes this fall to kick off the campaign’s quiet phase, cultivating leaders and large gifts.

The public phase could begin in the spring of 2005, says Hampton, who also was vice chancellor for university advancement at Winston-Salem State University, executive director of development at N.C. State University in Raleigh and director of corporate relations at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Hampton’s goals include expanding the school’s $27 million endowment, creating a planned-giving program, using email and the  Web to market the school and help donors give electronically, and increasing alumni giving to the annual fund.

Only 935 alumni, or 15 percent of all known alumni, gave $393,000 to the annual fund last year.

While a push in recent years has helped increase the share of alumni contributing to the annual fund from less than 10 percent in the late 1990s, Hampton wants to increase alumni participation to at least 20 percent.

The recent increase, he says, was fueled by the Kresge grant, one of five the foundation awarded to help historically black colleges strengthen their development operations.

Hampton also plans to begin promoting planned gifts through wills, estates and financial planning.

With $41 trillion expected to change hands between generations over the next 50 years, according to Boston College researchers, Johnson C. Smith needs to be ready, Hampton says.

The school, for example, is teaming up with the Presbyterian Foundation, an arm of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that would manage and oversee deferred gifts benefiting the school.

“I feel very strongly that the future of individual contributions that are targeted for higher education lies in planned giving,” he says. “Increasingly, individuals are less likely to give large amounts of cash outright.”

The key to the school’s growth, he says, is to build on its ties with alumni, local corporations and other supporters.

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