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Randolph Community College retools fundraising

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By Todd Cohen

ASHEBORO, N.C. — In the three years since Randolph Community College launched its first annual fund drive, annual giving has grown to just over $120,000 from just over $46,000.

But in the wake of a state audit two years ago that found problems in its business office, and the subsequent resignation of its president and other key administrators, the school’s interim president has eliminated the job of the official who oversaw its fundraising growth.

“If you’re an expert in fundraising, you know that somewhere along the line, you plot your expenses against the number of dollars you raise,” says Larry Linker, the school’s interim president.

In early June, Linker told Robin Johnston that his job as the school’s vice president for development would be dissolved July 1. Johnston also served as executive director of the RCC Foundation.

“The foundation will continue, along with grantwriting and everything else, as strong as ever,” says Linker, who previously had retired as president but was asked in March by the board of trustees to return as senior vice president and chief operating officer after Richard Heckman announced in March he was resigning effective July 1.

Linker says, responding to a question, that fundraising strategies Johnston has developed for the nonprofit RCC Foundation will enable it to continue raising funds for the school.

In October 2003, when Johnston was hired as vice president for development, the school had just begun its first annual campaign.

That campaign generated just over $46,000, far short of its $126,000 goal.

While the “success center” that was the focus of the campaign was poorly-defined, Johnston says, the fundraising appeal was so specific that “donors either connected with it or did not, and so they either gave or they did not.”

After the campaign, Johnston set about to develop a fundraising strategy that segmented donors and developed separate appeals targeted to each segment.

“We needed to engage multiple constituencies with multiple appeals,” he says.

One segment, for example, consists of the “RCC family,” and is subdivided into three groups, including foundation board directors and college trustees, staff and faculty, and students and alumni, with customized appeals for each subgroup.

In the annual campaign already underway when Johnston joined the school, staff and faculty generated 15 gifts totaling $2,885.

That grew the next year to 117 gifts totaling $9,560 and, in the school year just ended to at least 109 gifts totaling $12,709.

Other donor groups the school is targeting include banks and trusts; businesses; service clubs; the community; and donors who give $500 or more a year for several years, or $1,000 or more at least once.

Johnston also reorganized the foundation’s board to raise money, creating three senior committees to focus on planned giving, the annual campaign, and special events and sponsorships, respectively, and assigning every member of the foundation’s board to one of the committees.

“The board was not really oriented toward raising money,” says Johnston, who in March was elected president of the N.C. Council of Officers for Resource Development, a membership group for community college development officers.

The new planned giving committee, for example, has developed a policy for accepting gifts, and will develop marketing materials and “build connections in the community with people who can influence potential donors,” including estate attorneys, financial planners, and accountants.

The committee also will host information sessions on campus for potential donors.

A year ago, the foundation also formed The President’s Circle, a giving society for individuals who give at least $1,000 in unrestricted funds in a 12-month period.

That group already has generated roughly $20,000.

Founded in 1962, Randolph Community College has 3,000 curriculum students, 9,000 continuing education students, 175 full-time employees, and 3,000 alumni for whom it has contacts, include 320 active alumni that use its alumni website at http://alumni.randolph.edu.

“The college is coming up on 50 years of service in our community and in that time we’re touched an incredible number of lives, educationally, in Randolph County,” says Johnston.

“The fundraising we’ve realized and the fundraising potential that has been recognized are clearly the result of the excellent work that our faculty and instructors have done for nearly a half century,” he says, “and will certainly help us sustain our excellent academic reputation into the future.”

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