Winston-Salem State gears for fundraising

Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In 2007, Winston-Salem State University received donations to its $3 million annual fund from 1,150 alumni, an increase of 250 alumni or more from each of the previous three years.

And the average alumni gift totaled roughly $300, up $80 from five years earlier.

While they are relatively modest, supplementing contributions from parents, friends, foundations, corporations and other sources, the historically black school achieved those increases in alumni support despite a prolonged period during which the permanent leadership of its office of university advancement has been in limbo.

Now, with a new chancellor, the school aims to retool and expand it fundraising operation.

Donald Julian Reaves, who became chancellor in August after serving as vice president for administration and chief financial officer at the University of Chicago, wants to “spur a culture of giving,” says Terry Hines, interim vice chancellor for university advancement at WSSU.

“He wants to inspire alumni to give back and to support the institution at a greater level, and also corporations and major donors,” Hines says.

The school has been without a permanent vice chancellor for advancement since 2005.

And in 2007, two years after Harold Martin stepped down as chancellor to become senior vice president for academic affairs of the UNC System, the school concluded a capital campaign that had raised just over $22 million, falling $13 million short of its goal.

Martin had played the leading role in soliciting major gifts, and his departure made it tougher to secure larger donations, Hines says.

Now, working with search firm Witt/Keiffer, the school is searching for a vice chancellor for advancement.

Once that job is filled, Hines says, Winston-Salem State can move ahead with plans to expand and strengthen its fundraising.

Based on a recommendation by New York City-based consulting firm Community Counselling Service, which studied its fundraising operation and found it was short-staffed, the school plans to add a major-gift fundraiser, Hines says.

And based on an electronic screening of its database of 14,000 alumni, wealth-screening service Kintera PIN has developed a list of the school’s top donor prospects.

“We aren’t set up to do major-gift fundraising,” Hines says. “We don’t have the staff to go out and engage people. To get people to make a major investment, you’ve got to go out and meet people and tell our story.”

He says Reaves “understands we’ve got to increase our staffing here,” and plans to “get out and meet with folks and make asks himself.”

Based on that same review by Community Counselling Service, the school also plans to add an assistant director for its annual fund, to rely less on special fundraising events and more on major gifts, and to expand its effort to generate planned gifts that typically involve donations that are deferred or complex or that consist of assets other than cash.

The planned-giving effort, which supports the school’s $22.5 million endowment, has focused mainly on gifts of life-insurance policies though its Heritage Society that includes 40 members who have set up planned gifts.

“We’ve got to continue to grow and build on those efforts,” Hines says.

Partnering with RuffaloCODY, a company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Winston-Salem State in March has been holding its annual phone-a-thon, which last year raised just over $120,000.

After staffing the phone-a-thon last year with WSSU students working at a call center on campus, RuffaloCODY this year has run the event from a call center at UNC-Chapel Hill.

WSSU eventually would like to create a call center on its own campus, Hines says.

On April 25, at Winston Lake Golf Course, the school will sponsor its annual golf tournament, which has raised about $40,000 each of the past few years.

And starting this fall, the school’s quarterly alumni magazine will included articles on fundraising, highlighting major-gift donors, scholarship recipients, the annual fund and planned giving.

“It’s all about getting information to alumni about the need to support the institution financially,” Hines says.

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