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Alumni giving surges at Elizabeth City State University

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By Marion Blackburn

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. – Boosted by alumni giving, Elizabeth City State University raised a record-high $2.5 million in the past year, up from $1 million a year earlier.

School officials attribute the contributions to the strategy of visiting more alumni meetings and asking alumni for donations of less than $20.

Alumni giving grew to $700,000 in the school year that ended June 30, up from $122,000 the previous year.

One alumni event alone raised more than $250,000 in gifts and pledges, says Richard Lucas Jr., vice chancellor for institutional advancement and executive director for the ECSU foundation.

“In our field, the bottom line is making a case, face to face, with an individual and asking for support,” he says. “We decided we would have a grass roots effort to work with our alumni to make our case.”

The alumni effort, which began in January, asked donors to become part of the “1891 Club” by giving $18.91, a number that commemorates the university’s founding in 1891.

What followed was surprising, Lucas says.

“The gifts we’re received this year have been gifts unlike any the university has ever received before,” he says.

They include charitable remainder trusts and other planned gifts.

And the school received a pledge of more than $250,000, the largest gift ever from an alumnus.

Lucas says he visited alumni chapter meetings, talking to members about the importance of their support.

The university also conducted a phone-a-thon and secured major grants, including $400,000 from the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund to help with diabetes and other health-related research.

“Many people think that because you are state supported that your funding needs are taken care of,” says Chancellor Mickey Burnim, who recently accepted the chancellor’s post at Bowie State University in Maryland. “We had to help people understand that only about half of what it takes to run this university come from general funds appropriations.”

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