Guilford College in quiet phase of big drive

Mike Poston
Mike Poston

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Five nights a week for 10 weeks every semester, 30 to 40 students at a call center at Guilford College phone alumni, parents and others to talk about the education they are receiving and ask for a donation to the school.

“This is an investment in a young person’s life,” says Mike Poston, vice president for advancement at Guilford.

The call center is part of a highly-focused strategy that helped Guilford secure $10.8 million in gifts and pledges in its fiscal year that ended June 30, the most the school
ever has raised in a single year, Poston says.

The school also is counting on its strategy, which includes engaging and visiting key donors and prospective donors, for a new comprehensive campaign that aims to raise $75 million.

Chaired by Greensboro philanthropist Joe Bryan Jr., the campaign already has raised $34.3 million in a “quiet” phase that began in 2005, with the public phase set to
begin in October 2010.

Of funds the new campaign will raise, $40 million will be for endowment, with the rest for programs and facilities.

The effort already has raised $15.5 million for the school’s endowment, which has seen its overall value decline because of the recession to roughly $50 million from a peak of roughly $75 million in 2007.

Funds raised in the most recent fiscal year included $1.3 million in cash and pledges it raised through its annual fund, up from $968,000 the previous year.

The total raised through the annual fund in the fiscal year just ended included $816,700 in cash, up from $759,700 the previous year.

The total raised in the fiscal year just ended also included a $1 million commitment from Jeanne and Malcolm Campbell, a New Jersey alumni couple who graduated from the school in 1948 and 1950, respectively.

Despite the impact of the recession on donors, Poston says, the school has focused its fundraising on “talking to the right people who still have assets who did not get as hurt” as others.

That included talking to key board members and alumni with “significant potential” to make gifts to the comprehensive campaign.

Guilford is counting on giving from among roughly 14,000 alumni for whom it has contact information.

Twenty percent to 24 percent of alumni typically contribute to the school, which receives 65 percent to 68 percent of its donations from individuals, including alumni.

“We’re just paying attention to where the money is coming from,” Poston says.

To do that, he says, every member of the school’s development staff, including two annual-giving officers, four major-gift officers and two alumni-affairs officers, have been or will be trained in asking for planned gifts and major gifts.

Planned gifts are those that are complex or deferred or involve assets other than cash such as stock or real estate, and major gift are those of $25,000 or more.

Staff members, for example, have received planned-giving training at Bank of New York Mellon, which manages the planned-giving portion of the school’s investment portfolio.

“Everybody that’s a planned-giving officer or alumni officer should be able to talk about what it takes to put a planned gift in order,” Poston says. “We’re trying to put more
feet on the street.” Every staff member also is responsible for raising money from foundations, and faculty members typically accompany fundraising staff on visits to foundations.

“It’s good for them and for the foundations to see the quality of the faculty we have,” Poston says.

Also key, he says, is the role of Kent Chabotar, Guilford’s president, who devotes at least half his time to fundraising.

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