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Philanthropic ‘stage-hand’

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Retiring Guilford College fundraiser has seen big changes in profession.

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In 1968, when he hired Charlie Patterson for his first fundraising job, the president of Meredith College in Raleigh told him he could take graduate classes at nearby N.C. State University.

“What he failed to tell me was that development work is a 24/7 job,” Patterson says. “Needless to say, I never got across the street.”

Now, after development jobs at five schools, Patterson will retire this month as vice president for advancement at Guilford College in Greensboro, form his own consulting firm, cP3, and become a senior consultant in the Durham fundraising firm Ross, Johnston & Kersting.

Patterson has seen sweeping changes in fundraising, including the birth and rapid growth of planned-giving, and an explosion in the size and scope of capital campaigns.

After earning an undergraduate psychology degree at Davidson College, Patterson served in the U.S. Army Special Forces Training Group at Fort Bragg, and ran a Duke Power Co. branch office in Charlotte.

When Bruce Heilman, then Meredith’s president, offered him a fundraising job with the promise he could attend grad school, Patterson accepted, just as a $5 million campaign was starting.

Charlie W. Patterson, III

Job: Vice president for advancement, Guilford College

Born: June 2, 1939, High Point, N.C.

Family: wife Eleanor; three children, six grandchildren.

Education: Davidson College, A.B., psychology

Career: U.S. Army, 1st Lieutenant; Duke Power Co.; Meredith College, director
of planned giving; University of Richmond, assistant to the president and director of planned giving; UNC-Greensboro, vice chancellor for development; Wake Forest University, associate athletic director for development.

Hobbies: Avid sports fan; Boston Red Sox fan since age 7

Favorite Movie: Field of Dreams

Little-known fact: Owns 12,000 Red Sox baseball cards

“I couldn’t say to a donor, ‘I can’t come to see you because I’ve got a class,’” Patterson says.

One year later, Congress overhauled the tax system, creating a broad range of options for deferred charitable gifts.

“The lawyers and accountants and trust officers literally were calling us about charitable giving because these tax laws had changed,” he says. “And we were trying to understand them and doing calculations by hand.”

Today, the expectation that trillions of dollars will move between generations over the next 50 years has fueled a planned-giving industry of fundraisers, lawyers, accountants, estate planners and financial services.

In 1971, after creating a planned-giving program at Meredith and meeting its capital-campaign goal, Patterson was hired again by Heilman, who had become president of the University of Richmond.

A recent $50 million pledge to the university, at the time the biggest gift ever to higher education by a family, soon triggered a $50 million campaign.

Patterson next worked as vice chancellor for development at UNCG, raising $13 million in the school’s first campaign, and later served as associate athletic director for development at Wake Forest University, raising $24 million in two campaigns, which helped pay for Joel Coliseum and the Bridger Field House at Grove Stadium.

At Guilford, he recently oversaw a $50 million campaign that exceeded its goal by $6.4 million.

While fundraising and planned giving have become much larger and more technical professions, Patterson says, campaign goals have become “obscene,” and gift accounting has “gotten out of hand”.

“That concerns me,” he says. “These are campaigns that go for seven to 10 years, and you’re counting everything that comes in.”

Higher-education fundraisers, he says, need to toughen and standardize accounting, keep boards involved in asking for gifts, and work harder for support from corporations facing shareholder pressure for profits.

Fundraising professionals also should never forget their role as “stage hands,” he says.

“Every bit of credit goes to the donor,” he says. “I didn’t raise anything. People gave it.”

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