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Greensboro College steps up fundraising

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Carolyn DeFrancesco

Carolyn DeFrancesco

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Every other Monday at 3 p.m., development officers at Greensboro College who work with major donors meet to talk about prospects and strategies.

At a recent meeting, for example, Carolyn DeFrancesco, vice president for institutional advancement, talked about a prospective donor she was pursuing through a connection with a student for a possible gift to upgrade computer lab for students with learning differences.

DeFrancseco was looking for ideas about how to customize printed materials she could give to the donor to demonstrate student needs and the impact a gift from the donor would have.

Developing better relationships with major donors, or those who make gifts of $100,000 or more, will be essential to the school’s efforts to double annual support over the next two years and set the stage for a big capital campaign that could begin its quiet phase in two to three years, DeFrancesco says.

Greensboro College, which expects to raise $2 million in private giving in the fiscal year that ends June 30, including $350,000 through its annual fund, aims to double annual private giving to $4 million by the 2013-14 fiscal year, when it will celebrate its 175th anniversary.

Funds from that “mini-campaign,” which began its quiet phase in 2010, will be used for boosting scholarships and the school’s $12 million endowment; improving facilities for learning and for student activities; and expanding opportunities for civic leadership, community service and internships for students.

The fundraising effort also represents an opportunity to introduce the school’s president, Lawrence D. Czarda, to supporters and prospective donors who have may not have had a chance to meet or get to know him since he became president nearly two years ago, DeFrancesco says.

It also provides an opportunity to increase the school’s visibility, “ignite the interest of donors,” strengthen its “capacity” for securing larger gifts, and gear itself for a longer-term capital campaign, she says.

As part of the mini-campaign, for example, the school has organized two dinners at the homes of supporters in Greensboro and Charlotte, with roughly 20 prospective donors invited to each dinner.

“It’s meant to be a time when donors and friends can actually converse with the president,” DeFrancesco says.

Czarda also is working to strengthen ties with the community and local businesses in the wake of the recession and difficult economy that led the school to reduce its annual budget to $20 million from $28 million.

Czarda, for example, has been an active member of Opportunity Greensboro, a consortium of local education, business and civic leaders.

The strategy is starting to yield results, DeFrancesco says.

The annual fund is expected to grow to $350,000 in the current fiscal year from $305,000 last year.

And the school recently announced a $1 million unrestricted gift from alumnus Roy E. Carroll II, founder, chairman and CEO of The Carroll Companies, a local real-estate development firm with operations in Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

Now, as Greensboro College gears up for a possible long-term capital campaign, it has been studying its database of donors to identify those who can make major gifts, and working at the biweekly meetings of its major-gifts team to develop strategies for cultivating those donors.

The underlying approach is to understand the causes donors care about, and help them understand the school’s needs and the impact they can have on those needs by making a gift, DeFrancesco says.

“We’re looking for what people are interested in,” she says. “We try to match people’s interests with our need.”

While a goal for the longer-term campaign has not been set, it could be in the range of previous campaigns at the school, although the health of the the economy will be a big factor in setting that goal, DeFrancesco says.

Greensboro College raised $40 million in a capital campaign that ended in 1993.

Funds from the longer-term campaign would be used to address the goals of a strategic plan the school is developing, and priorities likely will be increasing the endowment, particularly for scholarships, and supporting capital projects.

Since Czarda became president in April 2010, the school has made recruitment and retention of students its top priority.

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